A few weeks ago I received a call from Evan and Sarah, on speaker phone, to discuss ideas for what to do for Evan’s birthday. I was honored that they enlisted my help, though they ended up at my cell phone via Cara, who reminded them that no one likes theme parties more than this girl.
The general idea was to have a potluck at their apartment, but Sarah and Evan couldn’t settle on a cuisine to inspire the food. We discussed Italian, since Mulberry Street and its cannolis were only a block away. But being an old hat at the art of birthday piñata-stuffing and subsequent smashing, I knew Mexican would be more fun.
Evan and Sarah provided a stellar spread of pulled pork tacos and corn salsa. I provided a less authentic dish, these Mexican meatballs. The recipe is simple: a basic spin on the traditional Little Italy variety, but using cilantro instead of parsley, chili powder instead of red pepper flakes, and lots and lots of gooey Monterey Jack cheese instead of the standard Parmesan. Not a bad meatball to bring to a pretty great potluck party. — Phoebe
You can serve these over rice as a main course or with toothpicks as a festive finger food.
For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground chicken thigh meat
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup cilantro, minced
- ¾ cups fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeño, minced
- One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or tomato puree)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ cup cilantro leaves, divided
- 1 cup shredded jack or mild Cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Form into small 1 ½-inch balls (you should get 20 or so), and arrange them about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Set aside.
In the meantime, make the sauce. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-low flame. Sauté the onions, garlic, and jalapenos, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and chili powder. Stir to combine, and simmer uncovered over medium heat until the sauce has thickened, and the flavors have come together, about 10 minutes.
Roughly chop half of the cilantro. Gently add the meatballs and the cilantro to the pot and fold into the sauce. Transfer the meatballs to a casserole dish (or bake directly in the Dutch oven/pot you were using). Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in the oven for 5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve immediately.