Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

It's been a little over a year since I bought myself a crock pot with the last gift card I had from my wedding. Funny enough, I didn't even register for a slow cooker because (at the time) I didn't think it was an appliance I'd ever use. So what changed?
 
Although the idea of walking through the front door after a long day to find dinner hot and ready was always an appealing one, it wasn't what convinced me. I finally gave into buying a slow cooker because I had seen recipe after recipe for crock pot meals that looked incredibly tasty, but would be much harder to replicate without a slow cooker's low, even heat. If I used the oven or stove top for some of these recipes, I'd have to do a lot of "baby-sitting," and I was afraid I'd run the risk of drying out the food.

Since I've bought my crock pot, it's been an appliance I use quite regularly. In fact, it's already a top 3 appliance, right up there with my stand mixer and blender. Now, I constantly scour the Internet and cookbooks looking for more good crock pot recipes. You know, the ones that use real food instead of instant soup mixes and cans of congealed goo?


I found this recipe for buffalo chicken meatballs on one such search, and it definitely fits the bill in terms of being made with real food. However, I think you could get away with making these meatballs without a crock pot if you don't have one (the convenience is nice though). What I really love about this recipe is how it combines two favorite comfort foods into one: buffalo chicken wings and meatballs. Plus I'm always looking for tomato-less recipes to add to my collection.

Anyway, the subs I made with these buffalo chicken meatballs were a delicious change to our usual dinner rotation, and it's definitely a "fun food." I can see kids really getting into it. I think these meatballs would also translate well as an appetizer by making them smaller and serving them with toothpicks and blue cheese dipping sauce on the side.

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Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Healthy. Delicious

Yield: makes 18 1 1/2 inch meatballs (serves 4-6)

Prep Time: 30 minutes (includes initial meatball bake); Total Time: 6-8 hours

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 celery stick, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons of Buffalo sauce (I used Frank's)
1 pound ground chicken breast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (optional)
Cayenne Pepper (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with oil.

2. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, celery, egg, and 2 tablespoons of Buffalo sauce until thoroughly combined. Gently mix in the ground chicken breast until just incorporated. If available, use a spring-loaded scoop to evenly portion out the mixture and then roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place meatballs in the prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.

3. Transfer meatballs to crock pot; pour 1 cup of Buffalo sauce on top. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

4. Right before serving, stir melted butter into sauce. This optional, but it will help temper the heat of the sauce, as it has concentrated during the slow cooking. Or, if the final sauce is not spicy enough, stir in cayenne pepper as desired.

Serving ideas: Serve meatballs on small sub rolls or even hot dog buns (potato buns go nicely with this recipe). Top with provolone cheese and melt under a broiler or in the microwave. You can also whip together the following blue cheese spread to slather on your bun and help balance out the heat of the meatballs.


Blue Cheese Spread

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 tablespoons plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

Combine blue cheese and yogurt in a small dish. Mash together until a smooth paste forms.

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