I LOVE POLPETTINE. These old-world Italian meatballs (which we should never confuse with American meatballs) are flavored with Parmesan cheese, fragrant herbs, and a big burst of lemon. Their deliciously-crispy crust is something to sing about, too. One bite and I was hooked.
Note #1. Traditionally, polpettine (“poll-pay-TEE-nay”) is made with ground beef or pork. I make mine with ground chicken, because it picks up the fantastic herb-and-lemon flavoring so well. Ground chicken also cooks faster than pork or beef, because it’s practically fat-free.
Obviously, low-fat dishes are important to me.
Note #2. My research indicates that polpettine are never served with pasta or tomato sauce. Not in Italy, anyway. They are served all on their own, with a side of lettuce greens or cannellini beans. (Update! See comment #13 from Victor J. Yepello.)
Note #3. Let’s make these balls of bliss!
Add 1 1/4 cups of fresh breadcrumbs from high-quality bread. The highest-quality bread I know is homemade Pain de Mie. But Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread is terrific, too. Just grind the bread in a blender or a food processor.
No gluten for you? Speaking from experience, gluten-free tapioca bread (ground into crumbs) works perfectly well in this recipe.
I’m using my handy-dandy micro-zester in the photo above.
I hope you’re impressed.
Then add each of the following to the chicken:
Ahead of time note: If you are not going to cook right away, just cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
And then revel in the applause you are bound to hear.
And are you thinking what I’m thinking? Besides a delicious dinner dish, polpettine would make a fine cocktail appetizer, too.
Here’s the copy-and-paste version of the above magnificence:
Chicken & Lemon Polpettine
Kevin Lee Jacobs/A Garden for the House
Ingredients for 18-20 1-inch diameter meatballs
1 lb ground chicken
1 1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs (crumbs from GF tapioca bread will work, too)
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon (more or less to taste) kosher salt
1/4 cup (or slightly more) fresh, finely-chopped flat-leaved parsley
1 generous teaspoon dried thyme leaves (triple the amount for fresh, chopped leaves)
2 generous teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
A small amount of flour (or a gluten-free substitute — Bob’s Red Mill baking mix will work)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all of the ingredients (minus the olive oil and butter) together. (Ahead of time note: The chicken mixture may be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)
When you are ready to cook, pour the flour onto a baking sheet or pie plate. Form tablespoon-size clumps of chicken into smallish balls, flatten them slightly, and then lightly coat them in the flour.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Fry the segments until golden brown — 4-5 minutes (or slightly longer) on each side.
Note: Traditionally, polpettine is not served with pasta or tomato sauce. It makes an exquisite entree all by itself, accompanied with salad greens or cannellini beans.
Promise me you’ll try this Chicken & Lemon Polpettine some day. It’s quick to prep, fast to cook, and absolutely delicious to eat.
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