This recipe was invented right smack in the middle of me preparing it! In other words, I set out one day to make a specific dish, but by the end of my meal preparation, I had come up with something completely different! And I must say, I like what I've invented here. It sounds strange, perhaps, but it was a seriously delicious little Frankenstein of a dish. Here, let me take you through it.
It all started with these chicken meatballs. I just had a hankering for chicken meatballs. I finally found 99% lean ground chicken at my local grocery store, and I was very excited. I hadn't found this in the stores near where I live up until now, so I had to stock up. At first, when pondering what I should make, I came up with buffalo chicken meatballs. It sounded really good. I thought it may be fun, then, to throw the meatballs on top of a salad, and have it be a fun spin on buffalo chicken salad. So far, still sounding good.
So I mixed the chicken meat with some panko breadcrumbs, some smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and formed and baked my meatballs. While they were baking away, I went to my fridge to find the buffalo sauce. But once I found it, my heart sank. It was nearly empty! And I had not bought a backup bottle! Wait a minute, though. All was not lost. I suddenly remembered that I did have a bottle of something else I've been wanting to try.
I found this Frank's RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce not too long ago, and bought it eagerly. It just sounded so good. It's made with fresh chilis, it's slightly hot and sweet and sticky all at once, and it was on sale! It was meant to be. So, armed with this bottle of RedHot and a fresh idea in my head, I took the meatballs and tossed them with the sauce. Now, I was on a roll! I'd turn my salad into an Asian-y one, with fresh spinach and carrot and some sliced almonds. I'd top it off with a simple Asian salad dressing, and crown it all with these meatballs. It sounded too good to be true.
I fell madly in love with this salad upon first bite. It was a fantastic blend of sticky-sweetness, salty bite (from the Asian dressing I used), crispness (from the spinach), crunch (from the almonds), and meaty goodness (the meatballs!).
Sure, there were things I could have done differently. It wasn't absolutely perfect. For starters, I had seasoned the meatballs before I knew that they were going to be housed in an Asian-themed salad. Therefore, when I make this again (and I will), I will put more Asian flavors into the meatballs. I could see ginger in there, along with maybe some 5-spice and a touch of soy, or even hoisin sauce. They probably could use a bit of heat, too, since the RedHot just isn't, well, hot enough for our tastes. If I had had different salad ingredients on hand, I could have improved upon the salad portion of things, as well. I could have thrown in radishes, sugar snap peas, bean sprouts. I thought the presentation was screaming for some sesame seeds sprinkled on top, but I couldn't find any. However, I used all ingredients that I had on hand at the time, and I was satisfied with this meal. Isn't that what really matters, in the end?
Asian Chicken Meatball Salad
recipe by Bri
makes 4 servings
1 lb. ground chicken (I used a 50/50 mix of lean ground chicken and ground chicken breast, which are different in their calorie/fat content)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika (I thought this was good, but you may want to use ginger or 5-spice powder in place of this)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3-1/2 cup Frank's RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce
1 (9 oz.) bag fresh spinach
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup baby carrots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground ginger (or 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger)
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. water
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the chicken with the breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and form meatballs (I shaped mine by using a large cookie scoop). You should end up with about 2 dozen. Place on a lightly oiled or nonstick-sprayed cookie sheet lined with foil, and bake for 18-20 minutes, turning once halfway through.
2. While the meatballs bake, gather the salad ingredients. Divide the spinach evenly into 4 bowls, followed by the carrots and almonds. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, honey, and water. Set aside.
3. When the meatballs are done, remove them from the baking sheet immediately and place in a medium-sized bowl. Add the RedHot sauce, and toss gently to coat the meatballs evenly.
4. Divide the meatballs among the 4 salad bowls, drizzle the salad dressing evenly over each, and serve.