Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders
The Super Bowl is almost upon us, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Not because I care about the game, duh, but because it means that football season is over, and I shall be able to reclaim my television on Sundays for the foreseeable future. Sure, my roommate watches other sports, but there has to be at least a short gap before those start (right?), and they definitely won’t be as bad as football. I’m not even sure what season is next, but I hope it’s golf. I always feel very rested during golf season, since I tend to fall asleep within the first five minutes of being forced to watch it. Nap city.
I am actually a big fan of the Super Bowl for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s the ultimate No-Calorie Sunday. Who doesn’t like to drink a bucket of beers while crushing FWOT (fingers, wings and other things) with friends? Plus, the commercials are entertaining and sometimes Beyoncé performs, so I’m usually pretty happy.
If I had my way, I would host a Super Bowl party at my apartment, but that is one pipedream that will most likely never come true. For the past 7 years my roommate has hosted a Super Bowl “gathering” at Hill Country, which is his favorite barbecue restaurant in the city. Unfortunately, this is a non-negotiable tradition that will probably continue for the rest of our days. There’s no point in trying to discuss Super Bowl alternatives with Logan, unless you wish to hear about the joys of Hill Country’s “moist brisket” in excruciating detail.
While I won’t be cooking this Sunday, I have concocted a rather elaborate fantasy menu in my head for the occasion. Obviously, it includes all the standard players (nachos, guacamole, chili, quesadillas, and wings), but the show-stopping, game changing, mind-blowing centerpiece is a tower of Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders.
I don’t even know where to start when it comes to these spicy little miracles. These sliders made me want to hug someone. (The hazard of being a food blogger is that you are often alone in these moments of glory, and you are forced to settle for doing this type of silent cheer in your onesie.) They are truly tiny bites of heaven, friends. Just thinking about them makes me want to break into that “Heaven, must be missin’ an angel” song.
Basically, the meatballs are everything you love about buffalo chicken except infinity times better. There is quinoa, minced celery, carrots and onions mixed into the chicken, which makes the balls all-stars in both the flavor and texture departments while keeping them incredibly juicy. The meat is bomb, but the real kicker is that the meatballs are stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese. This means that when you bite into one, you’re greeted with a mouthful of warm, melted cheese. If there were ever a time to use the word orgasmic on this blog, it is now. No joke.
I feel the need to share with you that I fed these to my roommate last night. Needless to say, he was disturbingly excited when I brought them out, and he wasn’t even aware of the melted mozzarella component. When he took the first bite and realized the “surprise cheese,” his eyes practically popped out of his head. There wasn’t much talking, but he did fist bump me twice and kiss my forehead, which was obviously a sincere expression of his love for both the meatballs and me. In that order.
It may be hard to believe, but these glorious meatballs are shockingly healthy. In fact, as long as you eat them “naked” (sans slider buns) and exercise moderate portion control, I’m going to go ahead and say that these bad boys are Dude Diet approved. The combination of ground chicken breast, quinoa, vegetables, egg and part-skim mozzarella is high in protein and low in refined carbs and fat, which is great news for your wonderland bodies. Plus, I used Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce instead of a butter/hot sauce mix, which somehow manages to be thick and delicious without having any calories. BOO. YA. KA. SHA. It’s okay if you want to cry, dudes. Logan almost did.
Making Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Meatballs is relatively easy, but I just want to head one potential issue off at the pass. The chance of you finding ground chicken breast at your local grocery store is about as likely as me becoming best friends with Beyoncé. (So, it’s possible, but not probable. At this time.) Can you use ground turkey? Yes, if you must. However, you can easily grind your own chicken at home.
I know grinding chicken yourself sounds intense, but I promise it’s not as scary as you think. Just slice two boneless skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch chunks, toss them in a food processor, and pulse until the meat is well ground. If you don’t have a food processor (no judgment), you can also use the chop setting on your blender. Putting chicken in the blender is kind of weird and gross, but you gotta do what you gotta do. On the off chance that your kitchen is completely Amish and without appliances, you can always mince the chicken with a sharp knife. It will take a little extra time and upper body strength, but it’s 100% feasible.
While I highly recommend going the slider route this Super Bowl Sunday, these magical meatballs can be served in all kinds of epic ways. Pile them on a hoagie role with extra cheese and ranch and pop it under the broiler for an outrageous meatball sub. Pass them “naked” with toothpicks alongside ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping at your next casual cocktail party. Make lettuce-wrapped sliders, or try them over some chopped Romaine with some red onions, carrots, celery and blue cheese for a fancy buffalo chicken meatball salad. Consider stuffing that salad into a whole-wheat pita or low-carb tortilla for a more portable meal. I also like the idea of eating these meatballs on avocado toast with scrambled eggs for an obscenely delicious breakfast/brunch. Dream big.
Happy almost Super Bowl Sunday friends. Roll tide!
Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders: (Makes 18 sliders)
1 pound (about 2 boneless skinless breasts) ground chicken breast
½ cup cooked quinoa
¼ yellow onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ rib of celery, finely minced
½ medium carrot finely minced (If you have a food processor, you can use it to mince the onion, garlic, celery and carrot together by pulsing it until finely chopped.)
1 large egg
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes (I use part-skim mozzarella, but you do you.)
1 cup Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce
18 slider buns
For garnish (optional):
Blue cheese dressing
Carrot and celery sticks
Preparing your Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders:
-Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and rub it with a tablespoon of olive oil.
-Chop the chicken into 1-inch chunks and place them in a food processor. Pulse until the meat is well ground. No food processor? No problem. You can also grind the meat with the chop setting on your blender, or just use a sharp knife and very finely mince the meat. (The latter requires a little bit of time and elbow grease, but it’s totally doable.) Transfer the ground chicken to a medium mixing bowl.
-Now it’s time to make your meatballs. Place a heaping tablespoon of the chicken mixture in the palm of your hand and flatten it slightly like a pancake. Place a cube of mozzarella in the center of the meat. Gently fold the meat around the cheese, making sure that the cheese cube is completely sealed within the meatball. Each ball should be about 1½-inches in diameter.
-Add the cooked meatballs to the pot with the warm wing sauce.
-Gently toss the meatballs in the sauce, making sure that each one is well coated.
-If you want toasted buns (totally up to you), now is the time to gently brown those babies. Slice the buns in half, place them on a baking sheet, and put them under the broiler for about a minute until just golden.
-Sandwich your cheesy buffalo chicken meatballs between the slider buns. Serve hot with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Get weird.
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