Those who know me now do not understand how I could have been such a picky little girl as a child. Unfortunately my skinny season lasted only up to 5 years old, when, after a tonsils operation, the enticing world of tastes and smells of the kitchen unrolled in front of my greedy eyes, turning me into a constant seeker of the most tasty and appetising titbits, often even at the expense of Claudia.
She was born nine years after me, she was picky as a baby, lazy in eating and she really didn’t need much to feel full. I was different: every time it looked like I hadn’t eat for a week, and often – I am almost ashamed to tell you this – I used to keep a look-out for what she had left in her dish, and I would say ‘Grandma she has finished, hasn’t she? She’s not hungry now, is she? ‘
Grandma and Mum did their best to cook things that Claudia would like, to mark at least once a circle on the calendar, a prize for the rare days when my little blonde sister finished all the food on her plate (maybe those were the days when I was not at home).
Slices of tender meat coated with breadcrumbs and stewed in tomato sauce, custard, chocolate sponge cake rolls: they were harmless-looking dishes hiding very nutritious ingredients, so that Claudia could stock up a little weight even though she was not able to finish her dish.
Chicken and potato meatballs
One of those innocent-looking dishes were these chicken and potato meatballs. Tiny, delicate, with a simple flavour, they were made with ground chicken meat, potatoes and grated Parmigiano Reggiano: 3 or 4 meatballs would be enough to cover up a whole meal for her. I was so happy every time mum cooked the chicken meatballs for Claudia, and so convinced of their light and harmless aspect that I was always asking for them, deeply sure they were a light dish… blissful innocence!
For children, the best side dish is a warm and creamy bowl of mashed potatoes, with lots of Parmigiano in it: light colours, delicate flavours and easy to eat meatballs, how can you ask for more?
Chicken and potato meatballs
- 3 medium potatoes
- 500 g chicken breast, minced
- 3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- sea salt
- extra virgin olive oil
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into wedges, then steam them in a pressure cooker for 8 minutes or cook them in boiling water for about 25 minutes, until they are thoroughly cooked.
- Rice the boiled potatoes, then mix them with the gorund chicken and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt.
- Now make the meatballs. Wet your hands with cool water when shaping the meatballs to help prevent the mixture from sticking to your fingers. Make walnut-sized meatballs.
- Steam the meatballs. I used my mum's technique, that she calls "al piatto", as you use a normal plate to steam the meatballs. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil a plate and arrange the meatballs on top. Place the plate on a pot of boiling water and cover the meatballs with a lid. Steam the meatballs on medium heat in two batches for about 30 minutes.
- You can use also a pressure cooker or a steamer.
- When ready, season the meatballs with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle with salt.
Looking at the meatballs from the perspective of the grown up Giulia, though, I felt the urge to make them more interesting, playing with textures and seasoning: instead of mashed potatoes as a side dish I’ve served fresh fennel cut into wedges and drizzled with the same extra virgin olive oil I used to season the meatballs. I also decided to serve the meatballs with three German mustards, Karin‘s gift, one with chestnuts, one with apples and one with peaches, so yummy! Obviously any type of mustard will do, provided it is not too pungent to cover the delicate flavour of the chicken.
More recipes with chicken from the blog archive
- Vinsanto roast chicken. The result is a juicy tender chicken with a golden brown crisp skin, something to die for. I also roasted some potatoes in another pan to be served with the chicken.
- Preserved lemon chicken salad. If you want a tasty meat, you have to season the chicken breast as soon as you remove it from the broth, when it is still hot. Slice the chicken and marinate it with capers, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Instead of using lemon zest or lemon juice I opted for some home-made preserved lemons, which I made a few months ago: a total surprise.
- Cannellini and chicken salad with radicchio. With the chicken meat I made a salad that sits in between winter and spring, between the soothing comfort of beans and shredded chicken and the freshness of radicchio and pickled giardiniera. It reminds me of those spring days that are still cold, with a sharp wind but a clear sunny sky.