I just spent two workdays in the kitchen testing and perfecting next week’s recipe.
It’s a recipe for conchas. You know, Mexican sweet breads that are somehow even more delicious a day after baking. Perfect dipped in milky coffee. I found myself surrounded by four dozen conchas too many, trying to get just the right texture, translating a bakery recipe into a home baking recipe. I got it, friends. They’re darling and delicious and absolutely worth the double pile of dishes and oven burn on my knuckle.
It’s work, sure… and it’s work I feel lucky to do (dishes included). The tough part is dinner after a day of baking. It’s like wait, I have to keep standing here thinking about food? My go-to on testing days is fried eggs and frozen waffles or a handful of roasted cashews and lunch meat. Gosh, that reads as sad when I type it out but that’s just the truth. Asking me to cut an onion after a day of baking is just entirely too much.
Maybe you feel the same way after a year of pandemic cooking for you and yours. It’s a lot. Onions and garlic? Too much in the year of our Lord 2021.
With ease in mind, this week’s offering is a simple dinner from the freezer and pantry. We’re making meatballs with spices and cheese, cooked in a pot with rice and frozen spinach. I added Mediterranean flavors to the plate but you’re invited to toss and crumble whatever you have in the fridge on top of your meatball dinner plate.
Here’s what you’ll need for this simple meatball and rice dinner:
• Ground chicken though ground turkey would also be delicious.
• An egg for binding.
• Onion and garlic powder, dried thyme or dried oregano.
• Parmesan cheese, finely ground.
• Panko breadcrumbs or really any breadcrumbs you like.
• Olive oil for the meatballs and for frying the balls.
• Rice and chicken stock along with a few flavoring ingredients: bay leaf, mustard, white wine, salt and pepper.
• Frozen spinach though frozen peas also work well.
• For topping your dinner plate: sliced kalamata olives, capers if you have them, crumbled feta cheese, lemon wedges, crushed red pepper flakes.
Start by combining all of the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl.
Throw it all in and mix with a spatula to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly combined.
Shape the mixture into 12 medium-sized meatballs.
If you find that the meat mixture is sticking to your hands, rinse them off and shape the balls again with damp hands.
Fry the balls in a few tablespoons of olive oil top and bottom. The balls won’t be cooked through but transfer them to a plate while you continue on with the rice.
No need to wash the pan. Add a pat of butter and toast the rice until fragrant.
Add some flavor and veggie in whatever way feels good to you. I like a spoonful of dijon mustard, a bay leaf, and a cup of frozen spinach (you really don’t even have to thaw and drain it if you don’t want to).
Add the chicken stock, nestle in the partially cooked meatballs and bring to a simmer before placing the lid on the pan and cooking the rice.
Pretty easy, right? Dinner is just 20 minutes away aka time for a few snacks before dinner.
Dinner all simmered and fluffed and flavorful!
Remove that bay leaf and discard, spritz the whole pan with lemon and gather the plates for serving.
Top with whatever you have in the fridge or herb garden. I sprinkled fresh parsley, capers, sliced olives, and crumbled feta cheese. Salty, brined, fresh, ya know?
We’ve done this meatball dinner dance before. If you want more in your life see:
• Baked Turkey Meatballs (I’m sorry but I eat these cold from the fridge and love it.)
I hope this dinner offering treats you well and warms your belly.Print
The easiest weeknight dinner and you don’t have to chop an onion or mince garlic. Simple chicken meatballs and rice baked on the stovetop and topped with Mediterranean flavors like olive, parsley, spinach and feta.
For the Meatballs:
- 1 pound ground chicken (ground turkey would also be delicious)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (you could also use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs or 1/3 cup Italian seasoned fine breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 3/4 teaspoon ground thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or other neutral oil for frying the meatballs
For the Bake:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 1/3 cup white rice
- 2 1/3 cups water (sub in a splash of white wine if you’d like)
- A bay leaf
- A spoonful of dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- A pinch of black pepper
- 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, optional
- Sliced kalamata olives
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Red pepper flakes
- Lemon wedges
- Place all of the meatball ingredients (save for the olive oil we’ll fry the meatballs in) in a medium bowl and stir well to combine evenly. Roll the meatballs into about 12 meatballs and place on a tray or plate.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium. If you don’t have a nonstick skillet with a tight fitting lid, it’s no problem. Use a medium dutch oven with a lid or a 10-inch skillet with a lid – the lid is important to cook the rice. The nonstick is just easy to clean.
- Once the oil is heated in the skillet, fry the meatballs until browned on most sides (frying in batches if necessary) and placing cooked meatballs on a clean plate and set aside.
- After meatballs are cooked and set aside, melt butter in the same skillet. Add rice and stir around the pan until coated and just toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the bay leaf, dijon, salt, pepper, and frozen spinach. Stir in water (and that splash of wine if you’re using).
- Add the meatballs and any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Cover the pan, reduce the heat, and allow the rice to cook for 20 minutes or until softened. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to steam with the lid on for 10 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard before serving. Serve with any sort of easy toppings you have on hand. I like olives, feta, parsley and red pepper flakes. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for a few days.
Photos with my dear Jon Melendez.