One of the tastiest restaurants I’ve found thus far in New York is called The Meatball Shop. It’s located on the Lower East Side, a very fun neighborhood, and their focus is almost solely on meatballs. Cooking Channel featured it a few years ago and their business took off like the Road Runner on crystal meth. Now they have two other locations and I won’t be the least bit surprised to find more in the future. When Matt and I first ate there, it only had the one (extremely tiny) location, and they didn’t take reservations. So we showed up and were told there’d be a thirty minute wait. Fine. We milled about and came back at the stated time. Then, and this has never happened to me before, we were told we could either wait another thirty minutes for a table or……. Eat standing up. At first I thought they were joking, but no. They have two back-to-back tables about chest-high with no chairs, because there literally isn’t room for chairs. The table is shoved into a corner where you literally have your back to a wall, and people crowding you on the other side. It made for a claustrophobic dining experience, and this comes from someone who gets extremely and irrationally claustrophobic at times. I’ll run in heels to make sure I ride the subway on one of the end cars because they are usually less crowded. So it was a dining experience I didn’t care to repeat, despite the outstanding food.
A few months later, the owners of the restaurant released a cookbook with their recipes, and I didn’t hesitate to grab it. They very nicely afforded me the opportunity to sample their delicious creations in my own home where I always have the choice to eat sitting down.
I’ve made several of their meatballs and have loved them all. This is one of my favorites. It’s tasty, of course, and surprisingly not too spicy. Stick toothpicks in them and it’s deceptively elegant for a cocktail party. The recipe calls for all chicken thigh meat, and I’d encourage you to heed their advice. If you don’t have a meat grinder, you can always take some thighs from the packaged meat section and have the butcher grind it for you. It’ll be worth the extra step, I promise. Dark meat is a little fattier, so it stays really moist and tender this way. Using all breast, or even a mix or dark and white, tends to dry out your end product.
Source: adapted from The Meatball Shop Cookbook, by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow
1/2 cup buffalo sauce OR combine 4 tbs melted butter with 1/3 cup Frank’s RedHot original sauce
1 lb. ground chicken, preferably thigh meat
1 large egg
1/2 celery stalk, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe to follow)
Preheat oven to 450 F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Set aside.
Combine the buffalo sauce, chicken, egg, celery, bread crumbs, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll the mixture into round, 3/4 inch balls, making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows horizontally and vertically to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another. As you can see from the pictures, mine did not, and they turned out fine.
Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165 F.
Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.
BLUE CHEESE DRESSING:
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp salt or more to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 tbs red wine vinegar
Place the sour cream, blue cheese, milk, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.