My family likes meatballs. When I saw these sweet and sour sesame chicken meatballs from a trusted source, I thought they looked delicious, but they turned out to be an absolute disaster. There was way too much pomegranate molasses and it was very off-putting. But then another chicken meatball recipe caught my eye, as well as a sheet pan chicken recipe that had the same flavor profile (turmeric, chickpeas, red onions) – and now that I’m looking at it more closely, I realize that the meatballs are adapted from the whole chicken pieces recipe. The meatballs were a bit more trouble to make, and they turned out a bit less flavorful than the chicken pieces. However, the chicken pieces are a bit harder to serve (especially when you have to cut the meat for kids in addition to yourself). You might want to take a look at both recipes, depending on your criteria at the time; the meatballs (recipe below) are from Deb Perelman in Smitten Kitchen, while the chicken pieces are from Alison Roman in New York Times Cooking (via Chrissy Teigen, and just now before posting I saw this and feel awkward).
I doubled the recipe below to get a total of over 50 meatballs, but left the chickpeas as is, which gave us two full meals plus leftovers (I could have frozen some meatballs, but we ended up eating them for lunch). I also dislike roasted chickpeas when they are very crisp; I prefer them warmed through, so I put them in the oven for a shorter time than called for (my version is below). I’m also omitting the raw onion, as that was too much for us; it would be great pickled, though. If you go that route, make quick pickles with half of the sliced onion and roast the other half as stated. The dish was great! I served it with flat bread and a green salad, and rice would have been good as well. Note that the original recipe says that to make the meatballs dairy-free, you can replace the ¼ cup yogurt with 2 tablespoons water and omit the yogurt sauce.
For the chickpeas
2 (15-oz.) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (see note above)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken meatballs (I doubled this)
1 lb. ground chicken or ground turkey
½ cup panko, or another plain, dry breadcrumb
¼ cup plain lactose-free yogurt
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground turmeric
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste (I used Korean pepper)
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, flat-leaf parsley or mint leaves, or a mix thereof, plus more to garnish
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
¾ cup plain lactose-free yogurt
toasted pita wedges
rice, green salad, or side of your choice
Preheat oven to 400 °F. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, to facilitate cleanup.
Combine chickpeas, fennel seed, cumin, turmeric and red onion slices (see note above) on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. (At this point, the original recipe had you roast them for 25 minutes, but I set them aside.)
Meanwhile, make meatball mixture. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a fork or (my recent discovery) a potato masher to mix. Form into 1.75-inch meatballs; I used my smallest cookie scoop and made meatballs that had a heaping tablespoon in each.
If you had started roasting the chickpeas already, remove them from the oven and push them to the sides of the pan so that you can grease the center and put the chicken meatballs on it. Otherwise, lightly oil the pan and place the meatballs in the center and the chickpeas all around them. Place baking sheet in oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through (I left everything in for 20 minutes).
Combine yogurt with lemon juice and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
When meatballs are cooked, scatter remaining fresh herbs over the tray. Serve with lemony onions and yogurt, and toasted pita wedges.