team. we have eaten quite a few garlic chicken meatballs around here lately. partly because they are delicious and partly because i wanted to get them juuuuust right.
somewhat ironically, given my usual skepticism of frozen prepared foods, my first exposure to garlic chicken meatballs was, dare i say, via a bag from the frozen foods aisle. much to my surprise, i actually liked them! (my husband is nodding knowingly at this *shocking* revelation that i liked something with a strong garlic flavor…)
it was, in fact, that bold-but-not-overpowering garlic flavor that i thought the frozen meatballs got just right and that i was trying to recreate. my first test was fine, but way too sweet. i had sautéed onions and garlic and in addition to being too sweet, the garlic flavor was too subtle. next!
round two swung the pendulum too far in the other direction: i used raw garlic and onions and, um, obviously, the flavor was really harsh and all of the crunchy, still-pretty-raw bits of onion and garlic detracted from the texture of the meatballs. um, next, please!
round three saw us making some progress: i swapped the onion for a shallot, which was much less aggressive. trying to get a good amount of garlic flavor, though, i minced 4 large garlic cloves, whiiiiccch turned out to be a bit much. my husband and i joked that these garlic chicken meatballs were 50% chicken and 50% garlic. except that maybe we weren’t joking… sigh. next.
ok, round four, aka the delicious meatballs which appear in the recipe below. finally! why this didn’t occur to me sooner, i don’t know (actually, i do: i can be a bit of a food snob, see related: views on frozen prepared foods). garlic powder. of course.
i had been using onion powder this whole time, after warming to it recently after reading an article about how it’s much maligned but actually contributes important, otherwise elusive flavor in certain dishes. it finally occurred to me that i should try scaling back the unwieldy raw garlic and adding in some garlic powder to get more garlic flavor, without the texture or harshness issues i was having when using piles and piles of raw garlic.
i also dug my garlic press out, figuring that would help release more garlic flavor than mincing and would also help reduce the impact on the texture of the meatballs (secret behind the scenes fun fact: the photos are of round three, hence the visible chunks of garlic.). i was finally making some progress! the garlic press-ed garlic integrated into the meatballs much less obtrusively texture-wise and the garlic powder provided just the right boost of garlic flavor, without the harshness.
and somewhere along the way, i learned that mashing the ingredients together with a fork so that they chicken turns into something of a paste (sorry, i know that sounds gross) actually makes for nice, light meatballs. i’m pretty sure that contradicts what science says is supposed to happen but i tested these garlic chicken meatballs enough times to discover that science doesn’t seem to apply here.
so, in the end, we have a happy ending, in the form of strong-but-not-mean garlic chicken meatballs that go well with just about any vegetable you could think of (believe me, i’ve tried nearly all of them over the past few weeks). and special thanks to my husband for being a trooper over the past few weeks and eating a lot of intense garlic chicken meatballs. on to the next round of yummy dinners recipe tests!
did you make this recipe? i’d love to know what you think of it! leave a comment below and share a picture on instagram with the hashtag #tastyseasons.