Josh is out at the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival right now and so it’s just me and the dog for dinner tonight. I enjoy these rare occasions for a couple reasons: I feel less bad if I screw up a recipe, and I get a chance to try out recipes that either I know Josh doesn’t like or wouldn’t be a huge fan of. Since I’ve been wanting to make these chicken skewers for a while and Josh has seemed less than enthused, I figured I’d go with that. Besides, it’s a very simple recipe to make for one.
Making dinner for yourself is not always easy. Especially when you’re used to feeding more people. For a while, I was used to to cooking for three, then for two, and occasionally now for one, not to mention the occasions where we have company over and I’m cooking for 4-8. And generally when you’re looking at recipes, they feed 4 or more, which is great if you have a family or you really like leftovers. However, we rarely eat leftovers and somedays we end up hungrier than otheres and so it can be tricky to make just enough food. This meal worked out really well for just one, though.
I got the inspiration from an Ellie Krieger recipe for chicken and grape skewers, which I do still intend to try. She had it garnished with lemons though, which gave me an idea: why not just chop up lemons and put them on the skewers as well? I love the taste of lemon, especially with chicken, grilling lemons really brings out the sweetness in them, adding depth to a variety of dishes. And I reasoned that as the heat warmed up the lemons, circulating their juices, they would baste and moisturize the chicken wedged between them. And instead of just regular chunks of chicken, I would do meatballs. This idea I can’t claim; it was inspired by the grilled Vietnamese meatball sandwich recipe on SeriousEats. Only I would use chicken instead of pork and season it with my usual blend of spices, plus some basil, which goes fabulously with lemon. But what to go with it? I thought about whole wheat couscous, but rice seemed a better fit, and perhaps a bit of green–some steamed spinach thrown in. Perfect. The flavors were coming together in my mind–sweet basil, tart lemon, spicy ancho chile goodness, nutty rice and maybe a good sprinkling of salty parmesan. Deliciousness on all fronts.
Chicken Meatball and Lemon Skewers
2 bamboo skewers, submerged in water for about 20 minutes (or 2 metal skewers if you have them)
1/3lb ground chicken thigh (about 5oz)
2 good sized basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 lemon, cut into eighths
Fluff chicken thigh, basil, salt, pepper, chile and chili powders in a bowl until thoroughly incorporated; form small 1-inch meatballs from the mixture (you should get 6-7; I got 7). Set on a pan or plate, cover, and let sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up a bit.
Slide meatballs and lemon wedges onto the two skewers, alternating between chicken and lemon. Each lemon slice should have the cut-side facing a piece of chicken. Don’t overcrowd the skewers either–I put three meatballs on one and four on the other.
Take some olive oil and a rag or brush and grease up the grill grates a bit, so the chicken doesn’t stick. Place skewers on grill over medium high heat and let cook until thoroughly browned on one side, about 5 minutes, before turning over and cooking another 5-8 minutes on the other side. The benefit of these small meatballs is that they will cook fairly quickly, but be warned: you may want to test a meatball with a thermometer, since the coloring of the spices may make it difficult to tell if the meat is cooked all the way through and you don’t want to eat raw chicken.
Pull the finished skewers off the grill and pull the chicken and lemons off the skewers. Mix with a bread salad or plate with the rice recipe below:
Yellow Brown Rice
Now, I mostly followed the package instructions for 2-3 servings of the brown jasmine rice I used. I suggest following the instructions on whatever rice you should to eat as well. I do also suggest substituting the water in the recipe for low sodium chicken stock, which gives much more flavor and you can then probably skip adding salt to it as well.
Add to the rice while cooking:
1 large sprig thyme (pull sprig out at the end of the rice’s cooking time)
1 tsp tumeric
1 tbsp olive oil
And then at the end of cooking
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan
Throw the spinach in the pot, stir in with the rice, cover and let wilt. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.
Note: One nice thing about grilling meatballs…no pans to clean!