Between building a table for my kettle and testing a quantifiable shit-ton of thermometers it has been a while since I have shared my experience with cooking. Have no fear despite all that activity, the cooks have continued. I continue to wow the family with great BBQ. So today I want to share one of those stories with you.
Now keep in mind, I come to BBQ differently then, at least I think, most do. For most I tend to believe that BBQ is a craft they were raised with, for others, they come to BBQ because they have an undying love with the end result and therefore learn to cook to satisfy this need. But, as I said, I'm a little different.
My journey with meat as a whole has not been one of obsession or even love. A few years ago, I didn't eat much out of the realm of burgers. Things like steak, pulled pork, or anything considered a roast of any kind were simply not a part of my diet. They were a bit unknown. In this past year, yes there has been a lot of learning the art of BBQ, but for me, I have learned just as much about the actual meat I enjoy.
About half of the cooks I have done have been dishes which not only I have never cooked, but I have never even eaten. My only point in bringing this up is to convey the fact that much of the BBQ world is uncharted territory for me. With that, when I am left to my own devices, I have a pretty small window of cooks to do.
Such was the case this past week. Yes, Mikey assigned me a cook, but I had not procured the needed cut in time. Still wanting to cook I was all ready to smoke some chicken breasts. Something which would stay in the fridge throughout the week and provide a decent quick meal for the kids after practice and such. Then something happened. No, not something....Then Mikey happened.
He simply asked if I had started my cook yet. Upon discovering I hadn't he simply said: "how about chicken meatballs?"
I spent the next 15 minutes doing two things. On one hand, I was trying to wrap my head around how I would do that. The other thing I was doing was crafting an excuse as to why I was going to just do my chicken breasts as planned. I didn't really feel up to jumping into the unknown territory. But, the more I thought about it, the more it sounded feasible and fun.
The next thing I knew I was breaking out the meat grinder. With a few short directions from Mikey, soon I was grinding a combination of 4 pounds of chicken breasts and a pound of bacon. As I texted a photo of the grind beginning to Mikey, he responded with one of his own. See this was not just a suggestion, he too was grinding his own chicken meatballs and now the was the Battle of the Balls.
So logistically I quickly learned a couple things in this trial by fire. First when ground, chicken is a hell of a lot different than beef. It doesn't stay together the same, it is just looser. Second, I don't think there is a need for a double grind. That second grind almost felt like I was putting chicken slime into the grinder only to try and restore the shape of the ground meat.
Next, I had my near-fatal flaw of the cook. At some point, I rapidly searched making chicken meatballs to get a feel for how much bread crumbs to mix in. I found something that was based on a pound of meat and it called for one egg. Well, here I had 5 pounds of meat so I needed more egg. Sounded logical. Besides my son loves cracking eggs so I ended up putting 3 into the grind. After adding the 3 eggs, I dumped in what felt like a good amount of breadcrumbs and finally a healthy amount of Lane's Sweet Heat rub.
Upon mixing it I realized the flaw. The added liquid of the eggs had created a chicken soup. This was not ground meat this was almost straight up liquid. Of course, it did take Mikey to point that out. Desperate I dumped in the remainder of the breadcrumbs I had on hand. It thickened it a bit, but not enough at all. There was no way these could be formed into balls. It looked like Mikey would win this Battle of the Balls.
Then inspiration hit me. As I looked for some bread to break up and toss in a white plastic wrapper caught my eye. It was a sleave of saltines! I quickly broke them up and tossed them in. The result? Well, it was not as thick as I would have liked, but it was workable.
I realized I couldn't really see the seasoning I put in, so I added another healthy dump of the Sweet Heat. Now came the task of forming meatballs. It was still too soupy to make nice small meatballs, so I went Italian style and was able to make a bunch of big meatballs. They were soft and sticky, but it seemed like they were holding together.
You see I don't like to waste meat. Secondly, I don't like to fail in the competition so the combination of it all meant I was gonna fight like hell to cook something that looked like a meatball. Even if Mikey beat me, I would have something.
Meanwhile, maybe as a backup plan, I also took a bunch of chicken breasts and seasoned them with Historic BBQ Black rub. If all else failed, I would still have the intended chicken in the fridge at the end. I mean hell, by this point even my typically very supportive wife had lost hope of seeing an edible meatball.
I set up my cooked and gently set the meatballs on the grate. Soon they started looking like real meatballs. By the time they were done, they actually looked fantastic. I get them all off the grill and added some more charcoal and cherry wood to begin the chicken breast cook.
Honestly, I think I was scared to try a meatball. They rested and sat there as I tended to the chicken breasts. Finally, after a long while, I decided to give one a try. Okay, as I stated before I am not a huge fan of chicken. It is a great meal, don't get me wrong, but it is not something I long for by any means. But this meatball, it was absolutely incredible.
I married into an Italian family. With that, there are certain meals you just don't even try to stand up against as you will always lose. The meatball is one of them. But not only can my meatball hang with my Mother-In-Laws, I think it beats it...and it is made from chicken!
To me, these were simply the best meatballs I have ever had. And here is the fun part. See, I never looked to make a chicken meatball. Even if I were to get creative I wouldn't have ever stopped to say 'Hey I could make a meatball out of chicken, I'll try that out.' See this came from Mikey. And while yes I am fortunate to have my Mikey, we all need a little BBQ friend to give inspiration, ideas, and maybe even a little competition. Every one of you out there has, without a doubt, been cooking something I haven't. Maybe I have even cooked something you haven't. Instead of just doing our own things, I think we can all accomplish some pretty awesome cooks with that shared inspiration and comradery.
Even the MMB Facebook group as an example. It is a great way to share stories, ideas, and cooks. I know you all cook some incredible meals. I do not in anyway want to take anything away from that, but with a little help we can share that, and inspire others with it. Maybe a chicken meatball isn't the cook you would ever dream of. It certainly wasn't for me. But in the end, had I not done it I would be the real loser as this meal was simply awesome!
If you haven't joined in the conversation jump on in and get inspired. Or at the very least inspire your BBQ brothers.
As for the Battle of the Balls, Mikey is an amazing cook. That being said, I kinda feel like I passed him at the finish line on this one...but I'll let you be the judge!
Mikey's Chicken Meatballs
My Chicken Meatballs
Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!