I’ve had the idea for this dish in the back of my mind for some time now, and last night I spontaneously decided that I HAD to make it. And I’m absolutely thrilled that I did. This is a game-changer.
Juicy and tender BBQ-flavored meatballs (which are made with breast meat and super lean, but you’d never guess) are wrapped up in smoky turkey bacon, tossed with succulent onion and red bell pepper in a delicious sauce, and served over creamy, cheesy polenta. Dinner seriously doesn’t get much better than this.
When cooking with lean meat, there’s always the worry that it will dry out. Some people just avoid breast meat altogether because they associate it with being dry or lacking flavor. That is most definitely NOT the case here. I was amazed at how succulent these babies were! A few tricks–like freshly grinding the meat; adding BBQ sauce, a little EVOO, and egg whites to the mix; and not overcooking of course–gives these a moist, meaty tenderness that tastes heavenly.
Just ground chicken breast, dry mustard and oregano, breadcrumbs (I actually used crumbled parmesan crisps crackers), an egg white, BBQ sauce, and love (that means garlic).
Then for the fun part: wrap ’em up in bacon (I used turkey bacon) and listen to that sizzle! (The toothpicks probably aren’t necessary, but for extra security you can use them in the first half of cooking.)
Finish up by removing the meatballs, deglazing with broth to harness those amazing pan flavors, finishing up the veggies, and stirring in more of your favorite sauce. Toss the meatballs back in with the sauce and drool.
Serve over fluffy, creamy polenta laced with melty cheese (aka THE BEST saucy meat/seafood accompaniment ever).
I made salads on the side: Romaine, artichokes, roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, olives, cheese, parmesan crisps, and homemade honey dijon vinaigrette.
- 7 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 egg white
- 3 Tbsp BBQ sauce, divided*
- 1 Tbsp breadcrumbs**
- 1/4 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp olive oil, divided
- 2 slices turkey bacon
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced yellow onion
- ~1/4 cup sliced red bell pepper
- ~1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 70 g dry polenta***
- 1/2 cup 1% milk
- 1 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1 tsp chopped chives (opt.)
- Preheat oven to 400º.
- Pulse chicken in a food processor until no large pieces remain. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Add to the meat the egg white, 1 Tbsp of the BBQ sauce, breadcrumbs, dry mustard, oregano, garlic, and 1/2 tsp of the olive oil. Use hands to combine and mix very well. (If it seems too moist, keep mixing until it begins to take shape.)
- Form meat into 8 small balls. Cut each slice of bacon lengthwise and widthwise to form 8 strips. Carefully wrap each meatball in a strip of bacon, and secure with a toothpick if necessary.
- Place a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with the remaining 1/2 tsp oil. (You may need more oil if not nonstick.) Add meatballs to pan, then transfer to the oven.
- After 5 minutes, remove toothpicks from meatballs (if using), and turn. Add onion and bell pepper to pan alongside meatballs. Return to oven for 5 minutes longer.
- Meanwhile, make the polenta. Bring water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Immediately stir in grits/polenta and lower heat. Add milk, and lightly simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to remove lumps. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes longer. Stir in cheese.
- When meatballs are done, transfer them to a plate. Place skillet with onion and pepper over medium heat, add about 2 Tbsp broth, and stir to scrape up browned bits. Continue sautéing 2-3 minutes, or until peppers are crisp-tender, adding more broth as needed.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in remaining 2 Tbsp BBQ sauce and additional broth to reach desired consistency. Return meatballs to pan and gently toss. Remove from heat.
- Divide polenta between two plates or shallow bowls. Top with meatballs and sauce. Garnish with chopped chives, if desired.
- *My favorites are Stubb's Original and Woodstock Original.
- **Simply toast whole grain bread, cool, pulse in food processor to form small crumbs, and store in freezer. You can also use cracker crumbs.
- ***I love Bob's Red Mill white corn grits.