Chicken Meatballs in Lemon-Dill Cream Sauce with Asparagus


Photo by Michael Piazza

Taking a cue from Greek chicken dishes scented with lemon and dill, these meatballs are light, easy and a favorite in my house. Plump and tender, filled with feta and herbs, they can easily be made in advance and frozen—just make the sauce, brown and roast the meatballs and dinner is done. Pair with pan-roasted in-season asparagus for a complete springtime supper.

Makes 40 meatballs, serving 6–8

1 cup red onion, minced
extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices country-style bread
½ cup milk
1¾ pounds ground chicken, both dark and white meat together
2 cloves garlic, grated
pinch chili flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup minced chives
2 ounces crumbled sheep-milk feta
¾ cup chopped dill, divided
juice and zest of 1 lemon, divided
¼ cup white wine
1 shallot, minced
1 cup heavy cream
16 fat asparagus spears, ends trimmed and stalks peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the minced red onion. Sauté, stirring, until soft and translucent but not browned, 3–4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl soak the bread in the milk until absorbed, then using your hands rub the bread into crumbs. Add the chicken, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, chives, feta, half the dill and half the lemon zest. Add the cooled sautéed onion and use your hands to fold all the ingredients together, being careful not to overwork the meat.

Place the onion skillet back on the heat and fry 1 teaspoon of the meat mixture on both sides to cook it through; taste and add more salt to the meat if needed, mixing thoroughly with your hands.

Using wet hands, form the mixture into 1½-inch balls and arrange on a lined baking sheet. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight; freeze if desired and defrost before proceeding with the recipe.

When ready to cook, brown the meatballs on all sides in olive oil and return to the baking sheet. Finish cooking in the oven while you make the pan sauce.

Heat the same skillet you cooked the meatballs in and add the wine and shallot; deglaze the pan and reduce the wine to just a tablespoon or so, then add the remaining lemon zest, the lemon juice and the heavy cream. Whisk to combine, season with salt and pepper and stir in the remaining dill. Keep warm.

In another skillet melt the butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat and add the asparagus. Pan roast, turning and basting, until the spears are bright green and tender, about 6–8 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to keep warm.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the pan sauce, rolling them around to coat. Serve with asparagus on the side, garnished with extra dill.

This recipe appeared in the Spring 2018 issue as part of a larger story on Spring Chicken.