So, that was a longer break than I intended to take. But, as I’m sure is the case with many of you, a combination of holiday craziness and illness really kicked my butt in the last few weeks – so most of the cooking I did was of the “Would you like skim milk or 2% with your Cinnamon Toast Crunch?” variety, or involved a man in a beat-up 1994 Escort hatchback with a Jimmy John’s sign attached to the top. Such is life, man.
I did, however, pull myself together long enough to put together some delicious New Year’s Eve snacks. I’m a big fan of snacky eating… I would rather graze on 5 different appetizers for the afternoon than sit down to a big meal, personally. This recipe has recently made it into my rotation (via Pinterest, obviously), and despite the fact that it’s KIND OF labor intensive, it’s quickly become a favorite in our household, and with our friends.
I will admit, I really only pay attention to the METHOD of this recipe, and not so much the amount of ingredients. I basically start with however much chicken feels like a good idea, and then I add the rest of the stuff accordingly, to make the mixture the right consistency. For your benefit, I will use the ingredient amounts in the original recipe, so that you have something other than “USE SOME CREAM CHEESE” to go on. You’re welcome.
In other news, this recipe contains the word “balls” about 75 times. There was no way around it. I’m sorry. If it makes you feel better, it makes me giggle like a 12-year-old boy, too.
3 cups chicken, shredded (I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 1.75lb total)
1/4 to 1/2 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
4 oz. cream cheese (half a block), softened
1 3/4 cups sharp or medium shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1.) In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded chicken, hot sauce, shredded cheese (you know, the stuff you just grated yourself?), and the softened cream cheese until everything is evenly coated and well-combined. This mixture should be good and moist, but not overly sticky and gloppy.
2.) Once everything is well-combined, grab a small amount and roll it into a ball between your hands. The ball should be about the size of a golf ball, or a touch smaller. You could also use a cookie scoop to evenly portion the mixture out before rolling, but I tried that and found it to be more cumbersome then just eyeballing it. Your mileage may vary. Anyways, keep rolling the mixture into balls until you’ve used it all – place them on a large plate or a cookie sheet as you roll them.
3.) Cover the chicken balls with plastic wrap, and pop them into the fridge for a bit – at least 15 minutes, though you can leave them in there for several hours, or even overnight, if you want to make these ahead. This will give them a chance to firm up, so that coating them in the panko will be less sticky and annoying.
4.) When the chicken balls have chilled, get ready to bread them. Lay out three bowls, and fill one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with the panko. First dip the balls into the flour (making sure to tap of any excess), then the egg (again, tap off the excess), and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or foil), spaced at least an inch or so apart.
(Breading tip: when breading anything with egg and flour and/or breadcrumbs, I like to use the Wet Hand/Dry Hand method, to prevent my hands from becoming covered in an impenetrable coating of gelatinous goo. All that means is that one hand deals with the dry ingredients exclusively, and the other deals with the wet ingredients – so, let’s say I use my right hand to roll the ball in the flour, and then drop the ball into the egg, then use my left hand to roll the ball in the egg, and then drop the ball into the panko, where I use my right hand to dump breadcrumbs over the ball and coat it. Make sense?)
5.) Once you’ve got all your balls ready to go, pop them into a 375° oven for about 25 minutes. You want them to brown up slightly, and for the cheese inside to melt.
6.) Serve with ranch dressing, or blue cheese dressing, or whatever strikes your fancy. Enjoy!
Like I said, these are a little time intensive (the shredding of the chicken is what really makes me want to tear my hair out, if we’re being honest), but holy moses, are they delicious. These get eaten up faster than I can bake them, every time. If you have small children, I might employ them to shred the chicken for you – or, there is a pin floating around pinterest that says you can put cooked chicken (still warm) into the bowl of your stand mixer and use the paddle attachment to shred it… but, seriously, the thought of putting chicken into my stand mixer kind of gives me the hives, for no good reason. If you try that method, please report back.
Sorry I said “balls” one thousand times,