Make us your home page

From the food editor: A recipe for Firecracker Chicken Meatballs, plus more ideas for ground chicken

Spice things up with Firecracker Chicken Meatballs.


Spice things up with Firecracker Chicken Meatballs.

This won't come as a surprise, but when universal pop culture moments happen, like the Super Bowl earlier this month or the Oscars on Sunday, my first thought is food. What am I going to eat during the event? How many bottles of Champagne do I need to buy? You get the idea.

That's why I'm a big fan of the story on Page 3E, in which correspondent Emily Young offers tips and recipe ideas for your Oscars soiree this Sunday.

There's no meal served at the actual Academy Awards, so the movie industry folks who attend often feast at the postshow Governors Ball, which has in years past served up Hollywood-worthy apps like lobster tempura with vanilla bean and pineapple, and smoked salmon pizza with farm-raised caviar and dill creme fraiche. I like to think of our story as a more realistic, home-cook-friendly answer to that small-bites spirit.

Not watching the star-studded show? A handful of these recipes would make for a whimsical, tapas-style weekend dinner any time. And that includes this week's featured recipe, chicken meatballs that get a kick from a fiery glaze made with hot sauce, sugar, vinegar and all of the red pepper flakes you can handle.

These meatballs bake in the oven, which is by far my new favorite way to cook them. The method is hands-off, low fuss and helps the meatballs cook evenly, which can be hard to manage in a skillet. The other thing I like about this recipe is its use of ground chicken, which like ground turkey is a leaner alternative to ground beef. Now, no one is saying chicken tastes like beef, even when it's in the form of a ball. It doesn't. These meatballs taste more like a chicken wing, except they are a lot easier to eat.

If you don't often explore chicken in its ground form, here are three more ideas for what to do with it:

Chicken Lettuce Wraps: This one is a no-brainer. Cook a pound or so of ground chicken in a skillet until browned and cooked through, then mix in some soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil, minced ginger and minced garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Spoon into a bowl and top with chopped scallions and sesame seeds. To serve, scoop a handful into a single sheet of iceberg lettuce.

Chicken Parmesan Pizza: Cook a pound or so of ground chicken in a skillet until browned and cooked through, then add 2 crushed garlic cloves, a tablespoon Italian seasoning and 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, cook for about 5 minutes, then simmer for another 15 to 20. Roll out a store-bought pizza dough, then generously ladle tomato mixture on top. Top with mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper and cook in a 425-degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Banh Mi Burger: Thinly slice 1 small cucumber, 1 medium carrot and 3 radishes and combine in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup white vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon sugar until it comes to a boil; remove from heat and pour over vegetables. To make the burgers, combine 1 egg, 1/4 cup chopped scallions, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken in a bowl, then form into 4 patties. Cook in a skillet set over medium heat until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Strain vegetables in the vinegar mixture. Place cooked burger on hamburger buns and top with vegetables.

Contact Michelle Stark as or (727-893-8829. Follow @mstark17.


Firecracker Chicken Meatballs

Firecracker Chicken Meatballs


  • For the meatballs:
  • 1 ¾ to 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder or dried minced onion
  • For the firecracker sauce:
  • ½ cup hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on spice preference)


  1. Position 2 racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the ingredients of the firecracker sauce over medium-high heat, allow to come to a boil and reduce the heat so it simmers. Let simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so don't worry if it looks thin.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, garlic, salt, pepper, eggs, panko, paprika and onion powder. Use your hands to mix the ingredients. It's easier to tell when they are combined when you use your hands. Do not overmix; it will result in drier meatballs.
  4. Shape the meat mixture into a ball, about 3 tablespoons of meat per ball. You can also do this with an ice cream scoop. Place shaped meatballs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until the meatballs are completely cooked.
  5. Dip each individual meatball into the sauce. Alternately, you can brush each meatball with the sauce. Place back on the baking sheet and bake for an additional 1 or 2 minutes. Drizzle or brush with additional sauce as desired. Makes 18 to 22 meatballs.
Source: Little Spice Jar

From the food editor: A recipe for Firecracker Chicken Meatballs, plus more ideas for ground chicken 02/22/16 [Last modified: Monday, February 22, 2016 10:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PHSC Performing Arts Series harkens back to times past

    Music & Concerts

    It's a blast from the past for the 2017-18 Performing Arts Series at Pasco-Hernando State College in New Port Richey. Season tickets go on sale Sept. 26, with single-show tickets on sale Oct. 10. The first performance is Dec. 1.

  2. Leaves, mountains, ice cream and cheese: What's not to like in Burlington, Vt.?


    If I loved Burlington, Vt., during a visit with my daughter when the high was 37 degrees, I feel completely comfortable recommending the city as a great destination for fall, when it's considered one of the top leaf-watching spots in the world.

    Founded in 1791, the University of Vermont is the sixth-oldest college established in New England.
  3. Directors of Haunted Mansion doc talk bringing piece of Disney history to Orlando


    Filmmakers Ryan Grulich and James H. Carter II aren't just casual fans of The Haunted Mansion ride. They're obsessed.

    Publicity still from the Foolish Mortals documentary.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 20


    Mumford and Sons: The enormously popular English rockers make their first stop in Tampa. 7:30 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $41.25-$61.25. (813) 301-2500.

    MANCHESTER, TN - JUNE 13:  Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons performs on the "What" stage during the 2015 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 13, 2015 in Manchester, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
  5. How to vamp out for Buffyfest in St. Petersburg

    Music & Concerts

    Who's your favorite superhero? I always answer Buffy.