Easy Appetizers: Green Chile Meatballs with Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

Green Chile Meatballs with Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

I often think that meatballs as an appetizer are under-appreciated. You can do so many interesting things with ground meat and fun ingredients all packed into a little ball that people can spear with a toothpick or even grab with their fingers when no one is looking. Sure, meatballs are great for spaghetti and as sandwich filling, but I encourage you to let them have a place on your next appetizer tray or buffet table. For these particular meatballs, I’ve combined one of my favorite lean ground meats – buffalo – and Hatch green chilies to create a spicy and warm one-bite package that is sure to please any crowd. I know I’m a broken record when I extol the virtues of bison, but it really is such a great meat. It’s lower in fat and higher in protein than ground beef and it’s almost always raised in a sustainable way, so it’s a responsible choice as well. When paired with the green chilies, you have a salute some of the best ingredients the Southwest US has to offer.

As I was considering what to serve alongside these meatballs, I was reminded of meatballs in a grape jelly and chili sauce my mom made for parties in the 70s and 80s. The sweet and savory combination in that dish is what made it popular, and as I thought about how to update the concept I decided pomegranate juice would be a good modernization to the flavor combination. Pomegranate juice is also good for us, unlike grape jelly, so it fits nicely with the healthy bison.

Next time you have a party, set out a bowl of these little wonders and watch them disappear before your very eyes.

Recipe: Green Chile Meatballs with Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

Details

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Makes: About 45 meatballs and 1 c. sauce
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 lb. ground bison
  • 1/4 c. grated onion
  • 4 oz. green chilies
  • 1/4 c. panko
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and place a baking rack on top of it. Spray the baking rack with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Add the bison, onion, chilies, panko, egg, cumin, coriander, oregano, and salt to a medium mixing bowl. Use your hands to gently mix the ingredients together.
  4. Divide the mixture into 1 Tbsp. portions and roll gently to form meatballs.
  5. Place the meatballs 1 inch apart on the baking rack and cook at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150 degrees.
  6. While the meatballs are cooking, combine the pomegranate juice, honey, and balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently for about 15 minutes until reduced by half, whisking occasionally. Stir the minced chipotle into the reduced sauce and serve with the cooked meatballs.

Recipe for Success

  • Be gentle with the meatball mixture and don’t over-work it. The meat will get tough if you man-handle it too much.
  • I use a 1 Tbsp. scoop to simplify the meatball production process.
  • If you find the meat mixture is sticky, use damp hands to make rolling easier.
  • You can absolutely make these with any other combination of ground meat that you’d like. Pork goes particularly well with green chilies and goodl ol’ ground sirloin would work as well. Because the recipe includes binders like eggs and panko, you can use leaner ground meet to keep the fat under control.
  • You can mix and form the meatballs up to four months in advance and freeze them uncooked. To keep them from sticking together in the freezer, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until solid. Place them in a heavy-duty ziptop bag and store in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook the meatballs, prepare the baking sheet with foil and the sprayed baking rack as in step 2, then place the frozen meatballs 1 inch apart on the rack. Spray the meatballs with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let the meatballs thaw in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours or overnight. Remove the plastic wrap and cook as directed in step 5.
  • This mixture makes a mean burger as well. Be sure to spray the patties with cooking spray before you put them on a grill or griddle because the mixture is a bit on the wet side and will stick. I’m pretty sure it would make a great meatloaf too. You could even use the pomegranate sauce as a glaze.

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