Friday, November 16, 2012

Pistachio Butter Chicken Balls

We arrived in Amman, Jordan at 9:30 pm a few weeks ago. It had the right smell, a hint of cardamom somewhere underneath the predictably hypnotic scent of jasmine, the right juxtaposition of white limestone against red tile roofs, the right feel to the translucent air.  The traffic was appropriately jarring and the revived memories firing.  We were back in our home of 12 years and we were exhilarated and exhausted.  This trip tweaking decades-old memories, piqued our every sense as well.  Exhausted though we were, we could not ignore the sense of taste and hurried at that late dining hour to Fakr Al-Din's, an enchanting restaurant in an old Arab house in the 1st Circle section of Amman.  Proper, black-suited waiters with pleasant "Ahlan Wa Sahlans", led us to our table, garnished with an edible, whole veggie salad garden centerpiece, and the garlic sauce and sumac that rendered it sublime!

Chicken balls, a Fakr Al-Din's speciality - perhaps invention -  was a surprise years ago when we first applied fork to crunchy chicken shell.  The resulting eruption of melted butter from its core was a surprise but the velvety mild, pistachio mixture lolled milky on our tongues. One is a serving and only on occasion at that.  It had been eight years since we had sampled one but with my successful experimentation at its creation, it won't be that long again!

Pistachio Butter Chicken Balls
1 ½ pounds ground chicken breast
1 egg
1 cup ground pistachios
¾ cup room-temperature butter
2 tab. minced parsley
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground nutmeg

-In food processor, grind shelled pistachio nuts until fine.  Measure out 2/3 cups of the ground pistachios and return to processor with butter then process for about 1 minute. Chill mixture for 30 minutes.  Form mixture into balls about the size of a small walnut.  Chill butter balls until ready to use.

-In food processor, combine chicken, egg, 1/3 cup ground pistachios, ¼ cup panko bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Process until well blended.  Chill mixture for at least 1 hour.

-To form balls, take 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling. Working with damp hands, hold a butter ball in one hand and mold the chicken mixture evenly around the butter, sealing completely.  Roll chicken ball in hands to create a smooth ball. (You will need to re-dampen your hands every other ball.) 

-Roll chicken balls in panko crumbs, pressing crumbs firmly into the chicken layer to coat evenly and completely.  Freeze chicken balls several hours or overnight.  (Can be kept for up to a month in the freezer in a plastic bag or sealed plastic container.)

-Pour about 3 inches of vegetable oil into a small pot.  Heat over medium-high heat for several minutes until the surface of the oil is shimmering.  Add the frozen chicken balls and cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes until deep golden all over.  (Be sure the oil is not too hot.  The balls should take at least 5 minutes to cook to ensure the chicken is cooked through.  If you hear the oil start to splatter, butter is leaking out from the balls and you should remove that ball immediately.)  Allow  to cool 5 – 10 minutes then serve.

-Makes 12 – 14 Chicken Balls.

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