I feel like such a bootleg Persian, because I don’t grill kebab at least weekly. We did this a lot growing up. And nowadays, I love to visit the fam and eat a good grilled meal or two. Indeed, that’s a trip highlight. But as long as I call my outdoor space free NYC apartment home, I don’t see lots of impromptu, casual grilling nights in my future. The good ol’ George Foreman grill, while perfectly functional, just isn’t the same as open flames.
So for now, I’ve turned to the slow cooker. It’s quite the opposite of grilling, I suppose: just prep the food, load up the cooker, and walk away. For hours. To that end, I’ve taken a ground chicken kebab mix and turned it into meatballs.
Serve them atop my easy rice, with a veggie side. Traditionally, Persian kebabs are served with a chunk or two of grilled tomato and onions, plus lots of fresh herbs. Here, instead, I’ve gone more in the direction of a khorest/stew, and made a saucy tomato-based mix that tastes quite good indeed. No grill required.
Persian Chicken Meatballs
See note below for stovetop option
- 1 pound of ground chicken breast
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon grated onion
- 2 cloves garlic, grated very finely (I use a microplane for a fine grate)
- 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 6 Tablespoons Advieh/Persian Spice mix (sold as in specialty markets, on Amazon, or make your own using my easy recipe)
- 4 Tablespoons saffron water (pinch of saffron dissolved in hot water)
- 2 Tablespoons turmeric
- Couple of pinches each of cumin and coriander
- 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 Tablespoon water
- neutral cooking fat of choice (I used coconut oil that has no coconut flavor, and a couple of dabs of ghee)
1. In a medium bowl, crack the egg and beat it. Add in onion, garlic, breadcrumbs. Now add in HALF of your Advieh/Persian spice mix, half of the turmeric, and half of the saffron water. Add in a pinch each of cumin and coriander. Finally, add salt and pepper.
2. With your hands or with a fork, gently add in chicken and mix everything together until egg mixture is well integrated into the meat. Don’t overwork.
3. Wet your palms. Grab a couple of tablespoons of meat mixture, and using the palms of your hands, form into a meatball. Repeat until you have 15-18 equal sized meatballs.
4. Heat up cooking fat in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry 5 or 6 meatballs at a time for a minute or two on each side. You’re looking for a nice golden or golden brown color, not to cook them all the way through.
5. As meatballs cook, place a 14-16 ounce can of tomatoes in slow cooker. Break up tomatoes with a spoon or fork. Throw in the rest of the spices. Mix.
6. Gently add in meatballs to tomato mixture and set cooker for 2-4 hours. (In my cooker, they’re done at 2 hours, so I either switch to “keep warm” mode if I’m home; if not, they’re okay to cook for the full 4 hours. )
7. Check tomato sauce and adjust seasoning to taste.
NOTE: Stovetop Option
Follow recipe through step four. Remove meatballs from pan, then add tomatoes and spices to the pan. (Make sure you’re using a deep skillet or even a Dutch over here). Mix well and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Lower heat to low, add meatballs, and cover with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you desire a longer cooking time, add water as needed so the sauce doesn’t dry out. If in doubt that meatballs are cooked through, use a food thermometer to check, or cut one in half to verify it’s cooked completely.