After a short vacation and a brief detox, I pulled up my big girl pants and got back in the kitchen... Spending years in middle of nowhere New York State you realized how not so Big Apple most of the state can be. As you travel through the Catskills yellow cabs become trucks equipped with rubber nuts and the blazers turn into camouflage jackets. Slightly more than halfway towards Syracuse from Albany there is a rusty little town called Utica. I find that some of the best food comes from places that once were industrial boom towns, like Buffalo wings and whatever Cleveland has to offer. There's one thing every Utica restaurant makes and it is Chicken Riggies. If you order it at your local greasy spoon it will come to your table as a spicy marinara sauce, spiked with heavy cream, Parmesan cheese with a few ounces of dry chicken breast over a soft mess of cooked pasta. In all my attempts of recreating the recipe I had been able to improve on everything but the chicken which tended to get dry no matter what I did. Until one day...
Chicken Meatball Riggies
Part 1: The Breadcrumbs
Yes, you could go and buy breadcrumbs and save yourself the trouble of a few extra steps. However you can stop being a lazy asshole and do something with the three or four odd shaped slices of bread that come in a standard loaf. Leave the bread out on the counter for a few days and let it become stale (not moldy).
If you don't have the luxury of waiting a few days for your bread to become dry and stale, lay each piece on a baking sheet and coat them with olive oil. Place them into a preheated oven set to 250 degrees. This should take between 30-60 minutes depending on the thickness and freshness of the bread. If you cut the bread into cubes this will expedite the drying process.
Once the bread has been dried out, place it into a food processor with Italian parsley and a 1/2 tablespoon each of onion powder and garlic powder.
No salt added breadcrumbs that didn't cost a penny (not technically), my girl Rach Ray would be proud. Lets start combining the meatballs.
Part 2: The Moist Ingredients
- 16 oz. of ice water, don't use all of this
- 2 large cage free organic eggs
- 2 large garlic cloves, smashed/pressed/minced
- Fresh oregano, chopped fine
- Fresh rosemary, chopped fine
- 4 oz. of cubed panchetta
- 2 lbs. ground chicken
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 cups bread crumbs,
I use the same ratios for any chicken meatball; every pound of meat includes an egg and one cup of breadcrumbs. Don't add the water until you start mixing.
Mix until combined and add water as you go to keep the consistency correct. The meatballs should be tacky on the surface but holds it shape when molded into a ball. Too little water the meatballs will be dry/hard/inedible, and too wet you'll have meat cookies in the oven.
Mold into the desired size, some people use an ice cream scoop to assist in keeping them uniform. I prefer going by feel and not making myself more work come time to do dishes.
Place on an olive oil lined baking sheet with 1/4 cup of water in the oven at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Part 3: Let's Make Some Sauce
- Italian parsley, 1/4 cup chopped
- 1/2 of a 32 oz. jar of whole cherry peppers
- 2- 28 oz. cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/3 jar of roasted red peppers
- 1 medium sized red onion
- 1 pint of presliced mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1/2 cup of chicken stock
- 2 whole Ancho dried chile peppers
- Heavy whipping cream
- Parmesan cheese
Heat the chicken stock up in a pot and place the dried peppers into the hot liquid (cover). After about 5 minutes remove the peppers and extract the seeds/stem, keep the flesh and set aside.
Oil your pot, like so...
Assuming you have already sliced your onion, place it into the pot with a pinch of salt like so...
After browning the onions on medium high heat, place the mushrooms in the pan and cook for about as long as the onions were cooking.
No that's not a poop emoji that is a little squirt of tomato paste.
Mix the tomato paste into the mushrooms and onions, leave over the heat and keep stirring for a few minutes. This will burn easily so keep stirring!
Add in all your sliced peppers, remember the seeds are the part of the pepper that bring the heat. Being lazy now will lead to a painful tinder swiping session on the ivory throne later.
Let the peppers heat up over medium heat.*
Add the tomatoes and the liquid in the cans into the pot.
Use a potato masher to achieve the desired consistency. If you don't have a potato masher and want to skip this step; buy crushed tomatoes instead of whole (I only do this to control the chunk factor). Bring this up to a simmer over medium heat. Taste the sauce before adding anything else, add sugar if it is too spicy and salt if it tastes to bland.
It should take about 20 minutes to combine all the ingredients in the pan (if you have all your ingredients prepared before hand), our meatballs should be done.
After the meatballs have simmered in the sauce for 1-2 hours, remove them from the sauce and set aside. I left both the sauce and the meatballs in separate containers for easy preparation. When you are ready to make a serving; place the sauce into a small pan (saucepan preferably) and add heavy whipping cream. Leave on medium heat until the sauce begins to simmer, add Parmesan cheese to the sauce with the meatballs and cover. Boil rigatoni until tender and add to the sauce. You can put this over rice or any other kind of pasta, however rigatoni is the best noodle to use.
Post cooking thoughts:
In the past I used white wine but due to an overeager pour on a precooking beverage I had none left to use. I would recommend between 1/2 to 1 cup before adding the tomatoes and cooking down by half the original volume.*
Don't add any dairy (cream or cheese) of you intend on refrigeration this and reheating it. I ate this without heavy cream and it was still good however it was much spicier on both ends.**