For chef Daniel Holzman, meatballs are so much more than a crown for a plate of spaghetti.
Holzman, the executive chef and co-owner of the famed Meatball Shop in New York City, took the bite-sized comfort food and reinvented it several times over with different meats and flavors to turn the meatball into the heart of the meal.
"Every single culture celebrates meatballs," he said. "Everyone has a meatball from their childhood, whether you're from southeast asia, northern Italy, Africa, you have meatballs in your culture and you have had meatballs in your past and that is exciting. You say meatballs and people smile."
After starting out working at the famous Le Bernadin restaurant under chef Eric Ripert, Holzman attended to the Culinary Institute of America and worked his way up to executive chef at high-end dining restaurants before opening The Meatball Shop.
"Meatball Shop was this perfect storm of ideas that collided," he said. "I felt like there was something rude about charging so much for food and there was really great food for a lot of money, but not a lot of great food at an affordable price. Meatballs are a naturally affordable food stuff. You can use the top quality ingredients because they are inherently inexpensive."
Holzman shared some of his favorite recipes for our "Nightline" Platelist series.
Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls
Makes about forty 3/4-inch meatballs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup Frank's RedHot Sauce or any other favorite hot sauce
1 pound ground chicken, preferably thigh meat
1 large egg
1/2 celery stalk, minced
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle the vegetable oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
Combine the butter and hot sauce in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat, whisking until the butter is melted and fully incorporated. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.
Combine the hot sauce mixture, ground chicken, egg, celery, bread crumbs, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll the mixture into round, 3/4-inch balls, making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165 degrees F.
Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes in the baking dish before serving.
Blue Cheese Dressing
Makes 2 cups
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup crumbled Blue Cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Place the sour cream, blue cheese, milk, mayonnaise, salt, and vinegar in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly until completely combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if desired.