San Francisco is indisputably one of the best restaurant cities in this country, but I’d argue it’s lacking in one category: red sauce Italian-American restaurants, like the type that are plentiful in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere on the East Coast. Sure, there are plenty of stellar spots that specialize in pizza or regional Italian food, as well as Italian-American restaurants in the California cuisine-vein. (For the record, my favorites are Piccino, Cotogna, Locanda, La Ciccia, Pizzeria Delfina, Acquerello, and SPQR.) Tosca Cafe almost fits the bill — everything about it feels very New York — and it’s absolutely fantastic in its own right, but sometimes a girl wants a plate of chicken parmesan and some garlic bread, neither of which is the sort of thing Tosca typically serves.
Aside from occasional trips out east, I’m left to take matters into my own hands. Chicken parmesan is a particular obsession of mine; as a kid, it was my absolute favorite savory food. And while my tastes have broadened over the years, it still holds a tender place in my heart. So, naturally, I’ve bookmarked and tried out quite a few recipes. While I still haven’t found the perfect classic recipe, this recipe that combines chicken parm with my other favorite Italian dish — meatballs — is notable.
Not only does it satisfy two cravings at once, but it’s far tastier as leftovers than traditional chicken parm, as there’s no breading to get soggy, and chicken thighs take to reheating better than chicken breasts. (Seriously, don’t even think of subbing ground chicken breasts in this recipe; I’ve tried it, and the resulting meatballs were dry, bland, and just not worth it.)
Chicken Parm Meatballs
Don’t be tempted to substitute ground chicken breast for the ground chicken thigh; it’s far too lean and will result in tough, dry meatballs. If ground chicken thigh isn’t sold at your market, ask the butcher counter to do it for you.
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