There was a moment a dozen or so years ago when sliders were all the rage on restaurant menus. Precious little burgers (the traditional slider) and more clever ones like meatballs and fritters would teeter with tweezer-applied toppings on tiny buns and unless you unhinge your mandible to engulf (slide?) your wobbly prey whole, it was a bit of a mess too. So why am I channeling the year 2009? Sliders have been having a renaissance in my kitchen this spring because I finally realized their size is perfect for smaller eaters and makes for far more appetizing leftovers than, say, a cold burger with several bites removed, sogged into a day-old bun.
A couple months ago, I made Jessica Merchant’s (delicious) sticky bbq chicken meatballs and had an immediate urge to return to the flavors, smashburger/slider-style, for a weeknight meal for a sunny spring day. First we make a chicken meatball mixture seasoned with scallions, garlic, and smoked paprika. While it briefly chills, we make a quick buttermilk slaw, slice some pickles, and then, if you’re me (read: persnickety) and don’t love most bottled bbq sauce, you’re going to make a quickie version in the same skillet where you’re going to turn the meatballs into little sizzly smashburgers. Together on a butter-toasted bun, this was one of our favorite family dinners this month and a rare hit with everyone. I should just stop cooking while I’m ahead, right?
Smitten Kitchen Keepers is six months old today! I just noticed the date and simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that a book that included a tour with 32 events in 22 metropolitan areas, a book that so many of you are still tagging me in photos of dishes you’re cooking from it daily, has only been around for 6 months. I’m thrilled that this warmer weather means you might be able to cook some of my summery favorites in the book: zucchini cornbread and tomato butter, snow peas with pecorino and walnuts, cucumber salad with garlicky dill yogurt, clam chowder with bacon croutons, zucchini and pesto lasagna, and crispy chili garlic butter shrimp (our dinner tonight!), raspberry crostata, strawberry summer stack cake (my birthday cake next month), blondie chipwiches (in my freezer right now). I hope you love them as much as we do.
6 months ago: Green Angel Hair with Garlic Butter
1 year ago: Simplest Mushroom Pasta
2 years ago: Classic Shortbread
3 years ago: How I Stock The Smitten Kitchen
4 years ago: Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth
5 years ago: Fig Newtons and Cripsy Tofu Pad Thai
6 years ago: Granola Bark
7 years ago: Caramelized Brown Sugar Oranges with Yogurt and Potato Pizza, Even Better
8 years ago: Why You Should Always Toast Your Nuts (Please!) and Obsessively Good Avocado-Cucumber Salad
9 years ago: Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons and Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
10 years ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast and Bee Sting Cake
11 years ago: Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche and Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch
12 years ago: Blackberry and Coconut Macaroon Tart
13 years ago: Baked Kale Chips and Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting
14 years ago: Artichoke-Olive Crostini and Chocolate Caramel Crackers
15 years ago: Spring Panzanella and Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake
16 years ago: Arborio Rice Pudding and Gnocchi with a Grater
Smashed Chicken Meatball Sliders
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs, such as panko
- 1 tablespoon milk or water
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 scallions, minced, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 to 3 cups thinly-sliced or diced cabbage, any variety
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Butter to toast buns; oil to cook meatballs
- Slider buns, such as potato or Hawaiian rolls
- Barbecue sauce, bottled or from the quickie recipe, below
- Thinly-sliced pickles
Make the slaw: Whisk buttermilk, mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, and remaining half of scallions from the meatballs in a large bowl and add cabbage, tossing to evenly coat it. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
[Here is where, if you’re unhinged enough to make your own barbecue sauce, you can do so using the quickie recipe at the end. But there is truly no need to do this to make a great meatball slider, promise.]
Toast your buns: In a large frying pan, the same one where you’ll cook your meatballs, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Place your buns, cut-side down, in the pan. Cook until cut sides are golden-brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plate or platter where you’ll assemble your sliders.
Cook the smashed meatballs: Remove chicken meatball mixture from fridge and, using wet hands for a smoother shape, roll into the size and number of meatballs you’ll want — this is determined by the size of your buns. Be sure to roll the meatballs smaller than the bun so that they will fill it out once smashed.
Heat your large frying pan over high heat for a minute, then coat with about 2 tablespoons oil. Place your first few meatballs in the pan and let them sear for 30 seconds to 1 minute before using a heavy spatula to flatten them until they’re about 1/2-inch-thick. Season meatballs with an extra dusting of salt and pepper. Cook until they’re crisp and deeply browned underneath, about 3 to 4 minutes — reduce the heat to medium-high if they’re cooking much faster — and flip each, cooking on the second side until it is also browned underneath, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer meatballs to prepared buns and repeat with remaining meat.
To finish: Spoon barbecue sauce onto each meatball, top with a few sliced of pickle, and a small heap of slaw, and eat right away.
Quickie Barbecue Sauce: Combine 1/3 cup ketchup, 3 tablespoons each molasses and apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1 teaspoon chili powder or smoked paprika (or half of each) in a skillet and bring to a simmer, stirring, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour into a bowl for serving; wipe out pan and continue to use it to toast the buns and cook the meatballs.