Youvarlakia was my mother’s favorite comfort food. Although she always used a mixture of ground beef and lamb to make her meatballs, I have begun adapting this dish with ground chicken (or sometimes turkey) with much success.
The other dilemma in the house was whether to use dill or parsley. Some recipes call for dill while others remain pure to parsley as the main green element in the meatballs.
I like both and the strong flavors that they offer, so I have begin incorporating a mixture of both into my variation.
- 1 pound ground chicken (or ground turkey or beef, or a mixture of half beef and half lamb), very cold
- 2 tablespoons high-phenolic extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed for greasing and garnish
- ¾ cup chopped fresh dill or parsley (or a mixture of both), plus more for garnish
- ½ cup grated yellow onion (from about 1 small onion)
- ¼ cup grated carrot (from about 1 carrot)
- ¼ cup uncooked long-grain rice, such as basmati or Carolina, well rinsed and drained
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated, pushed through a garlic press, or minced
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, high-phenolic extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup dill, onion, carrot, rice, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Gently mix with your hands until well combined.
2. Gently form the mixture into 24 meatballs, each about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, placing them on a plate or baking pan. Grease your hands with high-phenolic olive oil to prevent ground meat from sticking. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes or up to 24 hours. This helps the meatballs keep their shape while cooking.
3. In a large pot, bring stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and use a slotted spoon to carefully add meatballs to the pot. The broth should cover the tops of the meatballs by about 1/2 inch. If not, add a little water. Simmer gently, adjusting the heat so the broth doesn’t boil, until meatballs are cooked through and rice is tender, 25 to 35 minutes. (Break open a meatball to test it.) Remove pot from heat.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon juice until just mixed. Slowly add a ladle of warm broth to egg-lemon mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in another two ladles of broth to temper the egg mixture.
5. Slowly drizzle the egg-lemon mixture back into the pot with the meatballs, stirring gently so you don’t break apart the meatballs. Return the pot to medium-low heat until it just starts to simmer. (Wait for a bubble or two to appear, but don’t let the pot boil.) The broth should be silky.
6. Remove from heat, stir in remaining 1/2 cup dill. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. (It may need quite a bit of salt if you are starting with unsalted broth.) Garnish with high-phenolic extra virgin olive oil and dill, and serve.
Note: This is a recipe that I adapted from my mother’s cherished recipes. I have incorporated different meat options, as well as the use of my very own small batch Agourolado, or high-phenolic extra virgin olive oil. This unique oil isn’t like traditional oil. It maintains a very peppery taste and should be used as a drizzle on top of the finished meal, just prior to serving. Agourolado is available exclusively from The Pappas Market here.
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