8 & $20: Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders

Spice up your game-day get-togethers, or any winter meal, with this savory sandwich and a sparkler
8 & $20: Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders
The strong flavors of the spicy sauce and savory cheese can be handled by a bubbly, off-dry white or fruity red. (Greg Hudson)
Jan 26, 2016

Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal—or party plate—from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

It's almost Super Bowl time, and game-day gatherings call for hearty, indulgent snacks. These sliders fit the bill. They’re finger-licking good, but should require fewer napkins than your average plate of wings, while still hitting all the highlights of Buffalo chicken.

Meatballs are a great choice when cooking for crowds. You can prep them in advance and then warm them up in sauce when party time rolls around. You can also present them in myriad ways: Heap them simply on a platter with toothpicks for a no-fuss presentation; or pile them on your starch of choice—bread, rolls, buns, rice or noodles. Here, I’ve arranged them on mini-rolls with a simple Gorgonzola spread to make an irresistible slider. For a full meal, have two or three sliders—or use a larger roll for a hearty sandwich—and serve with a side of greens.

The dinner rolls I used were soft, with a hint of sweetness, which made for a nice counterpoint to the spicy sauce and savory cheese spread. They also did double duty in this recipe, as they made excellent breadcrumbs to use in the meatballs.

I served these sliders at a recent gathering of wine-loving friends. The strong flavors of the spicy Buffalo sauce and the Gorgonzola posed pairing challenges, and the get-together provided the perfect excuse to open up a wide array of bottles to try with the dish. Among the contenders were a Provençal rosé, a Spanish Garnacha, a German kabinett Riesling, a Prosecco and a California Zinfandel.

The pairing turned out to be divisive; however, several favorites ultimately emerged. Some guests preferred the fruitiness of the Zinfandel alongside the Gorgonzola; others liked the way the touch of sweetness in the Riesling softened the spiciness of the hot sauce. My vote landed in favor of the Prosecco. The wine wasn’t completely dry, which allowed it to handle the spicy components of the meatballs, while fruity notes in the wine came out to play with the blue cheese. The cleansing effervescence helped refresh my palate and lightened up the rich slider, so that I could go on to take another decadent bite. As an added bonus, come Super Bowl Sunday, you'll have a celebratory bubbly on hand if your team wins!

Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders

Pair with an off-dry sparkling wine such as Canella Extra Dry Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2014 (87 points, $19), or other widely available Extra Dry Prosecco brands such as La Marca or Mionetto.

To provide a range of wines for your party guests, for a still white, try Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling Kabinett Mosel Bernkasteler Badstube 2013 (88 points, $18), and for a still red, the Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel Sonoma County Sonoma Heritage Vines 2013 (86 points $15).

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 55 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25

  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 17 to 18 small to medium bread rolls, 16 for serving, plus 1 or 2 to make about 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning mix
  • 2/3 cup premade Buffalo hot wing sauce (brand of your choice), or more if you prefer
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 ounces extra-creamy Gorgonzola
  • Arugula, for garnish
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cooking oil
  • Toothpicks (optional)

1. Tear up 1 or 2 rolls into medium-size crumbs by hand, or place pieces of rolls in food processor and pulse gently to create crumbs. Lightly moisten the breadcrumbs with about 3 tablespoons of water for 1 cup of crumbs.

2. Place the ground chicken, breadcrumbs, egg and ranch seasoning mix in a large bowl and combine, adding salt and pepper to your taste.

3. Make a small test meatball and cook in a skillet so you can taste-test for seasoning. Adjust as needed.

4. Once the chicken mixture is seasoned to taste, roll it into balls, measuring out 2 tablespoons of meat per large meatball, and place them on a large plate or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for easier cleanup.

5. Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook the meatballs in batches over medium-high heat, browning all sides (about 8 to 10 minutes for the large meatballs). Once done, transfer the meatballs to another baking sheet or platter lined with paper towels. Set aside.

6. Combine the mayonnaise and Gorgonzola in a bowl and mix using an immersion blender or food processor, so that it is mostly creamy with some remaining chunks of cheese. Store the mixture in the fridge until ready to serve.

7. Slice buns and warm in the oven (if desired) at 300° F for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly warmed.

8. While the buns are warming, heat the hot sauce in a pan on medium high. Add the meatballs and toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to serve.

9. Assemble the sliders by layering a few arugula leaves, a meatball and the Gorgonzola spread on the buns. Secure the sliders with toothpicks, if desired, and serve. Makes about 16 large meatballs, or 32 medium meatballs.

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