My favorite part about working with food is giving cooking demonstrations…sharing what I know and having two-way conversations with people. I’ve also been challenging myself a lot lately with coming up with recipes on the spot given a set of ingredients “a la Chopped.” I’ll share a Chopped weekend post with you soon. It was so much fun being a culinary MacGyver: mixing foie gras with Cool Whip and deconstructing Kit Kat candy bars.
Every so often I get to do both of these together, such as the cooking demonstration I gave at Williams-Sonoma for their Customer Appreciation Day. I had the free reign to come up with a fall dish using Williams-Sonoma products. And with holiday entertaining right around the corner, I figured that bite-sized meatballs would be an easy addition to a family meal or for light cocktails.
Other great cocktail party bites:
I’m a stickler for tender, juicy meatballs. To guarantee this, I combine beef and pork. I use beef for flavor, and pork for texture. I learned a while back from fourth generation, Master Butcher Jeffrey Ruhalterork that pork fat is unique. It tastes like, and has the plump, tender consistency of meat. I also add breadcrumbs and milk. When the breadcrumbs absorb the milk, they expand and fluff up the meatballs.
A trick to hosting holiday soirees like a pro is to mix and match store-bought components with from-scratch ones. So it tastes deliciously homemade, and has the flavor complexity as if you spent hours over the stove. I took advantage of that in this recipe with the Williams-Sonoma Apple-Orange Cranberry Relish and Pumpkin Stew Starter.
It also helps to pre-make a few things in case you get unexpected guests. When I have time, I usually whip up a batch of cookie dough and roll them up in parchment paper (twist the ends to close). I slip these into empty paper towel rolls (the center cardboard cylinder) and store them in the freezer. When I need fresh-baked cookies, I simply slice and bake. I also went through a phase when I would bake Mini Apple Cinnamon Bundt Cakes then individually wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer. When friends stopped by, I microwaved the cakes for a few seconds and served them with vanilla ice cream.
Any little bit helps to reduce the stress. After all, holidays are about spending time with friends and family.
Cranberry Relish Meatballs with Simmered Pumpkin Gravy
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (18 oz) jar Williams-Sonoma Apple Orange Cranberry Relish
(an alternative is to make this homemade relish ahead of time)
1 tablespoon olive oil (for cooking the meatballs)
1 (1 pound 9 oz) jar Williams-Sonoma Pumpkin Stew Starter
Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Shape heaping teaspoons of the mixture into 1-inch sized balls.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Place some of the meatballs in the pan in one layer. Cook until the meatballs are no longer pink inside, 4 – 5 minutes. Turn the meatballs while cooking to create a brown crust on all sides. Remove the meatballs and continue to cook the remaining meat in batches.
While cooking the meatballs, simmer the Pumpkin Stew Starter in a small pot over low heat. Spoon the sauce over the cooked meatballs and serve.