Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 11: Cocktail Meatballs For A Crowd

I'm throwing a baby shower! Well, sort of. It's my best friend's baby who I'm showering, and I'm throwing it in conjunction with her mother, if my best friend doesn't beat her to death with a heavy object soon. The shower is next month, in Kentucky, and Kimberly has given an executive order for no fuss.

Of course, the first thing I thought about was what to eat at a baby shower. I've never thrown one before. So...what do I serve? Baby carrots? Baby corn? Baby...Baby's breath? No, no, that's not food. Kimberly doesn't eat a lot of meat (although the baby loves him some chili dogs), and there's the no-fuss order.

Here's my experience with parties: nobody will like everything, and bad food is never, you know, good, so I consider my audience. There are some things that almost everybody likes; serve enough of them, do it well, and people will talk about how great the food was. It's the law of large numbers.

Here's my rule when it comes to party food, and it exists because I am the laziest housekeeper on earth, I really am: I like party food that gets eaten completely without leaving some part of itself behind. For example: shrimp. I like shrimp. Everybody likes shrimp, just about, but shrimp have shells and tails to be left behind. Invariably, they slide off of little paper plates or get knocked off an end table, and just like that, you have shrimp shells in your carpet for, like, a week. Really want to serve shrimp at your party? Make a shrimp dip and serve it with slices of baguette. No shells left behind. Chicken wings: incredibly popular, a huge crowd-pleaser. They also leave a mess. Instead, make a buffalo chicken dip: chunks of white-meat chicken in a creamy dip base mixed with wing sauce, with lots of bleu cheese stirred in, served bubbling hot. I've had it on tortilla chips. Sounds a little weird? Go with me on this; I know I've almost never met a dip I didn't like, but this one is something special

Another thing almost everyone likes: meatballs. The great thing about cocktail meatballs is that you can totally buy good-quality frozen ones, because it's all about the sauce. Thaw the meatballs overnight in the fridge, pop them into a hot oven for a few minutes on rimmed baking sheets to heat up, and then toss them with some kind of yummy sauce in your crockpot. They'll stay hot forever and the only thing they leave behind is maybe a toothpick or something. I've also seen the same meatballs simmered in sauce with kielbasa: also delicious.

As for the sauce, you can keep it simple with barbecue sauce--whatever kind you like; I like KC Masterpiece. You can make a sauce with tomato paste, red wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce, but it seems fussy to me. My favorites are Sweedish meatball sauce, a sort of sour-cream-dill-beef broth concoction which is delicious but occasionally curdles if it stands too long, and this ridiculous thing that I love, despite the fact that it's so low-brow. Here it is, barely a recipe at all. Sandra Lee would be so proud of me. I'm a little embarassed by this thing, but go with me. You'll love me for it.

Cocktail Meatballs for a Crowd

2 1-lb bags of good quality frozen meatballs, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
1 bottle Heinz chili sauce
1 12 oz. jar good-quality apricot preserves
1 8 oz. jar good-quality grape jelly

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet and warm in the oven until heated through, 15-20 minutes.

While meatballs heat, put preserves, jelly, and chili sauce in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until jelly melts.

Place meatballs in a crockpot set on low, gently pour sauce over. Keep warm; serve.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

You're right, that sounds odd, but it looks easy and I trust you. Mmmm, chili dogs. I can't wait until you're here! We will totally close down the Sonic.