You know how I feel about meatballs, they’re nature’s perfect food — bite sized, full of protein, easy to make, they reinvent themselves like crazy, and, when you stick a toothpick in them, they encourage holiday mingling. Who wouldn’t make a beeline for a pan of juicy little meatballs in a warm cranberry bourbon glaze? Cheese and crackers are just going to have to face facts, meatballs and cocktails were made for each other.
And, yes — you do have time to make these for Thanksgiving — you can form the meatballs and make the sauce today. Tomorrow all you have to do is brown them and add the sauce, they saute, covered, for about 10 minutes until the meat is cooked through. The sauce’s intense flavor comes from just a few ingredients — cranberry sauce, bourbon, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and sriracha. In this case I made a very special cranberry sauce infused with rosemary, which was so fantastic it’s now my official family recipe. Of course you can use regular cranberry sauce, but before you decide to to do that, let me tell you how easy this was — you just follow the sauce recipe on the bag like you always do, but add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to the pan while it’s cooking. Fish out the sprigs of rosemary before serving, and you’ll have the most wonderful sauce, infused with the piney scent and flavor of rosemary. It’s distinctive and utterly simple.
- 1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries (this will make more sauce then you need for this recipe)
- 1 cup sugar
- several sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork or veal
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg, well beaten
- 1/4 cup finely minced onion
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- olive oil for browning
- 1 cup rosemary cranberry sauce (recipe above, or use your favorite cranberry sauce)
- 1/4 cup barbecue sauce (your favorite)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 1 Tbsp sriracha sauce
- First make the cranberry sauce. Put the berries, the sugar, and a cup of water in a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the rosemary sprigs and bring everything up to a boil. Turn down the heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Fish out the rosemary sprigs and then let the sauce cool.
- To make the sauce, add all the sauce ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to combine everything. Turn down the heat and cook for about 10 minutes until thickened.
- To make the meatballs, put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. I like to break up the ground meat as I add it to the bowl to make it easier to combine well. Use your clean fingertips to mix everything, just until well combined.
- Use a tablespoon or a small cookie scoop to form balls about 1" in diameter. Roll them in your hands until round, and then set on a plate.
- Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and heat until hot. Brown the meatballs on all sides.
- Add the bourbon cranberry sauce to the skillet, and stir to cover the meatballs. Add a little bit of water if the sauce seems too thick.
- Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through, they should read about 160F on an instant read thermometer inserted in the center. I baste the meatballs often during the cooking.
- Serve the meatballs hot, with the sauce.
I made some sweet little beaded cocktail toothpicks to go with my meatballs, I’ll post a tutorial on those this week, I’ll use them for finger food appetizers and cheese as we head into entertaining season. Just make sure you get them back from your guests, they might try to make off with them!
It’s always hard to decide what to make for Thanksgiving appetizers, I usually either under do it, or over do it. I think these meatballs hit the right balance, they’re not carby, like so many snacks, they satisfy the the grumbling tummies that result from all those wonderful cooking smells in the house…and most importantly, they keep everybody out of the kitchen. And yes, you could make these in the slow cooker, with or without browning the meat first. Like I said, nature’s perfect food :)
The link to the be-jeweled toothpick tutorial is HERE.