Lamb Meatballs

cocktail meatball appetizer

I am a big fan of grazing. A little of this, a little of that. Antipasto, mezze, tapas, a ploughman’s lunch, the smörgåsbord: I’m into all of it. (Though strangely, the American grazing standards of salad bars and all-you-can-eat buffets tend to give me the creeps. Something about those sneeze guards.) A variety of flavors, textures, and temperatures keeps the taste buds tuned in and on high alert. (What’s going to happen next? Will it be crispy? The cater-waiter carrying those bacon-wrapped things is coming back this way!)

Putting out a big spread of apps and nibbles is one of the easiest ways to entertain, too, rather than a full-blown culinary production.  Supplementing half (or all) of the meal with store-bought goodies (a beautiful goat cheese, baba ganoush from the super-nice Lebanese guy around the corner, a platter of figs), sticking to a general theme, and serving ample amounts on nice dishes feels just as thoughtful to me.

And the thoughtful gesture is really the whole point of entertaining, isn’t it? I like you people, it says. I enjoy spending time together. I want to nurture you with good food and laugh with you over drinks. You don’t have to be a knockout cook to say all that. You don’t even have to be a cook at all, really.

For a warm addition to an apps party (serving one warm dish for every two or three cold ones is a good rule of thumb), these lamb meatballs are simple to make, homey and incredibly satisfying. (I would chase a cater-waiter around a room if he was offering these to guests.) I use ground lamb because I love its distinct meaty flavor, and as an appetizer it lends itself well to a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern style mezze, my white-girl version of kofta. (You can add a bit of ground cumin or coriander to punch them up in that direction.) Substitute oregano for the thyme and they’ll work for an Italian-style graze with a tomato sauce for dipping. The recipe doubles or triples easily (just cook the meatballs in batches) and you can easily substitute ground turkey; use equal parts dark and light meat to keep them moist.

Lamb Meatballs
makes about a dozen 1 1/2″ meatballs

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ground pepper
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 C + 1 Tbsp shallot, minced
  • 1/4 C seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1  1/2 Tbsp olive oil

In a large bowl, add first nine ingredients. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and pour over the ground lamb mixture. Mix gently with your hands and form into meatballs no larger than a golf ball. (As with burgers, a soft touch will ensure a tender finished product; overworked, compact meatballs will end up dense and heavy.)

Allow meatballs to come to room temperature.

In a 12″ skillet, heat 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil until shimmery-hot. Cook until deeply, evenly browned on all sides. (An internal temperature of 150-155 degrees will give you a medium-well meatball; if your butcher ground the meat from a solid hunk of lamb herself, feel free to aim for medium rare, if you like.) Drain on paper towels and blot dry.

Serve warm with a tomato or yogurt sauce or prepared Turkish red pepper paste.


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About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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5 Responses to Lamb Meatballs

  1. Lamb and meatballs are two of my favorite things, so this recipe speaks directly to my sense of things delicious. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Andy says:

    Good stuff -have to try. I buy lamb shoulder pieces at Trader Joe’s and grind the lamb myself for my meatballs. I do the traditional Italian with garlic, bread crumbs, egg, locatelli romano cheese and parsley.

  3. Pingback: Eggplant Caponata | scarpetta dolcetto

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