Potluck suppers or gatherings are a dynamic way to entertain, raise funds for a charity or just pull the block together. We get invited to a lot of them. They take the pressure and expense off of the host and get down to the heart of the matter of bringing people together to eat, socialize and meet, often for the first time. But as common as they are, what to bring is the usual looming question. Well, we want to let you in on a potluck secret: mini meatballs.
We all know meatballs can be made with different meats (pork, veal, beef, lamb, venison, turkey etc) and be paired with endless amounts of flavorings; was there ever a more multifaceted, versatile food? They can be rolled in the style of the Italians or Greeks made with beef and pork or even veal or made with lamb and Moroccan spices. They can be packed, Southeast Asian style, with Thai bird chiles, garlic or fish sauce and snuggled into a bahn mi sandwich or grilled as kebabs with middle eastern spices. They enrich soups, casseroles and sandwiches across the globe and can be served as a course in their own right. And they win everyone over every time.
The secret is all about perspective. When you picture mini meatballs as the centerpiece of the dish you plan to bring – the possibilities open up; they can be presented in so many ways. If you’re looking for a straightforward appetizer for a house warming or open house style potluck, serve them on their own with a simple dipping sauce. A potluck dinner? Serve them over noodles or rice or baked into a pasta casserole. More casual potluck party? Make them into sandwiches. Any way you roll these babies you’re gonna have a winner. And the beauty of it is each and every meatball flavor profile is really this versatile. They’re magical.
Here’s a recipe for our Southeast Asian inspired mini meatballs below. Plus a few dipping sauces and accompaniments to make whichever version you choose over-the-top good.
- 1½ pounds ground pork
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 scallions chopped finely, about 3 tablespoons
- ¼ bunch cilantro stems and leaves minced, (about 2 tablespoons), plus more for garnish
- 3 cloves garlic grated finely on a rasp
- 1 inch piece of peeled ginger grated finely on a rasp
- 1-2 Thai bird chiles minced (optional)
- 1½ tablespoons fish sauce
- pinch white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- coconut oil spray (or other spray oil)
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix gently and thoroughly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 2 oz ice cream scoop, portion out the meatballs onto the baking sheet. Use wet hands (put a little water in a small bowl or plate to dip your hands into while you work) to help roll into smooth balls about 1½ inches in diameter or about 1½ tablespoons in volume. Repeat until all meatballs have been formed. (See get savvy note on freezing)
- Preheat broiler to high.
- In another baking sheet, set a rack and spray with coconut oil. (If you don't have a rack, just use the baking sheet, it will work fine) Transfer as many of the meatballs as will fit to the sprayed rack leaving about 1 inch in between them. Note: If your broiler has a narrow cooking area and doesn't heat the whole baking sheet at once, adjust your meatballs to fit precisely under the elements, cooking fewer meatballs per batch if necessary, you'll find this to be more efficient than rotating throughout cooking. Cook under the broiler for 7 minutes transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
- If serving as an appetizer, pair with a jarred sweet chile sauce.
- If serving as a soup - simply skip the broiling cooking method, bring your broth to a boil, and poach at a bare simmer until cooked through (about 7-10 minutes).
- If serving in a noodle bowl or rice bowl, cook the noodles and rice according to the packaging instructions, lightly season with soy and sesame oil. Garnish or toss through a combination of the following vegetables: julienned cucumber, sliced scallions, sliced red chiles, chopped cilantro, julienned carrots, julienned daikon radish, or any sautéd vegetables such as mushrooms, broccoli or green beans.
- If serving as a bahn mi sandwich try the following accompaniments, cut a baguette in half lengthwise. Combine sriracha with mayo (use as much sriracha as you like to make a very spicy mayo or just a mildly spicy one, we like a 3:2 ratio of mayo to sriracha) add a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt and spread on both sides of a baguette. Make a quick vegetable salad with ½ English cucumber, julienned, sliced red chiles, 2 medium carrots, grated, julienned daikon radish (about ½ cup) or sliced napa cabbage. Put all vegetables in a bowl and dress with lime 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Set aside to wilt a bit before adding to the sandwiches. Garnish with picked cilantro and mint leaves. NOTE: bahn mi sandwiches traditionally have pate, butter and other French influences, feel free to riff on this. There really are no rules when making one for a pot luck.
If freezing after cooked: simply store in a resealable bag or freezer safe container. They can be microwaved to reheat or brought back up to temperature in a 350-400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.