Centerpiece for Super Bowl watching

Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Media Services Originally Published January 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 23, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.
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TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

Meatball sliders can be a big hit for your Super Bowl party and can accommodate a large crowd.

There’s nothing more traditional than serving a big pot of chili when a bunch of friends come over to watch a big game like the Super Bowl. Sometimes, though, I like to try something different. Last year I surprised my husband and friends with meatball sliders that were a big hit. I served a green salad with artichoke hearts and tiny plum tomatoes dressed with a lemon-mustard vinaigrette alongside. All the guests needed were a fork and napkin. That’s my kind of casual entertaining. I also like these because they are baked rather than fried.

Most of us think of sliders as tiny burgers with grilled onions served on little buns. I thought it would be fun to use meatballs instead of burgers, and the result might be an improvement over the traditional burger slider. At the least, it’s a great alternative. I love serving these for a big crowd because they are pleasing to eat and very economical. Colorful toothpicks add a party touch to the sliders.

The meatballs are incredibly moist and flavorful. They fit right into a small hamburger bun, Hawaiian bread roll or small Parmesan rolls. Any meatballs you don’t use can be frozen for future big bashes. Think of these as the centerpiece of an afternoon of football watching, or serve them, one per person, for a little bite with a glass of wine. For game watching, a robust red wine or chilled beer is a perfect companion. I like to serve a big plate of brownies for dessert.

Cook’s tips

• Serve these with your favorite pasta.

• This recipe can also be adapted to a meat loaf. Form the mixture into a large loaf shape, place it on a baking sheet, and bake it for 1 hour at 400 degrees. For extra flavor, spoon over some of the sauce while the meat loaf is cooking.

• Make them spicier by adding some crushed red pepper to the meat mixture.

• Keep some frozen; then add to your favorite soup.

Advance preparation: Can be prepared one day ahead through step 4, covered and refrigerated. Reheat on medium heat, basting with tomato sauce, until the meatballs are hot. The cooked meatballs without the sauce can also be frozen.

Meatball Sliders

Makes about 60 (2-inch) meatballs; serves 15-20

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 leeks, light-green and white part only, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and shredded, or 1 cup shredded carrots

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 large eggs

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 cup chili sauce

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup fine dried bread crumbs; panko works well

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon seasoning salt

1 pound lean ground veal

1 1/2 pounds lean (15 percent) ground beef

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

2 (26-ounce) jars good-quality marinara sauce

1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped (use 2 teaspoons dried basil if fresh is unavailable)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

60 mini-buns or slider rolls

Directions:

  1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the oil, add the leeks, and saute them for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they’re soft and translucent. Saute the carrots for a minute; then add the garlic, and saute for another minute. Cool and reserve.
  2. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients except the meat. Blend well, using a large spoon or your hands to mix all the ingredients together. Add the meat, and mix to blend all ingredients equally.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a few baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. With your hands, gently roll the mixture into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place them on the baking sheets, and bake the meatballs for about 35 minutes, or until cooked through and no pinkness remains.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a large Dutch oven, big enough for the meatballs to fit into. Combine the sauce with the herbs and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add the meatballs, and cook in the sauce for about 15 minutes or until the sauce nicely coats the meatballs.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the rolls part of the way through. If desired, spread the buns on a baking sheet and heat in a 350-degree oven until heated through. Place one meatball inside each bun. Arrange on a platter and serve immediately.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 20 cookbooks, including her most recent, Seriously Simple Parties (Chronicle Books, 2012), and is also a James Beard award-winning radio-show host. Contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.

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