No true Southern gathering would be complete without punch—lots and lots of punch—in addition to pigs in a blanket, sweet & spicy nuts, and the quintessential cocktail meatball. And when I talk about the cocktail meatballs, I'm not talking the Heinz chili sauce plus grape jelly combo that gives Southern cooking a bad name, but a truly complex meatball that brings glory back to their name.
A couple of weeks before the party, I pulled a few promising recipes to test, with the intention of creating a new-and-improved cocktail meatball I could call my very own. The first batch I sampled was for Food & Wine Magazine, inspired by the movie The Help. After first bite, I knew I didn't need to look any further, these were already near-perfect. (And sometimes it's just best to leave well enough alone.) I had found the only recipe I needed.
I par-cooked the meatballs a few days in advance of the party, so all that was left to do on the day-of was to reheat them in their sweet & sour glaze and serve them in a pretty chafing dish. In true Southern form, I quadrupled the recipe, because in my personal opinion there is nothing worse than running out of food. By the end of the night, not a single measly meatball crumb was left. (That is, until I found one squirreled away under my bed pillows: it seems my very-wise bulldog pup was attempting to save one for later. I must have taught him well!) I always take an empty dish as a good sign.
These cocktail meatballs get my ultimate stamp of approval. They're so good in fact, they may just give me an excuse to make the holiday party an annual tradition. I'll be counting down the days!
→ Get the Recipe: Cocktail Meatballs from FOOD & WINE Magazine
(Images: Nealey Dozier and Food Wine Magazine)