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Miniature Thai Meatball Appetizers

Will meatballs be the next cupcakes? Some trend watchers believe it’s true.

While I was growing up, mini meatballs were the stars of the appetizer table at all our family get togethers. And let me tell you, my family excelled in hors d’oeuvres before anyone knew how to spell those two words. (It only took me a minor in French to get it right.)

Those meatballs never varied: they arrived at the party in my aunt Anne’s harvest gold chafing dish wading in a molasses-colored sauce that was sweet and vinegary as ketchup and sticky. Games of hide-and-seek and dress up were oft interrupted for side trips to the buffet table to stab a few of those babies on a toothpick.

By the time supper rolled around, we kids were too stuffed to eat anything more.

Creative with meatballs

I went for years and years without thinking about meatballs, but having 30 pounds of grassfed ground beef in your freezer has a funny way of shaping your thoughts.

Cece regularly asks for spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. (And I can accommodate her, confident that this ground beef is nothing but nice, lean trim–no fillers of any kinds, including that hotly debated pink one–traceable to a single animal.)

What keeps me interested in meatball making is all the things you can mix into your mixture. I experimented with all kinds of ingredients while recipe testing for my cookbook. Most, like bulghur, ricotta, and rice worked great.

Tofu? Not so much. It had a weird spongy texture and the recipe didn’t make the cut.

Endlessly enamored of Thai food, I recently swayed my mixture to that region and served skewers of meatballs over rice noodles. Next time, I’m going Middle Eastern and flavoring them with sumac to serve over a pile of couscous.

No matter the flavors, I always make miniature meatballs. That way, they’re pretty much irresistible to anyone at any age.

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Thai Miniature Meatballs

Mix and skewer these meatballs just before cooking--on the grill or under the broiler--for the best texture. Fun for appetizers, you can also make them into a meal over a heap of boiled rice noodles or steamed rice, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, chopped cilantro. I like to douse them in sweet Thai chile sauce.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Asian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Lynne

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
  • 2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound lean ground beef grassfed
  • sweet chili saucw for serving

Instructions

  1. Have a sheet pan and wooden skewers on hand and preheat the grill or broiler to high heat.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir with a rubber spatula or your hands until well blended. 

  3. Use a 1-ounce portion scoop or teaspoon to form the meatballs, a bit smaller than a golf ball. Arrange 3 meatballs on each skewer to make 1 skewer per serving.

  4. Grill or broil the meatballs over high heat for 5-6 minutes, turning 2-3 times to brown them on all sides. (You can cut one open to make sure that it's cooked through, which makes a nice sample for the cook.) Serve with a small bowl of the sweet chili sauce for dipping.

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