In my family, spring is more or less a continual opportunity to celebrate a string of birthdays that begin on March 4th and end on April 18th. So, between consulting gigs and birthdays and instead of testing out recipes for single meals, I’ve been cooking on a mass scale and hosting a lot of parties.
I seldom need an excuse to throw a party. It’s Thursday? You like purple? Let’s party! When I watched Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow – the chefs from The Meatball Shop – on Chelsea Lately in January, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I hosted a meatball party. My daughter, Rory, who shares my suggestibility, eagerly co-opted the meatball party idea for her fifth birthday. Though Laurie Colwin, who writes of the birthday tea party tradition she shares with her daughter, had already sold me on a tea party for Rory’s birthday, Rory was so sunny in her hope for meatballs that I couldn’t refuse her. And then I thought, Why not do both?
By the time Rory turned five, I could barely contain my excitement. We celebrated last week. Rory invited four friends (and her big brother) to a princess tea party that was so civilized I almost laughed. I prepared three types of tea sandwiches: coconut and lime curd, peanut butter and Nutella, and honey with banana slices. I molded rice crispy treats into small spheres, and served them with chamomile tea and raspberry lemonade. I learned several interesting things from the giggling guests, including the merits of having a younger brother, the versatility of bird poop, and the hilarity that underlies British accents. Rory opened her presents, my husband extracted quarters from behind the ears of the guests, and the tea party concluded with a rousing jump on the trampoline in the backyard. Laurie Colwin, you are a genius.
The meatball party commenced half an hour later, giving me just the right cushion of time to clear dishes and prepare for round two. The Meatball Shop Cookbook provides numerous options, but ultimately I settled on their pork recipe. I prepared the spicy pork meatballs the night before (ground pork shoulder, minced white bread, and hot cherry peppers ensure their spicy tenderness), and put them to heat in the oven mid-tea party. I prepared TMS’s spicy tomato sauce to serve as an accompaniment. I made a quick sauce of ginger ale, ketchup, barbeque sauce, and grape jelly for frozen meatballs, which I cooked in the crockpot all afternoon for the children of those we invited. (Rory declared the meatballs “dewicious!”) Because sometimes meatball ideas can be daunting, I extended the party theme to “Meatballs and Other Edible Items of a Spherical Nature,” which opened up potluck possibilities for all the guests. Collectively, we ate the spicy meatballs and sauce on round rolls; African meatballs with green olives and an additional spicy tomato sauce; hominy in cheese sauce; a salad of miniature mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes; marinated mushrooms; grape tomatoes; green and black olives; red and green grapes; blueberries; rice crispy spheres; energy bite balls; donut holes; chocolate-covered espresso beans; and jelly beans and M&Ms. (Other suggestions: oranges, radishes, melon balls, macadamia nuts, caviar, red hots, cheese balls, and any number of round, dough-based creations…) Similarly inspired by TMS, my friend, Casey, served ice cream floats: root beer and vanilla ice cream for the kids; cream soda and cappuccino ice cream (and rum) for the adults.
We sat at the table well into the night, picking at our plates and laughing, while upstairs the children watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It was a great night… and the start of an annual tradition that I will enthusiastically repeat. As The Meatball Shop folks say: “You had me at balls.”
Your friend in meatball love,