Oh Christmas. How you make thee smile. Your holiday lights illuminate the way home on darkened, somber evenings. Your crimson & sage bring to life the season’s otherwise bleak and static streets. Your promises of hope and wonder bring a sense of calmness and resolve to the end of each year.
And your food. Oh your lovely food…
Your food carries with it flavours of nostalgic youth, and a reminder that the love nestled within the confines of our dining table holds stronger than the plates they are served on.
It’s Christmas in the Smith house. The holiday decorations have transformed our living room into a winter wonderland, made even more festive by the scents of ginger, nutmeg and all things Christmas seeping in from beneath my kitchen door.
Last week I had two good friends over for a bit of Christmas cheer before Basel clears out and all the expats make their yearly retreat home for the holidays. In addition to hot mulled wine and Christmas music, I decided to satisfy my recent craving for apple & sage stuffing.
Only this time I needed to challenge myself. The hubby was out for the evening and Aidan was home with the gals. This meant a sit down dinner was not going to happen. We were couching it up, and I needed to keep things simple. Stuffing, in a big ol’ bowl, was clearly not a good idea. I could just imagine Aidan deciding that it would fit better in his new tractor toy.
But stuffing, finger-food style. Could it be done?
Yes, yes it can. Friends, I’m happy to present to you Christmas in a Ball, the best way to serve holiday on a stick.
The recipe is simple. Start out by tossing some fresh bread in a food processor to make bread crumbs. If you are crunched for time, packaged bread crumbs will do just fine.
Add the bread crumbs to a large bowl, together with a handful of chopped sage and thyme, salt and pepper, sautéed onions, parmesan cheese, one large egg, and a large apple, grated.
Mix the ingredients well, then add about 450 grams of minced chicken thigh. I highly recommend finding a butcher to do the mincing for you. Finely chopping it on your own takes forever. But it can be done.
Once everything is in the bowl, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Mash up, de-stress from any happenings from the day, and shape into 24-30 small balls. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Onto the cranberry sauce. I’ve never understood why folks buy canned cranberry when the real stuff is easier to make than any other holiday dish. Grab a 12-ounce bag of cranberries, a 1/2 cup each of water and orange juice, and 1 cup of sugar.
Throw in 2 ounces of rum if you’re feeling sassy, then bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Squish it a bit with a potato masher or zap it in a food processor if you want a more sauce-like feel. Into the fridge it goes until dinner time.
Twenty minutes before your guests arrive, set your oven to 200C (400F). Take out the balls and add a large lug of vegetable oil to a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the balls to the pan and brown quickly on all sides. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with tin foil and/or cooking spray, place in top third of oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely browned and crispy. Be sure to turn after 10 minutes to make sure everything cooks evenly.
Garnish with large bunches of parsley and dollops of cranberry sauce (or drizzle if you’ve pureed it). The colours just scream Christmas, don’t they?
Add a few plastic appetiser forks or toothpicks, a few extra plates for those who want to enjoy a bit more cranberry sauce, and that’s a wrap folks. Thankfully, my friends loved these and they were gone in minutes. Definitely a recipe to remember for the next holiday party.
And that, my friends, brings to a close my final post before the New Year. A huge thanks to all who have ventured my way over the past month and a half. I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.
From my house to yours, have a wonderful holiday. May the weeks ahead bring laughter and love, and may the food on your table bring with it the health and heartiness of the coming year.
See you in 2015.
Ingredients for Chicken Balls
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 100 grams bread crumbs (fresh if you have the time)
- 50 grams parmesan, finely grated
- 1 apple, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 4 tsp finely chopped sage
- few springs of thyme
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 450 grams chicken thighs, minced (or finely chop about 4 legs and 4 thighs)
- vegetable oil
- Add 1 tbsp of oil to pan on medium-high heat and sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Mix chicken, apple, garlic, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, parmesan, egg, sage, thyme and parsley into a bowl. When onions are cool, add to bowl. Mix well.
- Roll into 24-30 balls. Keep in fridge for at least 30 minutes to set.
- Preheat oven to 200C (400C). Heat a lug of oil in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add balls and brown on all sides. Transfer to a greased or non-stick baking tray and bake for 25 minutes until brown and crispy. Turning balls after 12 minutes to make sure they are evenly cooked.
- Serve with dollops of cranberry sauce (recipe below) and parsley.
Ingredients for Cranberry Sauce
- 12-ounce bag of cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup each orange juice and water
- 2 ounces rum (optional)
- Add sugar, juices, rum and cranberries to medium-sized pan. Mix well.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat, mash slightly when potato masher (or puree).
- Leave in fridge for several hours to cool & thicken.