Tis’ the season to be jolly and to me that means it’s time for my husband and I to have our annual open house Christmas party. Our parties have changed over the years depending on where we have lived. While living in Miami, there was the glitz and glamour of catered affairs and guests dressed in holiday attire. Now living in New England, it means having a small group of friends over for a casual affair where we do all the cooking and guests come in jeans and sweaters. No matter how hard I try, one thing remains the same at each party…everyone loves to hang out in our Christmas kitchen.
I know why everyone enjoys what was originally the historic keeping room in our New Hampshire home. It has a warm feeling with its red walls, comfy seating, large cooking fireplace, and several Christmas trees.
The large tree is our favorite…covered with red beads and clip on ornaments. A collection of snowmen stand beside it along with a wooden train filled with teddy bears.
A small tree in front of the windows in the sitting area is decorated with red bows, small gold beads, birds, and little twig nests.
Gone are the days when we had a bartender make cocktails and someone pass around hors d’oeuvres…now it is finger food laid out buffet style where everyone can help themselves. A bar it set up at the bakers table for guests to make their own drinks. Guests stand around the large island and our kitchen table visiting with friends and sample their favorite nibbles. The only time they leave the room is when they go into the dining room where I have desserts set up on the dining room table.
When I start planning my open house party, I think of what was popular from previous parties. Shrimp of any kind has been a popular party dish…actually seafood in general. Boiled shrimp served cold with a horseradish cocktail sauce has been served at every party we have ever had and is usually the first item that needs to be refilled on the buffet.
What I wouldn’t have expected to be popular at our Christmas parties in New Hampshire are Mediterranean inspired dishes such as spanakopita, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, baba ganoush, and tzateiki but they seem to be a favorite of most guests. This is great for me because all these items can be prepared ahead of time. I also make homemade pita chips brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and cumin. They go nicely with most of the dishes that I am serving. Spicy lamb meatballs go well with the other Mediterranean dishes and can be prepared in advance and frozen until the day of the party. They can be prepared with a mild taste from a few fresh herbs or made spicy with additional herbs and seasonings for those more adventurous guests.
Spicy Lamb Meatballs
- A seasoning mix made from 1 tsp. each of salt, pepper, ground cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, sumac and cinnamon.
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1/2 c. fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp. ketchup
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. harissa or to taste
- 1/2 c. onion, minced fine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh mint or cilantro (which ever you prefer)
Mix all ingredients together. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick pan over medium high. Take a small sample of the mixture and cook to see if it is seasoned to your taste…add additional seasoning, if necessary. Once the taste is correct, form the mixture into meatballs about 1 inch round. Add the meatballs (in batches if necessary) to the pan and cook until golden and cooked through. They may also be baked in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes (depending on size) or until done.
I like to serve the spicy lamb meatballs with either humus or tzateiki alongside. The meatballs are also nice finished in a sauce of tomatoes and fresh herbs. The meatball recipe is flexible and can easily be adjusted to your individual taste by eliminating or adding spices to the mixture or changing the meat to your preferred choice.
If you would like to see more photos of our kitchen you might enjoy: