Awhile back I told you about the crazy awesome undead-themed parties my bandmates throw every year. Late summer they have the Undead Luau, in October they have a Deadwardians party. Originally completely true to its name, they would deck their apartment out in the trappings of a Gothic and Curio Museum (that then stay remainder of eternity), and invite their friends to dress up in spooky, period-inspired wear for a night of tricks, treats, and copious numbers of fancy cocktails.
Though the theme each year changes, the fun macabre spirit stays the same. This year they decided to pay homage to Rankin/Bass’s 1969 film, Mad Monster Party? For those unfamiliar with this holiday cult classic, this stop-motion film featuring classic horror movie monsters is a campy mid-century comedy with plenty of slapstick and crude jokes.
The story follows Baron Boris von Frankenstein, who having discovered the secret to ultimate destruction (illustrated by the appropriate mushroom-cloud, of course), invites all of his monster friends to his “Isle of Evil” where he will show off his work, and announce his retirement and heir to his fortune. Of course this being the sixties, what better way to celebrate than throwing a wild cocktail party with jazzed up dirges, ghoulishly tasty refreshments, monsters swinging from the chandelier, and questionably appropriate song and dance numbers?
So since I’m a glutton for tasty food and creative projects, I decided to create a Mad Monster Party? – inspired recipe of my own. Now if you haven’t figured out from subtle hints in some of my other posts, my father’s family is Romanian, mostly from around Făgăraș in Transylvania. One of the dishes local to the country is called Mititei, or “the wee ones”. Legend says an inn once ran out of sausage casing and just started rolling the filling into sausages and cooked them directly on the coals. It wasn’t long until their popularity skyrocketed and they are now considered part of Romania’s cultural heritage.
Considering that Count Dracula is an honored guest at the party, Chef Mafia Machiavelli would want to make something that reminded the vampire of home, but still worked well as finger food (not literally) for everyone. Since we’ve already done a horrific take on pig in a blanket, we’re going to be making sausage balls. Normally mititei would be made with garlic, but to work with Dracula’s dietary restrictions, we’ve substituted caramelized leek for a sweet garlic taste without the turning the sanguinarian tongue to ashes.
This recipe will have a nice bit of spice, tamed by the mild creaminess of muenster cheese. Feel free to add more of the seasonings if you prefer a spicier sausage ball. If you prefer stronger flavors, I actually suggest substituting a portion of the muenster with goat cheese crumbles for a bit of added tanginess. Want more time to party? Make the sausage balls ahead of time and freeze them to bake them the day of.
Dracula's Transylvanian Sausage Balls
- 1 medium sized leek, white and light green parts only
- 5 Tbs unsalted butter
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 lb ground beef or lamb
- 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 and 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded muenster cheese
- 1 and 1/4 cup flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Cut, clean, and mince leek. Heat up a small skillet or sauté pan on the stovetop. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and melt.
- Add the leeks and brown sugar and stir, Let cook, stirring every once and awhile until browned and fragrant.
- Empty leeks into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the meat, ground thyme, red pepper, paprika, caraway seeds, black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt.
- Mix and knead contents of the bowl for at least 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5 hours to overnight.
- When ready to cook, Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the cheese and rest of the dry ingredients into a separate bowl.
Melt the rest of the butter. Add it and the ground beef to the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix with wet hands until thoroughly combined.
- Using a melon-baller, scoop out portions of the mixture and roll into 1-inch balls. Place balls on cookie sheets covered in parchment paper.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Blot any excess grease on a plate or bowl with paper towels before serving.