These Spicy Lamb Meatballs Deserve a Spot on Your Holiday Menu

Paired with an herby, cooling dip, they’re the ultimate appetizer.

No holiday spread is complete without appetizers, whether you're in the mood for Pigs in a Blanket with Black Pepper Pastry or a creamy bowl of Brussels Sprouts Baba Ghanoush. And if you're still looking for one more dish to round out your menu, this week's episode of Mad Genius has the perfect fit—Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip. The cocktail meatballs are inspired by merguez, a North African lamb sausage, and flavored with harissa, cumin, and garlic, among other seasonings. To balance all that heat, Food & Wine Culinary Director at Large Justin Chapple pairs them with a creamy green goddess dip packed with fresh herbs, creating what he calls "the ideal one-bite nosh." Better yet, they're easy to make ahead of time—just roll them out and freeze them for up to one month before baking and eating them.

To make your own batch at home, read on for Justin's step by step method and follow along with the video above.

Make the Dip

First up is the green goddess dip, which comes together quickly in a food processor. All you need is fresh flat-leaf parsley, fresh basil, sour cream, mayonnaise, scallions, and anchovy fillets—toss 'em in and process until a smooth dip forms, which should take about one minute. Then, pour the dip into a bowl, season it with kosher salt and black pepper, and cover and refrigerate it for about an hour, until it's chilled.

Get Started on the Meatballs…

Next, make the meatball mixture, which calls for water, harissa, dry breadcrumbs, ground lamb, finely chopped fresh cilantro, minced shallot, one beaten large egg, finely grated garlic, Hungarian hot paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, and finally, ground fennel. Start out by whisking together the harissa paste and water in a medium bowl, and then stir in the breadcrumbs, allowing them to sit for five minutes. (This helps them hydrate.) Then, add the rest of the ingredients and a little bit of salt. Stir well to combine, or mix with your hands.

…So You Can Shape and Bake

Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with canola oil and get ready to form your meatballs—Justin uses a cookie scoop for the job. Portion the lamb mixture out into 24 meatballs and place them in the baking dish. Then, fill a bowl with water, dampen your hands—this helps prevent the meat from sticking to your hands—and roll each meatball between them to smooth it out. Return each finished meatball to the baking dish and arrange them so they're touching slightly.

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen


At this point, you're all set to bake. Get the meatballs into a 400°F oven for 18 to 20 minutes and bake until they're browned—a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the meat should register 160°F. When they're done, transfer them to a platter and grab a bowl so you can serve the dip alongside.

"Literally the minute it hits your mouth, you're just like, enveloped in a halo of spice and heat," Justin says after trying one. "All of those warm spices just come through so nicely. And then you get the heat from that hot paprika and that harissa. I could easily eat two, three, four, five, six of these meatballs. But I think I gotta save some for my friends. I've got my spicy lamb meatballs, I've got that cooling green goddess dip. I've got a party to go to, and it's in my mouth."

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