Be sure to use parchment paper in the pan when you bake these Smokn’ Bacon Balls; otherwise, they’ll drip all over the place because they’re loaded with bacon lardons, ground chuck, heavy cream and smoked cheddar. (CONNIE POST/STAFF PHOTO)

Bacon balls will score big as Superbowl fare

Whether you’re hosting a Super Bowl party or attending one and need a dish to take, these meatballs are sure to score big with your family and friends. I made a batch and brought to work — the consensus among my taste testers is that the unique blend of flavors and texture is definitely a guilty pleasure. They kept going back for more. The magic ingredient: definitely the bacon lardons, but the heavy cream, smoked cheddar and ricotta also helped helped put this dish over the top.

What we made:

SMOKIN’ BACON BALLS

1 tablespoon olive oil

7 ounces oak-smoked bacon lardons

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

2 free-range eggs

scant 1/2 cup heavy cream

7 ounces ricotta cheese

1 1/2 pound boneless beef chuck, ground

5 ounces smoked cheddar, shredded

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line two large baking pans with nonstick parchment paper. If you only have a single baking pan, you will need to cook the balls in batches.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the bacon lardons and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until they are crisp.

Put the breadcrumbs into a mixing bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lardons from the skillet to a cutting board and pour the juices and oil from the skillet into the breadcrumbs. Chop the lardons finely, then add them to the breadcrumb mixture and allow to cool.

Beat the eggs and cream in a large mixing bowl, then add the ricotta, stirring well to break up any large lumps. Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix with your hands until well combined.

Heat a small skillet over high heat. Break off a small amount of the mixture, flatten between your fingers and fry until cooked. Taste to check the seasoning and the smokiness and add more salt, pepper and paprika if necessary. Form the mixture into 30 balls, each 2 inches in diameter, packing each one firmly. Place them on the prepared baking pans.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, turning the pans around halfway through. The balls should begin to brown on the top. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn underneath.

A delicious way to gain weight, these bacon balls can be served as is or paired with a sauce. The book offers recipes for recommended pairings including Simple Tomato Sauce (see P. 99) and a slab of Potato Rosti (see P. 131) or with a fried egg and some Wild Mushroom Sauce (see P. 92) or hollandaise.

The book: “The Meatball Cookbook: Great Balls of Fire” by Jez Felwick. 160 pages, $19.99. Published by Mitchell Beazley, 2013.

What you get: More than 70 recipes for meatballs, fish balls, veggie balls, sauces and dips and side dishes.

In his own words: “Everyone loves a meatball: the flavor combinations and possibilities are endless, they’re fun, they’re comforting, they conjure up all sorts of nostalgic childhood memories because people have grown up eating them, and almost every culture has its own variation.” — Jez Felwick

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