Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This is a strange and fascinating recipe that I had to try. Don't think of it as chinese, it's definitely an all-American sweet-and-sour dish. When it's done right, it does make excellent leftovers.

I had to try this a few times, mostly because this was my first attempt at making meatballs. The poorly-formed oversized lumps of meat I pressed together for my first batch were kind of undercooked. Not good. I really had to try again and apply the lessons learned before I thought I could do a fair write-up.

Original Recipe:

1 1/2 # hamburger
2/3 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 cup minced onions
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tblsp veg. oil
2 tbls cornstarch
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup drained pine juice
1 can (13 1/2 oz.) pine chunks
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1 1/2 tblsp. soy sauce

Meatballs (raw and lumpy)

Mix hamburger, cracker crumbs, onion, egg, salt, ginger, and milk together. Form into one inch meatballs and brown in 1tbls. veg oil. Simmer until meatballs are cooked through. Remove from pan.
Mix cornstarch and sugar together, then add vinegar, water, soy sauce, and pine juice. Stir until smooth. Pour into skillet and cook over med heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil one minute.
Add meatballs, pine chunks, and chopped green pepper. Heat through.
May be served over rice. Can be prepared the night before and heated when ready to serve.

Cooked meatballs. On a different plate, since I'm not completely incompetent about basic sanitation.

What worked:

  • A good basic recipe for meatballs.

  • A decent "midwestern style" sweet and sour sauce. Might reuse it (perhaps with a bit less sugar).

  • Many leftovers for the two of us.

  • I think this actually works better over brown rice than white.

Everything together

What I figured out:

  • First, FOOD PROCESSOR. I made the second batch of meatballs in the food processor (just pulsing instead of all the way "on", because I stil lwanted some consistency).

  • "13 1/2 oz" of pineapple chunks is pretty much precisely what I head left after draining the fluid from a 20 oz can of pineapple chunks.

  • Err on the side of SMALL meatballs. Bite size, or smaller. They will cook faster, cook more evenly, and stir more easily when you put everything together for the final step. I sauteed the meatballs in very small batches, to give me room to work - and it took me a long time. A very long time. I'll probably do larger batches next time I try this.

What I changed:

  • My "hamburger" was about 1 pound beef and a half pound of pork.

  • More pepper. For the final version, I actually used two whole green peppers.

  • Also, the vegetables end up very raw and crunchy in this version. It's visually appealing, but I felt the need to cook the whole combined dish an extra five minutes with the larger amount of peppers I used.

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