Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chinese New Year Meal #7 - Lion's Head Meatballs

 
I'm not sure if I am happy or sad that this is our last Chinese New Year meal for 2012.  The funny thing is that I sat down in January and got really excited for our Chinese New Year meals and picked out a bunch of recipes.  I got so excited that I couldn't wait until Chinese New Year and picked some recipes to make as a warm up - Chicken with Ginger (La Jiang Men Ji), Red-Braised Pork (Hong Shao Rou) and Stir-Fried Mongolian Lamb with Scallions.  Somehow I managed to not make a single recipe that I had originally selected for Chinese New Year.  Instead, I went out and found a whole new set of recipes.  I did stick to some of the same categories - I wanted to make dumplings and noodles, I wanted to make seafood, I wanted to make tofu and I wanted to make meat.  Plus I wanted to throw in a few new sides so I did that too.  Alex and I are in total agreement with each other on our favorite meal.  Our favorite new side was definitely Daikon Slivers in a Spicy Dressing.  And our favorite entree was Ants Climbing a Tree.  

This recipe falls somewhere in the middle of our Chinese New Year meals.  The meatballs were incredibly moist and tender and had really good flavor.  Somehow the broth didn't have quite as much flavor as I had expected.  Therefore the cabbage didn't soak up quite as much flavor as I would have hoped, although the Taiwanese cabbage is inherently nice and sweet.  Although this dish wasn't as labor-intensive as the Pork and Napa Cabbage Water Dumplings (Shuijiao), it didn't exactly come together quickly and easily.  And while the meatballs were pretty good, I don't know that I would go to the trouble of making them again, especially as they didn't rank among my favorite Chinese New Year dishes.  Strangely enough, my favorite Chinese meal of late was the Red-Braised Pork (Hong Shao Rou) we made back in January.  It was amazing!

Recipe after the jump!



Lion's Head Meatballs

INGREDIENTS:
10 small dried shiitake mushrooms
3 cups, plus 2 tbsp chicken stock, separated
1 lb ground pork
1 egg white
4 tbsp shao xing wine or dry sherry, separated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar, plus 1 tsp, separated
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp kosher salt plus more to season
pinch ground white pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light-green parts only
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoons finely minced ginger
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
vegetable oil
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin coins
1 teaspoon black vinegar or Chinkiang vinegar
2 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 1 tbsp water
leaves from half of a small Taiwanese cabbage, leaves torn in half

Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup hot chicken stock until partially softened, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the pork, 2 tbsp chicken stock, egg white, Shaoxing, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, salt, pepper, scallions and minced ginger with a wooden spoon, mixing thoroughly. Form the mixture into 6 large meatballs.  Gently dredge the meatballs in flour.

In a deep, heavy pot (we used our trusty Le Creuset), add 1 inch of vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, gently lower 3 or 4 meatballs into the oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are deep golden brown but still raw in the center. Drain on a paper towel and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a large, heavy casserole over low heat and add the soaked mushrooms and their liquid, 2 cups chicken stock, the ginger coins, 1 tbsp Shaoxing, vinegar, 1 tsp sugar and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a low simmer. Cook, uncovered, 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms have completely softened and the broth is fragrant.

Add cabbage and meatballs (you want to nestle the meatballs down into a bed of cabbage) and return the broth to a simmer. Cover the pot and place it in the oven until the meatballs are just cooked through, about 20 minutes. 

Arrange the cabbage and shiitake mushrooms in a shallow serving bowl and distribute the meatballs on top. 

Return the pot to medium heat.  Add cornstarch slurry to the mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, while the sauce thickens.  Add thickened broth to the serving bowl, making sure to spoon some over the meatballs.

Serve with white rice.

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