Sandpot Casserole of Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Meatballs

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Serves

    3 to 4

    as a main course

Appears in

A homey stew of pork meatballs, glass noodles, and simple vegetables in a piquant sauce, this is a very appealing supper at any time of year. The selection of vegetables can include virtually anything in season—fava beans, freshly shucked corn, Oven-Dried Plum Tomatoes, and ruby chard or asparagus nuggets would all be yummy.

To make life easy, you can poach the meatballs and prepare the other ingredients a full day ahead and then simmer the casserole to doneness just before serving.

Ingredients

Meatball Mixture

  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green and white scallion rings
  • tablespoons finely chopped Chinese chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Several twists of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper Oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold stock or water
  • ½ cup finely diced fresh water chestnuts
  • 1 pound coarsely ground pork butt

Aromatics

  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green and white scallion rings
  • Scant 1 tablespoon Chinese black beans, coarsely chopped (do not rinse them)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red chili-flakes

Sauce

  • 2 cups China Moon Infusion, China Moon Double Stock, or unsalted chicken stock
  • tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Serrano-Lemongrass Vinegar or unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce
  • 1 carrot, diagonally cut into rippled or plain coins ⅛ inch thick
  • ¼ pound spinach leaves
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for stir-frying
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into ¾-inch squares
  • 1 red (bell) pepper, cut into ¾-inch squares
  • ¼ pound wild or domestic mushrooms, trimmed and cut, if large
  • ¼ pound Napa cabbage, cut into 1-inch squares
  • Infused Glass Noodles
  • 1 package enoki mushrooms, spongy base removed
  • Thinly sliced Green and white scallion threads, for garnish

Method

  1. To make the meatballs, combine all of the meatball ingredients through the water chestnuts in a large mixing bowl. Add the pork and blend briskly in one direction. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the meat and chill the mixture for an hour or overnight.
  2. Combine the aromatics in a small dish. Cover until ready to use.
  3. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir to blend, leaving the spoon in the bowl.
  4. Fill a wide saucepan with water and bring to a rapid boil. Blanch the carrots for 10 seconds; scoop into ice water to chill; drain. Return the water to a boil and blanch the spinach for 5 seconds. Plunge into ice water, drain, then press to extract excess water. Fluff to loosen the leaves. Retain the blanching water.
  5. Wet your palms and a 1-tablespoon measure with ice water. Scoop up 1 rounded tablespoon of the pork mixture and roll it lightly between your palms to form a small ball. Place the balls in a single layer on a wet plate.
  6. Return the blanching water to a simmer. Add the meatballs and cook for 2 minutes after they have come to the surface, about 5 minutes in all. The water should never reach a simmer. Remove the meatballs in a single layer to a large platter. They should be 90 percent done.
  7. Heat a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to glaze the pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a scallion ring, reduce the heat to moderate and add the aromatics. Stir gently until fully fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds, adjusting the heat so they foam without browning. Add the onion and bell pepper and toss briskly until softened slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot coins and toss for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and toss until hot, about 2 minutes more. Adjust the heat to maintain a merry sizzle and drizzle a bit more oil down the side of the pan, if needed to prevent sticking. Don’t worry if the vegetables brown a bit; they will be tasty. Add the cabbage and toss briefly until wilted. Spread the vegetables on a platter to cool.
  8. All the above can be done a full day ahead. Seal and refrigerate the ingredients; let come to room temperature before finishing.
  9. About 20 minutes before serving, spread the glass noodles in a 2- to 3-quart Chinese sandpot or other heavy casserole. Layer the vegetables on top, then nestle the pork balls among the vegetables so they are half-submerged. Stir the sauce and add it to the pot. Bring slowly to a simmer over moderate heat. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 6 to 7 minutes to heat the mixture through. In the last half-minute of cooking, fold in the spinach and half of the enoki.
  10. Serve at once in heated bowls. Garnish with the scallion threads and a cluster of straight-standing enoki.

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