Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ginger Pork Meatballs with Coconut Broth

So, if I told you that our crew had meatballs for dinner your mind would naturally drift to red sauce (or gravy in my half-Italian world) served atop a mound of your favorite pasta.

You wouldn’t think that meatballs would be (or should be!) simmered in a delicious infusion of coconut milk, lemongrass, saffron, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce,Thai chilis and ginger.


Well, lucky for us, that conclusion would be flawed.

We had dinner at A.’s house last week and she made Ginger Pork Meatballs in Coconut Broth.  She drooled over the recipe when it appeared in her Instagram feed compliments of who, thankfully, spotted the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.

Let me tell you a little about this dish.  First, the meatballs were so full of flavor that I quickly abandoned my initial reaction of wanting to bless myself for the blasphemy of meatballs being prepared in coconut sauce.  They melted in your mouth just they way their traditional counterparts do after being cooked in gravy for a several hours.  The broth is so flavorful -- creamy and sweet and savory -- that you will want to ditch your manners to slurp it through a straw but, no worries, the rice served with the dish happily soaks up the flavors and your palate won’t miss a thing.

One of the allures of this dish is that you don’t have to buy a ton of disparate ingredients for both the meatballs and the sauce.  The replication of the ingredients is perhaps the reason why the meat and the broth complement each other so nicely, kind of like first cousins…a little different but with a lot of commonalities. The meatballs reminded me of Chinese dumplings filing, which then reminded me that pork and ginger enjoy a long and wonderful relationship and I forgot all about the meatball/gravy thing.  This recipe, introducing coconut, takes full advantage of and capitalizes on that harmonious bond!  

Now all meatballs are made with breadcrumbs that act as a binding agent.  One gluten-free reader of the Shutterbean blog suggested that when a recipe calls for breadcrumbs she simply pulverizes a few rice cakes in her vitamix for instant, gluten-free breadcrumbs. Readers are so generous with their tips!

This is the perfect flavor-packed, warm, satisfying dish to add to your impending autumnal cool-down meal repertoire.   A., of course, improvised a bit by adding sautéed shallots to the meatballs, coconut cream and saffron to the broth and she tossed in diced baby boc choy and tomatoes right before serving.  Otherwise this dish was prepared as seen in the Instagram feed.  A. served the dish in a beautiful handmade casserole dish most by the host herself!


2 pounds ground pork
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1  13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup thinly sliced ginger
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 fresh red Thai chiles, slit but kept intact, plus thinly sliced chiles for serving
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, outer leaves removed and stalk cut into 1 inch lengths
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
kosher salt

For serving
thinly sliced mint
steamed jasmine rice

To make the meatballs, preheat oven to 425F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Form the mixture into 40 1 1/2 inch meatballs and arrange them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake until the meatballs are golden brown and just cooked through, about 15 minutes.  KOPO note…I would sauté them, but that’s just me.

Meanwhile, make the broth by combining the coconut milk, stock, ginger, garlic, slit chiles, lemongrass, lime zest and juice, fish sauce, and turmeric in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and season with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so the broth is simmering. Discard the lemongrass.
Add the meatballs to the broth and simmer until cooked through and tender, about 15 minutes. Season the broth with more sugar, salt and lime juice if necessary. Serve with sliced herbs and thai chiles, lime wedges and rice.  

We enjoyed this dish with a flavorful Pinotage from South Africa.  The wine had some tasty mocha and coffee undertones and maybe not the best choice (by me) for a spicy-inspired dish but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

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