“Amuse bouche” is a term that makes me want to pistol-whip the utterer. I love the French language, the cheeses, the handful of representatives that I’ve met, but there is a dainty threshold, and “amuse bouche” crosses it. When “nibbly num-num” provides a less infuriating alternative, it’s time to consider reining in the cuteness. Or, we could just stop the categorizing at hors d’oeuvres and call individual items what they are. This self-explanatory HD is my simplified version of Martha’s Asian Meatballs on Snow Pea Picks, the introduction to which begins, “meatballs are an important part of classic Chinese cooking.” Her switch between the continental and national as synonyms troubles me, but we’re all bigots on some level(s), and I’ll own up to cleaning my house extra hard if my Puerto Rican in-laws are coming to visit. I can’t help it, their spotless floors put me to shame.
1 pound ground pork
6 oz sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing (I suspect this may be where Martha’s recipe veers from the traditional Chinese)
1/2 C chicken stock
1/4 C finely chopped water chestnuts
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar (preferably dark)
1 tsp ginger (powder)
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp chili paste
salt and pepper
Set your oven to 400. In a large bowl, combine the pork, sausage, shallot, water chestnuts, ginger and cilantro, and 2 tsp soy sauce with your hands, squishing the meats into one another until no distinction remains. Roll the mixture into 1″ balls and put them in a roasting pan. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, shaking the pan at 10 and 20 to encourage even cooking. Take the meatballs out and cut one in half to verify that they’re done, then transfer the balls to a heat-proof bowl and put them back in the oven at 200 to keep warm.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1 tbsp water. Set the roasting pan over a burner and turn the heat on to medium. Add the garlic to the pan, then the chicken stock, and whisk well, scrapping the bottom and sides to loosen any sticky bits. Stir in the rest of the soy sauce, the brown sugar and the chili paste. Once the mixture reaches a boil, whisk in the cornstarch liquid and cook to thicken for about a minute. Take the meatballs out of the oven, put them in a serving bowl, and pour the sauce over them, stirring gently to distribute.
You’ll see I’ve omitted the snow peas from Martha’s recipe. They’re an unnecessary and tropey distraction, since we’ve already established that we’re going for “asian-ish,” what with the Italian sausage. If you must, go ahead and throw some finely ringed scallions over the whole thing. Make sure that toothpicks and small plates are within reach of these, as they’re sticky and you don’t want guests getting creative about wiping their fingers.