“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Meatballs over rice with a green onion garnish
needs must when the leftovers squawk and the freezer is so full it squeals
Tue 2021-07-20 22:32:53 (in context)

If there is a theme to this food-bloggity post, it is Creative Ways to Use Up Foodstuffs That Need Using Up. For instance, I'm a member of the 63rd St. Farm CSA, and I bought the chicken and pork add-ons to add on to my half-share of veggies. And by some accident I cannot account for, I signed up for the large pork add-on rather than the small. And now our household is the site of a perpetual battle to preserve and/or reclaim space in the freezer. And just when I'm getting ahead of things, this week Thursday is the date of the second meat pick-up. And it's not like I naturally cook meat meals every day! I'm 1. married to a vegetarian, and 2. lazy! This sort of thing requires planning!

So. Ways to use up frozen meat. Also other random leftovers cluttering up the kitchen and nearing the end of their shelf-life. CREATIVE THINKING.

The other day I saw the twitter thread about Grape jelly meatballs, which sounded... pretty good, actually. But then I thought, "Hey, what if I used instead that basalmic onion jam in the weird jar that worked so well with that Martha Stewart recipe for filled chicken breasts last month?"

So last night went something like this:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs a la Braswells, with Sambal Oelek

First, because using frozen meatballs bought special for the occasion would have defeated the entire purpose, which was to use up two pounds of ground meat product that was taking up precious space in the freezer, I made some meatballs. I followed this recipe more or less, making the following substitutions:

  • The pound of ground pork was actually breakfast sausage, that being what I had.
  • The breadcrumbs were plain, not Italian-style.
  • I left out the Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.
  • I added three garlic scapes, about a teaspoon minced fresh ginger, and all but the last couple inches of two green onions.

48 meatballs, 400 degrees, 18 minutes. Go.

Next, I made some sauce. Vaguely inspired by the recipe featured in the Twitter thread linked above, I pulled out my ginormous heirloom cast iron gumbo pot, which does double duty as a dutch oven, and dumped into it...

  • 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
  • A generous pour (2 tbls?) sambal oelek
  • A less generous splash (1 tbl, maybe) of Chinese cooking wine
  • And that 11 oz. jar of Braswell's onion jam.

Stir gently to break up the chunks of jam. Medium-high heat on the stovetop until bubbly, then reduce to a simmer. (Why not the crock-pot? Because I was hungry and did not want to wait 3-4 hours.)

Right about now, the meatballs were done in the oven. I pulled them out, dumped them into the sauce, put the lid on, and set a 25-minute timer. With 10 minutes left on the clock, I took a look and decided the sauce was too soupy, so I took the lid off and raised the heat in hopes of it cooking down/thickening up. And added another 10 minutes to the timer.

Around 3 minutes left to go I gave it a stir and discovered the meatballs were sticking to the bottom of the pan and getting charcoal edges, so I took them off the heat and gently stirred everything free and called it done.

They're really good. The sambal oelek made them pretty darn spicy; you could use less if you wanted. The jam made them sweet and sour. The meatballs held their shape well, but they were very soft and tender. I served a heaping helping of them hot with the sauce over some leftover mixed rice, chopping up those last couple inches of green onions for garnish.

Today I had about six of the leftover meatballs, cold and broken up into chunks, on top of the bibim-naengmyeon (cold Korean noodle bowl) I'd already been planning on making, what with needing to use up those pears left over from an attempt at Korean short ribs the other week, and having brought a couple cucumbers home from the grocery to facilitate this. It's all about using up the leftovers.

And that is how you do it, if you're me.