I’m not normal. I’m sure that’s a shocker to you Readers, but it’s true. Me=one odd duck.
Example? I hate New Year’s Eve, American style. Really hate it.
Do I want to leave my house in freezing weather? No.
Do I want to cram my post-holiday body into a little black dress? Nope.
Do I want to swill cheap champagne in a big room with people I don’t know and stay up far too late, so I feel like a corpse in the morning? Uber no.
New Year’s Eve and I aren’t friends.
However, I adore Chinese New Year and look forward to it every year.
I ain’t Chinese.
Not that I let that leeetle detail stop me, because in my house, we’re celebrating Chinese New Year. There’s so much that I love about it: gathering in your home with family and friends, sitting down to a meal prepared with love, slurping down noodles and dumplings for longevity and luck and fortune in the coming year…that’s good stuff.
The thought of ordering takeout is verboten on Chinese New Year. This is about spoiling people and spending days in the kitchen preparing for the feast. Spending days in the kitchen isn’t normally something I’m fond of; thus, my derision for Thanksgiving dinner. Like I said, I’m weird.
I planned dinner for 8 (and children) to celebrate the Year of the Snake a few weeks ago. Not that I have seating for 8 people and children, mind you, but that’s a minor detail. I was so excited that I committed the cardinal sin of dinner parties: I picked a bunch of interesting-sounding shit *swear jar* with odd ingredients that I’ve never made before and decided to make it.
That’s gastronomic roulette, folks.
But I was so excited that I had no common sense.
So I shopped. And bought weird ingredients. And prepped ahead, because this was a feast, y’all, and we do feasts right!
Then Miss M. flung her germy, feverish, snot-ridden self into our bedroom in the wee hours of Day of Feast.
Not only did I have to postpone the feast, I had to figure out what to do with the dishes I’d already prepped (for 8 people and children) and scurry around trying to salvage $100 of seafood. Awesome!
One of the dishes prepped and ready to go were these (never made before) Shen shu. According to my Gourmet Today cookbook: “Shen shu, literally ‘pearls’ in Chinese, are a staple in many homes in New York city’s Chinatown, where they are often served as part of a large, family-style meal. The gently seasoned meatballs are a delicious study in contrasts–in one bite, you get tender meat with scallions and crunchy water chestnuts, all coated with satisfyingly chewy sticky rice.”
Are you drooling yet? Don’t those sound good?
Yes they do, until you find yourself stuck with 30 meticulously-rolled little meatballs on your hands. At least I hadn’t rolled the meatballs in the rice yet, so I felt confident that I could freeze most of them.
In a rare moment of wisdom, I realized that I probably ought to test-drive these suckers on my family before serving them to a crowd. I was too lazy to roll very tiny meatballs in rice, though, so I combined several meatballs together to make a larger, oval-shaped package, and then rolled away.
I plopped them in the steamer, and since I’d already bastardized *swear jar* the recipe, I decided to serve the meatballs as a filler for lettuce wraps–sort of Chinese/Vietnamese fusion, so to speak.
We gobbled these suckers up. They’re tremendous. I’m so glad I have a freezer full of them to serve this coming weekend when we have Year of the Snake: Redux. No sickies allowed. And no more snow, dangit! Although it’s predicted…tune in later in the week.
Rice-Studded Chinese Meatballs
from Gourmet Today
makes about 30
1 cup Chinese or Japanese short-grain sticky rice
1-2 romaine lettuce leaves
1 pound meat loaf mix
1 small bunch scallions
1/2 cup diced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine, preferably Shaoxing or medium-dry sherry
1 tablespoon lightly beaten egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Cover rice with cold water by 1 inch in a bowl and soak for at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, fit a steamer rack into a large skillet. Add enough water to the skillet to coat the bottom but not touch the steamer rack. Line steamer rack with lettuce leaves to prevent sticking.
Stir together all ingredients (except rice) until well combined.
Drain rice in a sieve and rinse well under cold water. Drain again and transfer to a shallow dish.
Roll about a tablespoon of meat mixture into a ball, roll in rice to coat and transfer to steamer rack. Repeat the process with remaining meat mixture. You should have about 30 rice-coated balls (there will be leftover rice). Make sure they are in one even layer on the steamer rack.
Set steamer rack in the skillet and bring the water to a boil. Cover the skillet tightly and steam over high heat until meatballs are cooked through, about 25 minutes. Check water occasionally, adding more as necessary.