Friday, October 14, 2016

Hawaiian Meatballs

Here's a throwback to the past. I don't know if Hawaiian meatballs are actually Hawaiian or if someone just came up with this island moniker because of the dish's signature pineapple-based sauce. Regardless, Hawaiian meatballs have been around for years (Betty Crocker has a recipe for them) and are still a staple for retro and luau-tiki-themed cocktail parties. They're easy to make and the sweet tangy sauce is delicious mixed with steamed white rice, so I think they're great for any occasion. They also freeze and reheat well so you can go to town, make a ton, and have a bunch on hand for that rainy day when you absolutely, flat-out just don't wanna cook. Speaking of throwbacks, aren't we all occasionally nostalgic for Rumaki, deviled eggs, Crab Rangoon, Chicken a la King, cream cheese-stuffed celery, Pigs in a Blanket, Vienna sausages, pineapple upside down cake, Jello salad, tuna noodle casserole, Grasshoppers (cocktail with Creme de Menthe), and Mai Tais (a la Trader Vic's)? Just sayin!


2 lbs. ground beef, ground turkey, or a blend of 1 lb. ground beef & 1 lb. ground pork
2-3 slices white bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 cup flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil


3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cider or white vinegar
3 6-oz. cans pineapple juice (about 2 1/2 cups)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Cornstarch slurry: 2 tbsp. cornstarch + 3 tbsp. water

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
Minced scallions and/or cilantro for garnish


1. Combine the crumbled white bread slices and milk together in a bowl. Let sit for a few minutes until the bread is thoroughly soaked.

2. Place all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl; add the bread-milk mixture and combine  (I use my hands) until all the ingredients are just blended. Do not over mix.

3. Shape the meat mixture into 1 1/2" meatballs using a tablespoon. Roll lightly in flour and place on a parchment paper or aluminum foil-line baking sheet. Should make about 40 meatballs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before frying.

4. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a wok or skillet. Cook the meatballs in batches (don't overcrowd) and brown on all sides and until just cooked through. Remove the browned meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. 

5. Make the sauce: Using the same wok or skillet (drained of any excess oil), combine all the sauce ingredients together. Bring to a boil and add the meatballs. Bring back up to a boil and stir in the cornstarch slurry and diced green bell peppers. Cook until the sauce has thickened.

6. To serve: pour the meatballs and sauce onto a platter. If serving as appetizers, put a colorful toothpick into each meatball. Garnish with finely minced scallions and/or cilantro and serve with steamed white rice on the side.

 Mash the bread together in the milk.

 Ground cloves, ground ginger, black pepper, garlic powder and kosher salt for the meatballs.

 Combine the meat with the seasonings, 2 eggs, and the bread-milk mixture.

 Mix together until just blended.

 Shape the meat into meatballs and coat with flour.

 Fry the meatballs in batches (don't overcrowd or they won't brown properly) and brown on both sides until just cooked through. Remove to drain on paper towels.

For the sauce: pineapple juice, soy sauce, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and diced green bell pepper.

 In the same pan, drained of excess oil, stir in all the sauce ingredients and bring up to a boil. Add the meatballs and continue cooking until the sauce comes back up to a boil.

 Add the diced green bell peppers.

Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook until the sauce has thickened to a glaze-like consistency. Remove from heat and serve appetizer style (with a toothpick in each meatball) or family style on a serving platter. Garnish with finely chopped scallions and/or cilantro and serve with steamed white rice on the side.

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