This evening, we spent a lot of time making Lion’s Head (Pork Meatballs and Napa Cabbage) [recipe], a dish provided for Rachael Ray by the actress Ming-Na. It seemed reasonably straightforward, on paper at least. Cook some rice, make some meatballs, fry them and simmer them in a sauce pot with chopped Napa cabbage and chicken stock. The first issue was that the meatballs had to be deep fried in two inches of oil. Emptying a whole bottle of vegetable oil into the pan was anxiety provoking for both health and safety reasons. The sizeable meatballs bubbled away for a while, then they were drained on paper towels and added to the broth. After simmering for ten minutes, the end result was that the meatballs tasted as if they had just been boiled. Other than the colour, the whole deep frying stage seemed far too much trouble and an unnecessary step for making this meal at home.
The major issue we faced tonight, however, was that the cabbage and meatballs were meant to simmer in a “full” saucepan, with a ladle of the broth later removed for thickening purposes, but that the recipe only called for one cup of chicken stock/ broth. Given that we were halving the recipe, it was obvious that half a cup of stock was not going to work. I cross-referenced with the recipe online, which said to use two cans of chicken stock, but some of the commenters on that recipe said the amount was far too much. We used most of a box of low-sodium stock, and the liquid level seemed ok.
The meal seemed to be an awful lot of trouble for a mediocre end result. We both used an enormous amount of Tamari to try and add some flavour to the dish. Perhaps this was an instance when full-salt stock would have helped, but the broth element was pretty bland. The cabbage was cabbagey, and the meatballs were pretty standard. Obviously if this is an “authentic” recipe, then the process is what it is. In order to simplify the dish for the home cook, we would think that you could certainly skip the deep-frying stage, or if you wanted the meat browned, then simply shallow fry it. The vat of oil we have yet to clean up seems to be keeping me far from the kitchen tonight.
Overall, this was a bit of a disappointment. Tomorrow we have to procure a Red Snapper or equivalent for Whole Fish with Ginger and Scallions. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I have a real problem with fish that seems like fish. Whilst I love sushi and will happily eat raw fish that looks just like a lump of flesh, I can’t really deal with bones and skin and heads and eyes. L is a Scandic lover of all things fish so I think his herring-eating background will serve him well tomorrow. In other news, the late posting tonight is because we were stuck glued to the TV watching Jesus Camp. That is, without doubt, the most terrifying thing that we have ever watched, ever. Everybody should see it.