Friday, January 26, 2007

Potluck Puzzler

So...I auditioned for a play back in December, and now that the new semester has begun, the cast is getting together for a potluck to get acquainted and to coordinate the rehearsal schedule. Now, Lord knows I love a potluck better than most folks, but this one really had me flummoxed. The e-mail we received said that we should all bring an appetizer or side dish. What is the vision here? Who will be bringing entrees or, more to the point, desserts?! Very odd. Nevertheless, I have been racking my brain to come up with an appetizer that I could throw together tonight after getting home late from taking the old basset hound to the vet, and that could easily be transported tomorrow and be held at work in some fashion until the appointed hour for the gathering. I considered many different hors d'oeuvres, but they all seemed too complicated. It is my fervent belief that you can get as fancy as you want, but when you get down to it, people at potlucks and Superbowl parties just want their deviled eggs and crock pot cocktail weenies in a grape jelly-laden sauce! And this thought--of crock pot-based meats--reminded me of a great recipe that I got a few years ago from my friend and colleague at work, Carey.

You see, every year, my officemate, Lee Ann, throws a party at her house in Saranac Lake, celebrating the annual Winter Carnival held in their town (complete with parade, precision rhythmic lawn chair performers, and an honest-to-goodness castle made of ice blocks from the lake). After watching the parade with other folks crazy enough to brave the sometimes subzero temps, people make their way back to Lee Ann's to warm up and share a potluck feast. The theme of the Winter Carnival is oftentimes ironically tropical, so one year, our friend, Carey, showed up to the party bearing a crock pot full of one of her mom's favorite recipes, Hawaiian Meatballs. Man, were they good! And they are so easy because you can cheat and use frozen meatballs (which can be acquired for a reasonable price at your local Sam's Club--at least, that's where Carey and I get ours). Trust me, people will gobble them up and be none the wiser. Now my crockpot isn't huge, so I only make about half of the following recipe at one time. And sometimes, I half it again to make the meatballs for a delicious dinner served over steamed rice. But for the affair tomorrow night, it will be the standard crock pot full. Oh, and one of my chocolate buttermilk pound cakes because I couldn't help my damn self. Tee hee. ;-)

Hawaiian Meatballs

6 pounds frozen meatballs (I prefer the smaller 5/8-ounce ones to the larger one-ouncers)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups pineapple juice (can use reserved juice from canned pineapple)
6 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons white vinegar (I like to use rice wine vinegar, too)
12 tablespoons water
1 cup sugar (next time, I might try brown sugar for at least half of this)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cans all-natural chunk pineapple (Dole, unsweetened)
4 green peppers, cut into strips (optional--but they add flavor and color and just look nice in there!)
Other optional additions that I favor: an inch of finely-grated fresh ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves (or a teaspoon of granulated garlic), lots of black pepper, and maybe a dash of cayenne

Defrost meatballs in store packaging in the refrigerator overnight. Add meatballs to the crock pot when ready to make the sauce. Heat the oil and pineapple juice together on medium high in a medium saucepan. While it is heating, in a bowl, whisk together the corn starch, soy sauce, vinegar, water, sugar, and ginger (and black pepper and cayenne, if using). Add the slurry to the saucepan when the oil and juice are hot. Whisk constantly (so that the sauce does not get lumpy) until it thickens. When it is thick, remove from the heat and immediately stir in the pineapple and peppers (and the fresh ginger and minced garlic, if using). Pour this mixture over the meatballs in the crock pot. Mix up the meatballs and sauce. Cover and heat on low to medium for at least two hours. It will sufficiently stay 4-5 hours on low heat with an occasional stir.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm - I'm a sucker for retro cocktail-meatball type recipes. This one does sound good enough for dinner! (And we have BOTH meatballs AND pineapple juice AND a lonely green pepper in the house...fate?)

LEt us know what the scoop is after the potluck - no DESSERTS? How bizarre!