Chicken balls aren’t authentic Chinese food but they were probably inspired by Chinese sweet and sour pork. The pork is replaced with chicken, it’s battered instead of breaded and the sauce is sweeter but its in the same ball park. These sweet and sour pineapple chicken balls are a type of modern Chinese food served in Canada, Ireland, United States and the UK as a staple of Chinese take-out. Due to their vast popularity among the masses, they have become linked unwilling to Chinese cuisine, for better or worse. They are largely unheard of in China, depending on the recipe and referred name.
Here in Canada, in our province of Alberta, many of the Chinese dishes that are served in small-town Chinese restaurants have a distinctly Canadian twist. Chinese Canadian food evolved over the decades and has developed into a its own unique cuisine. Some dishes that are unique to Canada and Alberta include ginger beef, cabbage chow mein & sweet and sour chicken balls. Across Canada, Chinese Canadian food has evolved from recipes that were created using the ingredients that were available to the restauranteurs decades ago.
The chicken balls we prefer are dipped in a light batter then baked in the oven as opposed to deep frying them. Brion & I enjoy them served over rice with the tangy pineapple sauce.
Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a food processor, chop chicken meat with seasoning, JUST until it is a roughly ground texture. Divide into 12-16 portions. Wet hands & roll into balls. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven & cool slightly on paper towels until batter is ready.
In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar & cornstarch. Stir in pineapple with juice, Zesty Italian dressing, (soy sauce), & minced garlic. Cook & stir over low heat until thickened. Set aside & keep warm.
In a bowl, combine all batter ingredients; beat until smooth. Add chicken balls; stir until covered well with batter.
When chicken balls are cooked in your preferred choice; pour pineapple sauce over them & serve with steamed rice.
Apple season is upon us, so its a good time to make some of those ‘homey’ kind of desserts. During the summer we have an endless array of fresh fruit available in the grocery stores. Apples are often taken for granted because their kind of a staple fruit you could say. We have countless varieties to choose from for fresh eating or cooking. One that is well known is called the Granny Smith apple. Its acidity and strong flavor makes it a frequent choice for both baking and fresh eating. Consistently rated among the top ten apples in popularity, its hard to believe it wasn’t part of the North American experience until the 1970’s.
It turns out there really was a ‘Granny Smith’. As the story goes, Maria Ann (Granny) Smith was cooking with French crab apples and discarded the remains in a compost pile near a creek flowing behind her farmhouse outside Sydney, Australia. From the pile sprouted a seedling unlike any apple she had ever encountered. She was so taken with its bright flavor and versatility, she decided to propagate the trees herself.
In the season from September through November, Granny Smith apples have become a staple of fall baking. Used extensively in seasonal pies, cakes, cobblers and crisps, it all began with a happy accident discovered by its namesake halfway around the world.
Apple Crumble w/ Vanilla Cardamom Cream
Peel, core & slice apples. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, toss the apple slices with lemon zest & juice, sugar, cinnamon & salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, oats & salt with a fork until uniform. In a glass pie dish, melt the butter in the microwave until about half melts. Pour the butter into the flour mixture & incorporate with a fork. Leaving the excess butter in the pie pan, arrange the apple slices in the pan. Top with the flour-oat mixture.
Bake until apples are cooked through and the topping is golden, about 45 minutes.
Vanilla Cardamom Cream
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together 'cream' ingredients. Simmer over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly until cooked & custard will coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat & cover with plastic wrap, making sure to lightly press it over the custard to avoid a 'skin' forming. Serve over or with crumble.
Country style ribs are an under appreciated cut that is perfect anytime of year as well as usually being one of the cheapest to buy. This is a cut of pork with a little identity crisis because it isn’t an actual rib. They are really a blade chop that has been ‘butterflied’, laid open and cut through the rib. Having both light and dark meat on them, gives the different textures and flavors you taste. When sold at the supermarket, the bone side of the chop is turned up giving the appearance of a nice giant ‘rib’.
Loin chops, are the classic, beautiful pork chop we typically think of cut from the center, finely grained & even.
When I buy country style ribs, its usually in a ‘club’ pack size. Before freezing them, I cut most or all of the fat off and divide the remaining into meal size amounts. Even after that, the price is right.
If your going to make a pork stew, don’t buy what is labeled as pork stew meat. Usually this is made up of little bits and pieces from all over the animal that were left over after cutting. Use the country style ribs and just cut them into cubes. You will be much happier with the end result.
The recipe I’m using today was adapted from one my mother made using spare ribs. Its unique in the way that instead of using a brown sugar/vinegar mix to create the sweet-sour flavor, it used juice from her homemade sweet pickles.
Sweet & Sour Country Style Ribs
Remove excess fat from ribs & cut into serving size pieces. In a bowl with a lid, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, sweet pickle juice, water garlic, salt & pepper. Add meat & allow to marinate for at least an hour.
In a saucepan, lightly brown 'ribs'. Preheat oven to 250 F. (I prefer a real low temperature to ensure VERY tender ribs). In a baking dish, place meat with about a 1/4-inch of marinade. Slow roast, uncovered, for about an hour.
When meat is cooked, remove to a covered serving dish to keep warm. If you prefer, add cornstarch to remaining marinade then add to baking dish. Bring all to a boil to create a thicker sauce for you 'ribs'. Pour over meat in serving dish & serve.