Wednesday, March 27, 2013

pizza (kit) balls

These are pizza balls made from one of my childhood favorites: a Chef Boyardee pizza kit. Processed boxed food, basically. So, while I'd like to call these "Pizza Balls" maybe a more apt name would be  "Guilty Pleasure Nostalgia Balls" or "What Is This Sandra Lee Bullshit? Balls" or "Losing My Fooche-Bag Cred Balls." I know: "DON'T JUDGE ME Balls." 

See what had happened was... (long-winded paragraph attempting to justify this junk food deleted....) I made some tasty balls that satisfied my pizza craving and were done in flash. :)

Don't Judge Me Balls 
-1 Chef Boyardee Pizza kit
-10 small pieces of mozzarella (I used string cheese cut up)
-10 pepperoni slices, cut in half or quartered
-about 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
-olive oil 
Mix the crust and let it rise as directed on the box.  Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Coat a round or square casserole dish with olive oil. Coat your hands with olive oil and divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. flatten a piece of dough in your hand, and place a pepperoni (2 halves or 4 quarters), a hunk of mozzarella, a 1/2 teaspoon on ricotta and 1/2 teaspoon of the kit's sauce in the middle. Carefully gather up the dough around the fillings and pinch and twist to seal. Place seal down in the greased casserole dish. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients (you will have sauce left over... you could make bagel bites or something!). Brush the balls with olive oil and sprinkle some of the kit's Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for about 20 minutes until the balls start to turn golden. Serve hot. Don't think about it too much.

2013: Year of MORE BALLS Posts:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

thai chicken larb balls with creamy coconut sauce

My pal Andrew Veety wrote a series about St. Louis Thai restaurants in last month's FEAST magazine, and it got my wheels turning. I love Thai food (see list of previous posts from the archives for proof, below)... it might be one of my top 3 favorite cuisines. Why? To me, Thai food has everything... dishes usually include spicy, tart, sweet and salty all in one bite! Gorgeous and balanced... warms you up when you're cold and refreshes you in St. Louis' wet-blanket summers. Plus? There's often coconut involved.  Creamy, sweet, hydrating, nourishing, sensual.... Nature's perfect ball.

Thai Larb is usually on the appetizer portion of your favorite Thai joint. Ground chicken with a combo of flavors that awaken your senses... mostly your tongue senses. It's probably easier to just make it in the traditional form instead of making balls, but these would be great for a party appetizer... you could make little skewers with a ball, mango cube, and piece of lettuce and serve the coconut sauce as a dip!

The exciting part (for me) about this recipe is the addition of toasted rice as a binder. It imparts a really nice nutty toasty flavor to the mild chicken. It also gives the balls an almost springy texture... a texture I have found in most Asian meatballs but could never figure out... I'm on to you, Asia!!! Your Balls, at least.

Thai Chicken Larb Balls 
-1/3 cup jasmine rice, uncooked
-1 lb. ground chicken
-1 egg
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 Thai chili, minced
-1 shallot, minced
-1 handful cilantro, chopped fine
-1 Tablespoon fish sauce
-2 Tablespoons soy sauce
-juice from 1 lime
-2 teaspoons honey
-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
Creamy Coconut Sauce 
-1 15 oz. can Whole coconut milk (Lite will not work for this)
-1 Thai chili, minced
-1 handful cilantro, chopped fine
-salt to taste 
Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Cover and store in the fridge.
Toast the rice in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan often so the rice doesn't burn. Carefully toast it until it is a light brown, like the color of hay. Be very careful to keep it moving and not burn it. Let cool a bit then grind up the toasted rice in a food processor or spice grinder into a powder. 
Mix the rice powder with the rest of the ball ingredients using your hands so everything is well-blended. Let mixture sit for 15-20 minutes. 
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. 
Form meat mixture into small, 1.5-inch balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning the balls halfway through to brown on 2 sides.

Serve with coconut sauce, thinly sliced red onions and mango, and lettuce leaves.

Related (Thai-ins, if you will) Posts from the Archives:
Nam Tok Beef
Coconut Noodle Soup
Thai Potstickers
Pork Belly Cucumber Stir-Fry
Coconut Curry Peanut Butter Cookies!
Sort-Of Thai Pork Stir-Fry
Fish Balls with Sweet Pork Filling
Cashew Chicken Balls
Coconut Peanut Soup
Garlic Lemongrass Shrimp with Coconut Rice
Pearl Cafe Spice Challenge on Food Blog Mafia

2013: Year of MORE BALLS Posts:
St. Louis' Best Balls Installment 4: Wonton King &Pho Long 
Bratwurst Pretzel Balls with Mustard Rarebit
Baked Blue Cheese Fig Balls
Crab Cake Scotch Quail Eggs
Cannellini Ball Sub
Pumpkin Risotto Arancini With Chipotle Cranberry Sauce
2012: Year of the Balls recap

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St. Louis' Best Balls Installment 4: Wonton King and Pho Long

Olive Blvd. in St. Louis County is a 19 mile stretch of road that runs from way out in West County to University City. It is not to be confused With Olive STREET, which is actually in St. Louis City. While Olive Boulevard has several good places to eat along it, the highest concentration, in my opinion, is the stretch East of I-170. If you have not figured it out by now, I am a big fan of all things Asian. This particular stretch of Olive might be the closest St. Louis has to a Chinatown (although, really, I think all Asian countries are represented in some way). Is it a coincidence that an olive is spherical, and that Olive Blvd. is home to 2 of my favorite balls?
If you are looking for me on a Sunday, there's a very good chance you can find me at Wonton King, leisurely shoveling their array of Dim Sum morsels into my gullet. If you are not familiar with Dim Sum, it is basically a Chinese brunch in which waitstaff rolls steam carts full of goodness by all the tables and you pick out which delicious bites you want. There is no ordering from a menu or waiting for your food to get cooked. Sort of like a buffet that comes to you!

Everything at Wonton King is great.... lots of different dumplings, vegetables, "bizarre" foods, the BEST effing roasted pork belly ever in all the world, as well as several balls. The balls above are quite impressive.... almost baseball-sized masses of ground shrimp, deep-fried with a crab claw sticking out of each one, like a little handle. That claw is handy because these balls are too large to be gracefully eaten with chopsticks. I don't know what they are called, but it's dim sum, so it doesn't matter... if you see them on a cart, point and nod your head! Say yes to these balls!

A bit West of Wonton King, in a past-its-prime but proud strip mall, is Pho Long. If you are looking for a good way to warm up, this is your place. The broth they use for their Pho is Pho-nomenal (sorrynotsorry). It's so flavorful and unctuous.... it stays hot the whole time you're slurping away on your noodles.

A couple of their phos have Vietnamese meatballs in them, dense and chewy with a kind of snap, similar to a quality hotdog, but more toothsome.  The soup pictured is Pho Dac Biet (P8), which, besides meatball quarters has sliced brisket, thin-sliced beef, beef tendon and tripe. Basically all the beef. Hearty, filling and good for your soul.
2013: Year of MORE BALLS Posts:
Bratwurst Pretzel Balls with Mustard Rarebit
Baked Blue Cheese Fig Balls
Crab Cake Scotch Quail Eggs
Cannellini Ball Sub
Pumpkin Risotto Arancini With Chipotle Cranberry Sauce
2012: Year of the Balls recap

More of St. Louis' Best Balls:
Installment 1: Gokul & Pita+
Installment 2: Acero & Mango
Installment 3: Pastaria & Completely Sauced
Niche's Coxhina

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

bratwurst pretzel balls with mustard rarebit

Most of my cooking revolves around the question "what goes with booze?" A good, satisfying session in the kitchen, for me, usually involves sipping on some beer or wine, the same beverage that will also accompany dinner. Pretzels and bratwurst are classic beer foods... and they beg to be combined. St. Louis' beloved pretzel shop, Gus's, makes pretzel encased bratwurst that are salty heaven. 

After discovering how easy it is to make pretzels at home, I came up with this bite-size version. I am now prepared for all the beer parties (so come one, people, invite me to all the beer parties!) My local grocery store, Schnucks, makes their own smoked bratwurst, which require no cooking and have a nice smoky taste. If you can't find smoked bratwurst, use your favorite bratwurst and cook it how you normally would to use in these.

I read a bunch of cheese sauce recipes to get an idea of how to make the mustard, beer cheddar sauce I was thinking of to go with these. I was curious to find a method that didn't require making a roux to thicken the toss the shredded cheese with the flour instead. I was kind of surprised at how well it worked! This was the easiest cheese sauce I've ever made! What a helpful trick! I put in a lot of mustard, because, when pressed, I will choose mustard over cheese as a pretzel dip...sorry cheese wizz-ards. Don't worry, though, this rarebit offers the best of both worlds.

Bratwurst Pretzel Balls with Mustard Rarebit Dipping Sauce 
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water 
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 package rapid rise yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 stick butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for bowl and baking sheet
2 links of smoked bratwurst (or cooked), cut in half lengthwise then into 36 chunks
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
coarse salt  

for the Mustard Rarebit
1 cup brown ale or other malty-flavored bee
2 Tablespoons English mustard (such as Coleman's; wet, not powdered)
1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons flour

Combine the water, brown sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.  

Preheat the oven to 450º F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray or brush with oil. Set aside.  

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil in large pot.  

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 36 equal pieces by cutting in half, then cutting the halves in half and so on. Flatten a piece of dough in your hand and place a chunk of sausage in the middle. Gather up the dough around the sausage and pinch to seal closed, and roll into a ball shape. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough and bratwurst.  

Place the pretzel balls into the boiling water, in small batches with a slotted spoon or spider, for 30 seconds.Remove them from the water with the slotted spoon or spider and  return to the baking sheet. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg and water mixture and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Let Cool at least 5 minutes.   

Meanwhile, make the mustard Rarebit: Toss the cheese with the flour and set aside. Combine the beer and mustard in a small saucepan and bring to a brisk simmer. Slowly whisk in the cheese and flour until incorporated. Let simmer, stirring very often, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve hot with warm pretzel balls.


Related Posts from the Archives:
Twistin' Sisters... making pretzels with Barbaric Gulp
Beer Bratwurst Mac 'n Cheese
Oktoberfest Bratwurst Pizza
Bratchos 2 Ways
Guest Post: Stacy Cooks with Beer
Beer Fries Poutine with Jalapeno Bacon Gravy

2013: Year of MORE BALLS Posts:
Baked Blue Cheese Fig Balls
Crab Cake Scotch Quail Eggs
Cannellini Ball Sub
Pumpkin Risotto Arancini With Chipotle Cranberry Sauce
2012: Year of the Balls recap