Today’s Make Ahead Mondays recipe for Sweet and Sour Ham Ball Stir-Fry makes use of a recipe for Ham Balls that I shared over four years ago. The recipe by itself remains one of our family’s all-time favourites. It gets a little new life breathed into it in the form of the stir-fry shared below. The ham ball recipe will hook you, but the stir fry recipe will make you love me. Best yet, with a stash of ham balls in the freezer, you’re only about fifteen minutes away from that pot full of deliciousness pictured below. Who loves you? Me! MWAH!
This is one of those meals that reinforces the value of having some meal building blocks stashed in the freezer at all times. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t and/or won’t do once a month cooking. I’m far too fickle and what sounds good the day I put it in the deep freeze sounds abhorrent just days later. Aside from just plain being capricious, once a month cooking tends to rely on casseroles and I’m -while not anti-casserole- not a huge casserole lover. I sometimes think that the freezer is the most misused gadget that lives in every single home.
That meal in the picture above, though? That is Sweet and Sour Ham Ball Stir-Fry and I could eat that six ways from Sunday and that makes great use of the freezer as do many Make Ahead Mondays recipes. Ham balls are fabulous to freezer both because after eating them like a gluttonous pig for Easter Sunday dinner and a couple of days beyond, I’m anxious to stash them beyond my sight so I don’t eat myself ill. Popped into a heavy-duty resealable zipper-top bag with the air squeezed out, they take up very little freezer space and are there waiting for the inevitable day a few weeks later that I once again crave them.
Usually, that craving involves gussying them up a bit as in the case of Sweet and Sour Ham Ball Stir-Fry. I love this dish brimming with the sweet and salty ham balls, crisp-tender rainbow bell peppers and onions, tart pineapple pieces, all enrobed in an Asian-inspired sauce of chicken stock, soy sauce, Sriracha, and sesame oil. This beautiful meal is thrown together faster than it takes the pot of rice or noodles on which you’ll serve it to be done.
I mentioned noodles or rice just a second ago, so I want to address that for a moment. Serve it on whatever you want, obviously, but I’m partial to using rice here because it soaks up all that luscious sauce.
Friends, if you don’t already have post-Easter ham balls stashed in your freezer, I encourage you to whip up a batch toute de suite. If you make a full sized batch (or even a double batch!) you’ll have enough for a big, hearty ham ball meal AND a couple of batches of Sweet and Sour Ham Ball Stir-Fry. I call that a delicious return on your time investment!
- The ham balls are already fully cooked, so they don’t need much more than a heat-through to be table ready. In order to keep from having warm ham balls with mushy stir vegetables and pineapple, we cook them separately and combine them at the end. This keeps our meat hot, sauce just-thick-enough, and vegetables crisp-tender… just the way it oughta be.
- If you prefer, you can use crushed pineapple, but I like the pieces of pineapple both for texture and for the pick-out-ability for any choosy eaters.
- Do not use pineapple chunks packed in syrup if you can avoid it. If that’s all you have handy, drain and rinse the pineapple chunks and discard the syrup. In place of the pineapple juice you would’ve used, use all chicken stock or broth. It won’t be quite as tart as it would’ve been, but it’ll still be delicious.
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- 3 medium sized bell peppers, any colours (I prefer one each of red, orange, and green.), stems and seeds removed and thinly sliced into strips
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced into strips
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons canola, peanut, vegetable or grapeseed oil, divided
- 24 frozen or refrigerated ham balls along with any syrup with which they were frozen or refrigerated
- 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks packed in juice (*See Notes), drained with the juice preserved
- 1 to 1¾ cups low-sodium or home canned chicken stock or broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1-3 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce, depending on heat preference
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
- hot cooked rice or noodles for serving
- Pour the pineapple juice into a 4-cup capacity liquid measuring cup. Add enough chicken stock or broth to bring the liquid level to 2 cups. Whisk the sesame oil and Sriracha into the pineapple juice/chicken stock mixture and set aside. In a separate small bowl, use a fork or whisk to create a paste from the soy sauce and cornstarch. Set this aside as well.
- Add the teaspoon of canola (or other) oil to the bottom of a high-sided, large skillet or frying pan over high heat. Toss in the sliced onion and stir fry it until fragrant and beginning to take on just a tinge of colour round the edges, about 2 minutes. Add in the thinly sliced bell peppers, garlic, and salt and stir fry,still over high heat, until the pepper strips are hot all of the way through, but still very crisp.
- Transfer the peppers, onions and garlic to a heat proof bowl and set aside, uncovered. This prevents the peppers from overcooking.
- Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining teaspoon of oil, heat until shimmery and add the ham balls along with any syrup with which they were frozen or refrigerated. Lower the heat to medium high and stir until the syrup has boiled and reduced to a dark, very thick and sticky consistency. Add the pineapple chunks to the pan and quickly stir fry.
- The pineapple should become coated in the sticky ham ball syrup. Whisk the reserved cornstarch and soy sauce paste into the pineapple juice and chicken stock mixture then pour over the ham balls and pineapple and stir.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and then drop the heat to medium low and simmer until it is thick enough to leave a trail when you pull your finger through it down the back of a spoon. Return the peppers, onions and garlic to the pan, toss to distribute everything evenly and cook just until the peppers and onions are hot all the way through again.
- Serve over freshly cooked hot rice or the noodles of your choice with additional soy sauce and Sriracha.
This post was originally published on April 29, 2013.