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Sous Vide Miso Pork Meatballs

This is my first attempt at using one of my own recipes for the sous vide cooker and I am kind of going rogue with the technique which is probably why it was a mix of mainly success with some bumps in the road. I have been wanting to make another asian flavoured meatball like my Vietnamese meatballs but with a nod to Japan for a long time now. We LOVE our little Vietnamese meatballs made with chicken or pork but it's really easy to bake them just a smidge too long and dry them out. Now, with sous vide, they never overcook so, like the sausages, all they require is a little kiss with a hot pan afterwards to brown them up.

 a bit of trial and error involved:

You must partially freeze them so they are pretty hard or they will squish up when you seal them in the bag. I first tried to freeze the meatballs for an hour and thought they felt firm enough but the Food Saver quickly turned them into one, solid sheet of ground meat. Trust me. Nobody wants a sheet of ground pork that has been boiled in a bag. A two hour rest in the freezer did a much better job but I only wish that I had video of my reaction as I watched the Food Saver suck the life out of my meatballs while they slowly squashed out and merged with one another in slow motion.


You must use the pulse vac mode on your FoodSaver because even if they are partially frozen, the pressure will smash them down a bit if you truly suck all of the air out of the bag. You can also freeze them until they are totally frozen through, then seal them up completely with your food sealer and either pop them in the freezer for another day or throw them in the water bath right away and cook from frozen.
i had to use a plate and a little bowl because i had 2 bags

Because there will still be a bit of air in the bag, it will want to float once you put them in the water bath. You might have to put an inverted side plate or small, shallow bowl on top of the meat balls to keep them submerged.

lay them out on the bag that you place flat on the counter like the photo on the right before vacuum sealing them. Upper left  photo is the zip lock bag and lower left are the slightly flattened meatballs after a trip in the food saver

A word about food safety:

Traditionally, ground pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of about 165F but that has recently been changed to 145F for most cuts of pork and 160F for ground pork. Now, most modernist cuisine types tell you to cook the ground pork to 140F  because in sous vide, there is supposed to be no gain in food safety over 131F and you don't want to dry the meat out. Because ground pork is very fatty and sous vide meat doesn't lose moisture like pork cooked with other methods, I cut the difference and cooked them to 150F. I read everything I could get my hands on about food safety with sous vide and ground pork and even 150F would appear to be overkill, but, with ground meat you want to ensure that they are pasteurized and that is very hard to do at lower temperatures. Don't forget that you are also going to brown them after you take them out of the water bath, so if they feel like they are the tiniest touch underdone, they will cook a bit more when you are browning them.

The Four Basic Steps of Sous Vide Cooking

Of course, if you don't a sous vide device or you just don't want to cook them this way, you can absolutely pop them in a 400F oven and bake them. They won't be nearly as tender and succulent but it won't matter because until you have eaten a meatball that was cooked this way, you won't know any better.

Sous Vide Miso Pork Meatballs
adding some ground mushrooms helps retain moisture as well as cutting down on amount of pork needed - less dry + a bit healthier without sacrificing taste is always a winner

350g ground pork
80g ground mushrooms
1/3 cup sliced scallion
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 stalk lemongrass, finely minced (or grated), white tender inner part only
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbls miso
1 tbls fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
few grinds of black pepper

approx 3 or 4 tbls sesame seeds to coat them in

Chop the mushrooms roughly and grind up using a mini food processor if you have one. If you don't, mince by hand. Same with the scallions - whiz in a mini food processor or mince my hand.

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix, using your hand, until everything is incorporated. Fry a tiny bit of the mixture to test for seasoning and adjust salt and seasonings if needed. Put the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour to set up a bit.

Sous Vide:

Using slightly damp hands, roll the mixture into little golf ball sized meatballs and put in the freezer on a parchment lined tray or baking sheet for at least 1 1/2 to 2 hrs to firm up. If you don't do this you will not end up with nice, round meatballs after you vacuum seal them. Trust me.

set up your sous vide equipment and heat the water to 150F/65.5C

Put the meatballs into a 4 quart freezer bag or a vacuum sealed bag.  If you use a vacuum sealer, remember, make sure you use the pulse vac mode so you get almost all of the air out but stop just short of squishing your meatballs.

If you use a freezer bag, lay the bag flat on the counter, place the meatballs inside with space around them, seal up the zipper closure with a straw inserted in the corner and then suck the air out until the bag collapses around the meatballs. I know it sounds gross but your meatballs are pretty much frozen so you are not going to inhale a mouthful of raw pork. Remember,  the meatballs need to be in a single layer too, so don't just throw them all in willy nilly- this is the reason that the water displacement method won't work. The bag needs to remain flat on the counter so that the meatballs stay in their spot while the air is sucked out.

When the water reaches 150F/65.5C, drop the bag into the water and leave it for 2 hours and up to 3 hours. You might need to put an inverted small plate on them to hold them down if the bag keeps bobbing to the top.

When they are finished, remove the bag from the water, carefully cut it open and remove the meatballs to a paper towel lined plate. **If you are not finishing them off right away, plunge in a water bath to cool them quickly and throw them in the fridge or freezer as soon as they have cooled.

Heat a non stick pan (cast iron works great too) over med high heat, toss the meatballs in some sesame seeds and fry quickly on all sides just to brown up.

**if you don't want to use the sous vide method, preheat the oven to 400F, skip the freezer, roll the freshly rolled meatballs in the sesame seeds and bake them on a preheated baking pan for about 15 minutes, giving the pan a shake a few times to ensure even browning.

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