Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wok Wednesdays: Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp

I love shrimp. And love dry stir-fries.  The best of both worlds!  This was very simple to make.  Fresh shrimp, garlic and ginger. Red chili peppers.  I would love to make this dish when we are in Maui where everything is fresh. Living in Charlottesville, we are limited in fresh seafood. Consequently, we eat mostly meat.  In Maui, it's only fresh fish. For breakfast/brunch/lunch, we usually get the fresh catch benedict or fresh catch sandwich on a baguette at Market Fresh Bistro.  Then, there's fish tacos.  We have had it all: monchong (sickle pomfret), mahi-mahi, 'ahi (yellowfin tuna), shutome (broadbill swordfish), 'Opah (moonfish), ono (wahoo), and salmon.  It was only this year that we discovered the shrimp food truck, Geste in Kahului. For $12 you get a boat load of spicy garlic shrimp with a scoop of rice. Ono! (delicious in Hawaiian). This has to be my second favorite way to prepare shrimp.

It's so important to use fresh seafood in this recipe since it's what makes the recipe. The garlic, ginger and peppers really brings out the flavors of shrimp.

This is perfect dish as an appetizer, or as a meal! I love this shrimp with a cup of jasmine rice.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wok Wednesdays: Kung Pao Chicken

The best Kung Pao Chicken ever! My experience has been on the oily side, but this recipe is hardly so.  The combination of Sichuan peppercorns and hot chilis blending with the dark sauces and sesame oil flavored this chicken quite nicely.  I was on the cautious side using only a couple of Thai chilis rather than the 4-8 red chili peppers that was called for. I had not used Sichuan peppercorns so I wasn't sure how strong the combination would be. I savored the fragrance of the roasted and freshly grounded Sichuan peppers which reminded me of Kevin's favorite Chicken Chili Hot Pot at Taste of China.

The main ingredients are cubed chicken breasts, red peppers, roasted and unsalted peanuts, minced scallions, and dried red chills which I substituted with fresh Thai chilis.

I continue to use "the mise en place" in the stir-fry process since the stir-frying requires adding ingredients within minutes, yet,  I am looking forward to stir-frying without the need for measuring ingredients one day! I am so used to drizzling sauces and wines into the pan.

This colorful recipe has put me in a holiday spirit!

 I would absolutely make this recipe again. In fact, the two chilis was enough to give the dish a peppery flavor that even the kids  enjoyed it. Shocking. And I'm so glad.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wok Wednesdays: Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef

So my daughter had the Cumin Scented Beef Stir-Fry leftover for snack when she got home from school. Again, everyone was agreeing to stir-fry for dinner.  My husband loves it - he says it's delicious and healthy. My kids love it - I'm still flummoxed at how they are open to my new technique of cooking meals lately. Remember my child who didn't want to eat anything that ended in -ese? As in Chinese.  The same boy that doesn't care for rice at home, but will gulp it down at a restaurant. Go figure. But I'm not going to question it. I am just thrilled to pieces.

Tonight's dinner is Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef.  When I cook with tomatoes, it's usually making osso bucco, marinara, bolognese. Not Asian. This was a quick dish to make. Lean flank steak, tomato sauce, scallions and ginger.

Kids loved it! This recipe is  probably the most benign dish that I've made so far - not spicy, but quite flavorful due to the fresh ginger.

Wok Wednesdays: Scented Cumin Stir-Fried Beef

Cumin. I use this spice when making homemade chili. Lots of it. So I was excited to expand my culinary use of cumin which I typically equate to with beans and Mexican cuisine.

After two straight nights of Kung Pao Chicken for dinner, it was time for something different. So we had beef at lunch time. That's different! On a serious note, it's been a typical busy morning, and by the time I got home for lunch, it was 1:30 pm. Stir-frying is the way to go. On a busy day. In a healthy way.

We eat equal amounts of chicken and beef. It's usually ribeye or sirloin steaks - the kids love a great medium rare steak with white rice! Over Thanksgiving holiday, I went crazy and bought a 6 pound beef tenderloin. I learned how to cut the beef slab, watching You-Tube video, into three portions: filet mignon, roast, and stir-fry.  In the last week, I've been buying lean flank steaks which is called for in the beef stir-fries.  I've really been pleased at how lean, yet tender the meat has been. The trick is how the meat is sliced - against the grain in small, bite-size pieces and how it's cooked - quickly in high heat.

 I made a huge improvisation in this recipe by stir-frying the beef rather than a quick deep-fry as the recipe instructed. I think the deep-fry would have made this dish deliriously divine, but for the lack of time and guilt reasons, I thought the stir-fry will be the way to go during the holiday season.
Main ingredients include lean flank steak, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, scallions, garlic, and cumin.

 Like most of these recipes, the meat is stir-fried first and then put aside. The vegetables are next. I put the crunchiest vegetable first (carrots) before the softest (tomatoes)...but when the stir-fry is for 1-2 minutes, it's best to cut the vegetables in bite-size pieces, same size, so it all cooks in the same rate.

 I confess. I went a little crazy with photographing this dish.  It's the first stir-fry during daylight hours, and natural light is the best light.

I would make this again. I love cumin and cauliflower. Delicious and so healthy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wok Wednesdays: Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli

Beef and Broccoli may have been one of the first dishes I ordered when dining at Diamond Head Restaurant, one of the two local Chinese restaurant in Salisbury, MD, back in the early 80s.  Beef and Broccoli = Benign.  Which is why this is listed on the last page of their menu (specifically, "American Menu") at the local Taste of China in Charlottesville, VA, present day. 

Taste of China is one of the more authentic restaurants I've eaten outside of NYC, San Francisco and Vancouver, thanks to the elusive Peter Chang, known in the southeast coast for Sichuan cuisine. I have not ordered Beef and Broccoli since 1985, but I was excited to try this recipe since it's one vegetable the kids would eat seven days a week. And it called for fermented black beans, an ingredient I've been wanting to have in my tool box since my Seattle friend,  Lisa Wong introduced me to them in the early 90s.  Knowing this, I knew this recipe was already going to have more depth in flavor!

Main ingredients are lean flank steak, garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, onions, fermented black beans and cornstarch. I used both red and white onions for color. 

Fermented black beans are tricky to find in the Asian grocery since there is a similar item called black bean sauce in a jar (paste form) which is something different. Then, the same ingredient is also called fermented soy beans, found in a vacuum sealed plastic bag. I found this on the bottom aisle, below the dried noodle section.  Who would have thunk?  Oh, I did add extra black beans for good measure. I left some pieces whole.
First, the strips of flank steak along with the sauces, aromatics,cornstarch and sesame oil are mixed in a bowl.

Then, quickly seared...

Separately, stir fry the onions...

In the last minute, meat and the blanched broccoli are stir-fried together.

I would absolutely make this recipe again. It's a healthy dish with our favorite vegetable that the entire family enjoyed!

The rich, dark hoisin sauce and fermented black beans gave much depth in flavor to this all time favorite dish.

Wok Wednesdays: Stir-Fried Hoisin Pork with Peppers

Rather than roasting the pork shoulder in the usual manner, I decided to experiment with my Shun knives.  Using the smaller knife that came with the santuko, I felt like a skilled surgeon with a very sharp instrument dissecting the "white meat" from the bone, fat, and skin.  There was definitely much more fat in a pork shoulder than I thought, and that I was able to carve out.  Already, I already felt healthy cooking the stir-fry method!  In the book, Grace explains the importance of cutting meat the same size so that it will cook uniformly.

Aromatics are typically added to the meat marinade in the cooking process; the idea is to sear the meat with the ginger and garlic so the heat will bring out the flavors of the aromatics.  This recipe instructs the wokker to add the aromatics with the meat marinade, but I failed miserably. Somehow, I had a senior moment and forgot about the aromatics till well after the meat was searing in the wok.  Nope, having a mise en place did not help me. Thanks to my head/nasal congestion, I can't seem to follow simple instructions in the kitchen. Or should I blame it on my upcoming birthday, 48 + 1. Needless to say, the show must go on.  It's well past the lunch hour!

In a bowl, I combine the meat with the sauces, minced scallions, sesame oil and cornstarch which is a typical marinade for meat or chicken. Notice the aromatics missing? Oh my.

Sizzling sounds = good! Pre-heating the wok prior to adding the oil is key to being a good wokker.

I add the carrots/peppers to the seared pork pieces. And realized I forgot the aromatics!

I want to make sure the pork pieces are well cooked...

I didn't have a red pepper, so I used a green one instead.  Not as sweet, but just as healthy.

I love the flavor of hoisin sauce.  It is a thick, nutella-brown sauce that tastes sweet and smoky all at once.  A perfect match to Mooshi Pork, or is it Moshi? I think I would add more sauce next time. Using fermented black bean sauce would kick this up a notch! I think searing the meat with the aromatics would have made this dish more flavorful.

My husband loved the earthy flavor from the hoisin sauce. I thought it was delicious, but I will appreciate this even more after I get over my cold. And remember to add the aromatics to the marinade. Note to self.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Artisan Bread Bakers: Walnut & Golden Raisins Bread

I recently joined a FaceBook group, Artisan Bread Bakers, to commiserate with like-minded "bread heads", learn from others' experiences and mistakes, and ultimately, inspire me to return to baking.  The group spearheaded by David Wolfe, a bread baker enthusiast and bread blogger (The HearthbakedTunes), provides us with a bread recipe to bake each month.  Thank you, David! Life circumstances get in the way which didn't allow me to stand on my feet for almost five weeks, but feeling connected with the bread bakers in the FB group really kept my spirits up. And continued to inspire me!

On a quick note, I was really excited to know that this was December's BOM (Bread of Month) since it's an adaptation of Jeffrey Hamelman's original recipe, Golden Raisin and Walnut bread. Hamelman is my bread hero.

 I've spent ten months obsessing over Neapolitan pizzas and it's time to re-hone my bread baking skills. I miss it. I miss baking artisan breads.  I needed to get muscle memory back and this bread did the trick.  Hamelman's bread formula uses a biga (a pre-ferment, a mixture of water, flour and a little yeast made the previous night). David's recipe, Hazelnuts and Raisin Bread is straightforward, using instant dry yeast.  It's a 68% hydration recipe using equal amounts of bread and whole wheat flour. I only had walnuts on hand, so my recipe used roasted walnuts and golden raisins.

As the recipe suggested, I started mixing the ingredients with a mixer and decided to abort the use of my Kitchen Aid in the last 2-3 minutes and use my hands instead. It's really important to feel the dough and learn to feel the consistency before the start of bulk fermentation.

Dough fermented over dinner, divided and shaped after dinner and let in rest in a couple of well floured bannetons.  The oven was still hot from spatchcocking a chicken. You heard right. And it is the juiciest chicken I have yet to bake! Okay, back to bread baking. So I add water into a pan of lava rocks to create steam prior to transferring dough with wooden peel.  The steam helps with oven spring. After a couple of slashes, I slid both loaves on top of a pre-heated baking stone, and added more water on a pan of lava rocks.  Sizzle. Sizzle.  Oven temperature read 500F.  Took a peek at the loaves to make oven wasn't too hot since it's a sugary bake (raisins). The loaves baked in 30 minutes which  came out in shades of burnt siena, wheat beige and caramel. You can hear the wonderful sounds of crackling when the bread first comes out of the oven!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wok Wednesdays: Stir-Fried Ginger Beef

Truth be told. I'm now addicted to wokking. After making the Spicy Dry Fried Beef, and stuffing my pie hole with every morsel of beef, I made another dish this evening:  Stir-Fried Ginger Beef. Grace had me at ginger. I love ginger in all forms. Ginger tea. Ginger candy. Ginger ice cream. Soft tofu with ginger syrup.  And now, Ginger Beef.

Main ingredients are lean flank beef, ginger, pickled ginger, scallions, rice wine and oyster sauce. Simple, yet divine.

This recipe is relatively simple to make. And so delectable. Not a whole lot of prep work, so this is a perfect meal if you are in a rush.  I made no substitutions for this recipe. I now have cornstarch! I bought this jar of pickled ginger. Not sure if this is correct. I chose this over the pickled, dyed ginger that is usually served with sushi.

 In a bowl, I combine the soy sauce, ginger and cornstarch with the beef...

Mix well....

[A study of cut scallions]

 A quick sear...

Toss in picked ginger and scallions...

 This recipe was very quick to make. The combination of pickled ginger and fresh ginger  gave this dish a nice tang. It was very subtle. I stir-fried the beef under a minute and it came out so tender. Oh so tender. Perfect stir fry for a quick meal.