Make-Your-Own-Dinner-Night (Yay!)

Every now and then the planets align (or maybe they un-align, I don’t know,) and we declare that it’s “make  your own dinner” night.  Everyone in my family is capable of fending for themselves so nobody goes hungry. 

I stopped off at the grocery store this evening, after work, and was amazed to see that they had practically sold out of lettuce.  I saw Rosemarie’s Butter Lettuce Chicken Wraps recipe earlier today and planned on making that tonight but, the last few heads of lettuce in the produce area were so pathetic and wilted that I was forced to change plans. 

I was a little heart-broken but I recovered quickly.  I brought out the wok and got busy.  The whole thing took about one hour.  If I was on my A-game, it might have only taken 45 minutes.  This recipe could serve up to four but I ate two portions!  The rest is sitting in the fridge, ready for me to take to work tomorrow, for lunch.

Sorry, no pictures this time.  I was hungry and I didn’t think that this was going to be worthy of posting.  I was so wrong.  This dish exemplifies everything I love about southeastern Asian cuisine.  It’s a conglomeration of several cuisines…Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese…

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs

1/3 cup peanut butter

2 Tbs soy sauce

1 ½ Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 tsp Sriracha sauce

3 Tbs sambal garlic chili sauce

3 Tbs cornstarch

½ tsp sesame oil

1 ½ Tbs vegetable oil

2 Tbs fresh ginger, thinly sliced and rough chopped

½ onion, julienne sliced

½ bell pepper, sliced in ¼” strips

1 jalapeño, sliced in rings

½ cup peanuts

1 cup Vietnamese glass noodles (very thin rice noodles)

Directions:

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and debone.  Cut the chicken into tiny pieces.

Add the chicken to a large bowl.

Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, Hoisin sauce, sambal chili garlic sauce and cornstarch to the bowl.  Mix well and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Boil 4 cups of water in a pot.  Add the glass noodles and stir.  Turn the heat off and wait for the noodles to become soft.  Strain the noodles and shock with cold water.  Set the noodles aside.

Heat a wok at medium/high heat.  Add the sesame oil and vegetable oil.  Add the ginger, onion, bell pepper and jalapeño.  Stir fry a few minutes until the onions and peppers soften.  Remove everything to a bowl.

Add the marinated chicken to the wok.  Stir-fry at high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add a splash of soy sauce to deglaze and stir for another minute.

Add the peanuts and glass noodles.  Turn the heat off and stir to coat everything with the sauce.

Turn out to a serving bowl. 

Top with a little more sambal garlic sauce, (optional).  Serve warm and enjoy the peace and quiet!

Seared Tuna Steaks

Tuna is best served rare or medium rare because overcooked tuna become flaky and dry.  If you want canned tuna, buy a can of tuna. If you want tasty tuna, sear it.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

     2 Tbs soy sauce

     1 tsp rice wine vinegar

     ¼ tsp Maggi Sesoning

     Juice of ½ lemon

3 frozen tuna steaks (1” thick, 5 ounces each)

1 Tbs olive oil

1 green onion

2 tsp wasabi paste

5 small oranges (mini Mandarin)

Directions:

Thaw the tuna in the refrigerator overnight.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Slice the oranges and cut the the slices in half. Arrange the oranges on a serving platter place some small dollops of wasabi paste in the corners of the platter.  Set the platter aside.

Chop the green onions and set aside.

Heat a large stainless steel skillet on the stove at very high heat

Brush the tuna with olive oil.

Gently lay the tuna onto the very hot skillet.  Brush the other side of the tuna steaks with olive oil.

Turn the tuna over after 60 seconds.  Sear for another 45 seconds.

The internal temperature of the tuna should reach about 120° after searing.   The tuna should be white on the outside after searing and bright red in the center.

Top with green onions and serve with stir-fried rice and steamed vegetables.

Impromptu Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve turned out to be a rollicking good time with family, food and holiday movies.  The evening  menu showcased some impromptu stir-fry dishes and the holiday movie marathon ended with a classic… “The Star Wars Holiday Special”.  For the uninitiated, the Star Wars Holiday Special aired on TV in 1978 and was subsequently banished by George Lucas.  It starred all of the favorite Star Wars characters like, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Beatrice Arthur.  Yes, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur!  It’s a must-see!

The idea behind Thai cuisine for Christmas Eve came from a small jar of Thai Green Curry that has been sitting in my refrigerator for quite some time and I wanted to finish it off.  I searched my pantry and refrigerator for items that would be suitable for stir-fry.  Much of the afternoon was spent prepping vegetables, roasting garlic, soaking the noodles and watching holiday classics.  

Thai Green Curry Chicken

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

2 Tbs Thai green curry paste (3 Tbs for extra spicy)

1 Tbs oil

2 garlic cloves (fresh)

1 head of garlic (roasted)

2 Tbs fresh ginger, sliced thin

¼ yellow onion, julienne sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 ½ cups coconut milk

2 Tbs fish sauce

1 Tbs dried basil and 1 tsp dried parsley  (substitution for fresh Thai basil)

1 lime

Zest of lime

1 can of water chestnuts (8 ounces, drained and sliced)

1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced

1 green onion, diced greens and chopped white roots

¼ cup cilantro leaves

Directions:

Mix the cut chicken breast with the Thai curry paste.  Refrigerate until needed.

In a bowl, combine the chicken stock with ½ cup coconut milk.  Add the fish sauce, basil, parsley and the juice of half of a lime.  Set aside.

In a wok, add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Warm a tablespoon of sliced ginger and one garlic clove.

Add 1 cup of coconut milk to the wok and turn the heat up to medium/hot. 

Add the roasted garlic and stir the coconut milk as it thickens. 

Add the chicken stock mixture and simmer at low/medium heat .  Add the sliced water chestnuts, green onion roots and sliced jalapeño.  Simmer for a few minutes and removed to a bowl. 

Wipe the wok clean and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and turn the heat to high.  Add a some garlic and ginger. Add the serrano chile and sear the chile in the oil.  Remove the chile and reserve.

Add the marinated chicken to the wok and stir at high heat.  Return the serrano chile to the wok, along with a garlic clove and 1 tablespoon of sliced ginger.  Stir the chicken for a few minutes and remove the serrano. 

Continue stirring the chicken until the chicken is cooked and browned. 

Add the coconut milk/chicken stock mixture to the wok. Stir to incorporate and turn out to an oven proof bowl. Keep in a warm oven until ready to eat.  When you are ready to eat, add a tablespoon of lime juice and top with cilantro, roasted red pepper and fresh lime wedges.

Serve in bowls, over jasmine rice.

Chicken with Peppers and Pineapple

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

1 cup flour

¾ cup cornstarch

1 Tbs oil

1 Tbs fresh ginger, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 serrano chile

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 small yellow onion, julienne sliced

2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced into rings

2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into ½” pieces

1 Mandarin orange

Zest of an orange

2 Tbs garlic chile sauce (Sambal Oelek)

2 cups vegetable oil

¼ cup cilantro

¼ cup green onion, chopped

Directions:

In a large bowl, add mix the flour with the cornstarch.  Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat.  Set aside.

Add one tablespoon cooking oil to a wok.  Simmer the ginger and garlic at low heat for minute and then remove the ginger and garlic. 

Add the serrano and cook at high heat for 30 seconds.  Remove and discard the serrano (or save for another time).

Add the chopped bell peppers, sliced onion, sliced jalapeño.  Turn the heat to high and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic back to the wok and continue to stir until the peppers have softened to your liking.  (Don’t overcook…mushy stir-fry vegetables make a disappointing stir-fry).

In a small bowl, add the cut pineapple.  Add the juice and zest of the orange.

Add the pineapple to the wok and stir a few times to incorporate the flavors.  Turn out to a bowl.  Add the sambal oelek.  Keep the bowl in a warm place.

Add a little flour to the bowl containing the chicken that has been coated in flour and cornstarch.  Toss the chicken to prevent the chicken pieces from sticking together.

Wipe the wok clean.   Add 2 cups of cooking oil to the wok and turn the heat to high.   Add the chicken to the wok, a few pieces at a time.  Stir the chicken occasionally.  Remove the chicken to a paper towel lined platter when it turns golden brown and crispy.

Carefully pour the frying oil in an appropriate container to cool.

Wipe the wok clean and return it to the stove top.  Add the vegetables and chicken back to the hot wok and stir a few times.  Turn out to a serving bowl.  Top with cilantro and green onions.

Shrimp with Rice Noodles

Ingredients:

16 ounces rice vermicelli noodles (rice stick)

1 lb raw shrimp, deveined with tails and shells removed

1 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp sesame oil

1 Tbs ginger, thinly sliced

1/4 yellow onion, julienne sliced

1 Tbs Hoisin sauce

2 tsp oyster sauce

1 Tbs fish sauce

2 green onions

Directions:

Crack the dried noodles in half and add them to a large pot.  Add enough water to the cover the noodles by at least two inches. 

Heat the water to a boil.  Swish the noodles around in the pot as they boil.  Sample the noodles while they cook.  They should become al dente, just like properly cooked spaghetti noodles.  Once the noodles have cooked, strain out the water and rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the heating process.  Add the noodles back to the pot and cover with cold water.  Reserve until needed.

Add olive oil and sesame oil to a hot wok.  Add the ginger and stir for a minute.  Discard the ginger.

Add the shrimp to the hot wok and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the onion and stir. The shrimp will cook quickly. 

Add the Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce and stir to mix. 

Strain the noodles and add them to the wok.  Stir to coat the noodles and turn everything out to a serving bowl. 

Add the root pieces of the onion to the wok and sear. 

Top the dish with chopped green onion tips and seared green onion roots.

Thai Trifecta

Dessert suggestion:  Sliced bananas, dusted with cinnamon and chocolate sauce and whipped cream topping.

Dust with cinnamon, drizzle chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream

Chicken Curry

I enjoy making a delicious curry dish every now and then but I have to admit, curry vexes me.  I’m the sort of guy that likes to know the subtle intricacies of the ingredients that I use but I have to admit, my understanding of curry is shamefully shallow.  Fortunately, my lack of understanding doesn’t prevent me from cooking with curry.  I’d like to make my own curry blends someday but, for now I will keep relying on my tried and true prepared blends.

Many years ago I received a boxed set of six curry spices from a friend.  Each container held 2 ounces of various spices.  There was Chaat Masala, Tandoori Masala, Garam Masala, Tea Masala and two that were simply labeled Hot Curry and Mild Curry.  I have used a little of each of them over the years and I still have those containers in my cupboard, tucked away in a far corner.  They have held up remarkably well over the years.  Some spices lose their potency and aroma over time but these seem to have incredible staying power!  I only use a teaspoon or two when I make a curry. 

This is a variation of a turkey curry that I bravely made several Thanksgivings ago, while visiting relatives.

Ingredients:

1 tsp hot curry

1 tsp mild curry

1 tsp turmeric

2 Tbs olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ Tbs fresh ginger, minced

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

½ cup chicken broth

1 ripe tomato, chopped

A pinch of salt

1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water (thickening slurry)

1/3 cup coconut milk

2 Tbs chopped cilantro

1 green onion, chopped

Directions:

Mix the spices in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and ginger, sauté for about 30 seconds.

Add the onion and sauté until they almost turn golden brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the curry spices.  Sauté another 30 seconds and then remove everything from the wok and keep handy.

Add the chicken to the wok.

Stir-fry the chicken until the chicken turns white and firm, about 5 minutes.

Once the chicken has cooked, add the cooked onion and garlic and stir. 

Add the chicken broth and tomato and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add a pinch of salt.  Stir and taste.  Add more salt, if you like.  Stir in the cornstarch and water slurry, to thicken sauce slightly.  Simmer for a few more minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and turn out to a serving bowl.   Serve warm with cilantro and green onions over basmati rice.

Asian Spring Rolls

I intended to use ground chicken for the spring rolls but all I could find at the store was ground turkey so, here we go.  I suppose this could be an opening act for a Thanksgiving dinner or maybe an appetizer served during a football game.  It’s also a good way to use leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. 

Make sure to use spring roll wrappers, not egg roll wrappers. Spring roll wrappers are more dense and they are thinner than egg roll wrappers.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 green onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp cornstarch

1 lb ground turkey

2 Tbs cooking oil divided

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1-2 stalks green onion, chopped

1/2 head of cabbage, about 8 ounces, shredded

2 carrots julienne cut

2 Tbs oyster sauce

50 frozen spring roll wrappers, defrosted

2 cups cooking oil

Cornstarch Slurry:

    1 Tbs cornstarch

    1/4 cup water

Dipping sauce:

1/2 tsp sesame oil

3 Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp Garlic Chili Paste

Instructions:

Prepare the Filling:

In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, green onion, garlic, vinegar, pepper and cornstarch.  Add the ground turkey and mix well.  Marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Chop, mince and grate the various stir-fry vegetables. 

Heat a wok over high heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Add the turkey and stir-fry until browned.  Remove the browned turkey and set aside in a bowl.

Turn the heat down to medium.  Add a tablespoon of cooking oil.   Add the green onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Add the carrots and cabbage.  Stir well and turn the heat up to medium-high.   Stir fry the vegetables for 2 minutes, or until the carrots have softened.  

Return the cooked turkey back to the wok and stir.  Add the oyster sauce and toss to coat. Turn the mixture out to a strainer and let liquids drain.   Wet ingredients don’t make good spring rolls!

Wrapping Spring Rolls:

Make a cornstarch slurry with cornstarch and water.  Open the spring roll wrapper package, peel the wrappers apart from each other and cover them with a moistened paper towel. 

Lay a wrapper on a clean surface.  Position the wrapper with a corner facing toward you .  Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the bottom point of the wrapper.  Fold the left and right sides in toward the middle (the wrapper should look like an envelope). Starting from the bottom of the wrapper, roll upward and apply pressure with your fingers to prevent air pockets.  Dip a finger in the cornstarch slurry and paint the top corner of the wrapper.  Finish wrapping and secure the wrap by gently pressing along the seam.  Stage finished spring rolls on parchment paper, or wax paper and keep them covered with a damp paper towel.

Frying Spring Rolls

Add about 2 cups of oil to a wok and turn the heat to high.  The depth of the oil should be about 2 inches.  Once the oil is hot, carefully slide spring rolls into the oil, one at a time.  I fried about 8 spring rolls at a time, to avoid overcrowding. 

Turn the egg rolls over while the fry.  When they are golden brown and crispy, remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.

Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Arrange the spring rolls on a serving platter and place the dipping sauce in the middle of the platter.

Cambodian Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Sometimes I conceive a meal by following my instincts, rather than following a recipe.  It makes me feel like I am creating something brand new.

On this particular weeknight, I allowed my taste buds to tell me what I wanted to make and my mind followed.  I knew I wanted to include shrimp, because I’ve been craving shrimp.  I knew I wanted to use Cambodian rice noodles, because I have had some in my pantry for a few months.  From that launching point, my mind quickly assembled the rest of the items that would bring the dish together.  Pork, vegetables, sesame oil, peanuts, fish sauce, garlic, green onions and so on. 

I resisted the urge to look up recipes on the internet.  I’m not saying that looking up recipes on the internet is cheating but I sometimes find that internet searches just affirm what I already know.  Once a person has made several stir-fry dishes, the process becomes instinctive and intuitive.  Deciding what to include in a stir-fry is only limited by the imagination of the cook.  My imagination and creativity runs deep and I have learned not to think about “success” or “failure”, when cooking.  Maybe that’s because I have become more comfortable in the kitchen over the years, or maybe it’s because I pretend to be fearless when I am creating something.  It could be a little of both. 

I approach stir-frying like I approach painting, in an abstract style. 

When I paint an abstract painting I usually follow this thought process:

What is my state of mind?  How do I want to convey my thoughts and emotions?

That leads to, what colors would be best to get my point across?  What sort of shapes do I see?  What will be the focus of the painting, or will there be a main focus?  Etcetera.  The thinking process goes on as long as I need it to and then my hands start working quickly.

Mix the paint on the pallet.  Lay out my brushes.  Act quickly.  Act without thinking.  Let the creative part of my mind dictate my actions but allow the reasonable part of my mind to make critical decisions. 

Is the finished work a masterpiece?  That’s not for me to decide.  The real question I ask is, “does this satisfy me?”

The same goes with cooking, especially stir-fry cooking. 

How am I feeling today?  What kind of meal would complete this day in a meaningful way?

I decide what flavors I want to use.  I decide what meats, vegetables and starches will achieve what I want to convey my thoughts.  I decide how I want the finished dish to look, when it is presented.   

Is the finished work a masterpiece?  That’s not for me to decide.  The real question I ask is, “does this satisfy me?”

Anyone who eats a meal or sees a painting leaves with their own memories, thoughts and feelings.  The intention of the cook or the painter is irrelevant.  I don’t know why that makes me so happy, but it does!

Ingredients:

1 garlic clove, smashed

7 roots of green onion

1 Tbs sesame oil

1 lb lean pork, shaved thin

12 medium sized shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 tsp sesame oil

5 oz thin Cambodian rice noodles

For the marinade:

¼ cup dark soy sauce

¼ soy sauce

¼ cup Vietnamese chili garlic paste (Sambal Olek works nicely, too)

¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce (smells funky, tastes great)

For the stir-fry:

2 carrots

7 green onions (just the greens)

¼ head of cabbage, sliced thin

2 Tbs ginger, sliced very thin

2 jalapeños, sliced

1 lime, quartered

For the peanut sauce:

¼ cup soy sauce

1 ½ Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 Tbs peanut butter

1 Tbs brown sugar

½ cup roasted peanuts, crushed

Directions:

Prepare the vegetables:

Slice the garlic, ginger, cabbage, carrots, and jalapeños and green onions.  Arrange separately on a large plate until needed.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the wok and add the roots of the green onion roots and garlic.  Simmer at low heat.  Turn off heat after 1 minute.   Continue to allow the onion and garlic to flavor the oil.

Prepare the marinade:

Combine dark soy sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic paste and fish sauce in a bowl.

Prepare the pork and shrimp.

Remove the fatty edges of the pork and reserve. 

Use the pork fat to flavor the oil

Slice the pork thinly and store in a bowl. 

Peel and de-vein the shrimp.  Store in the bowl that contains the pork.

Add the marinade to the pork and shrimp.  Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Add pork fat to the wok.  Turn up heat and cook while stirring.  Remove the onions, garlic and pork fat after they char (just a few minutes).  Discard the garlic, onions and pork.  Leave the flavored oil in the wok.

Prepare the peanut sauce:

Add one tablespoon of peanut butter…not in photo.

Crush the peanuts with the broad side of a knife.

Combine soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar and crushed roasted peanuts in a bowl.  Transfer to a hot skillet and stir to combine for a minute. Set aside cooked sauce.

Quarter the lime and reserve until serving time.

Prepare the noodles:

Prepare the rice noodles, according to the instructions on the package.  In this case, I soaked the rice noodles in cold water for about 5 minutes until they became soft, but not mushy.  Strain out the water and set the noodles aside, until needed.

Time to stir-fry!

All of the prep work is essential.  Make sure to have everything prepped before you crank up the wok.  Seriously…there’s nothing worse than going full force into stir frying and realizing that you have forgotten to cut some vegetable or meat or realizing that you haven’t prepared a sauce.  Take a moment to review all of the items that you are going to include in the stir-fry and make sure that they are ready to go!  Take the marinated meat out of refrigerator and keep it close, on hand.  Keep some oil near the wok.  Make sure to have your serving plate ready to receive the finished food. 

Now, go!

Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the wok.  Cook the shrimp and pork at high heat.  Stir constantly until the shrimp and pork are cooked.  This should only take a minute, or so.  Remove to a bowl and store in a warm place.

Add a tablespoon of oil to the hot wok and add the sliced ginger and a little bit of green onion.  Stir for a moment and then add the carrots and jalapeños.  Stir for a minute, to allow the carrots to soften. 

Add the cabbage and stir constantly.  Once the cabbage has wilted and softened a little, remove all of the vegetables to a large bowl.  Don’t remove the liquid from the wok. 

Add the noodles and stir constantly.  Once the noodles have absorbed some of the liquid in the wok, add the peanut sauce.  Stir to incorporate. 

Return the vegetables and shrimp and pork to the wok.  Stir with the noodles and turn out to a large serving platter.  Top with green diced green onion and lime slices.

Spritz with fresh lime and serve.

*Frozen* Stir Fry

I recently made a beef and vegetable stir fry.  When I say recently, I really mean two months ago.

I realized that I had way more beef than I needed for the dish, so I put the marinated beef in a freezer bag, along with the marinade, and tossed it in the freezer for later use. 

Fast forward two months.

 I had a big frozen block of marinated meat.  Now what?

Well, a sensible cook would have thawed the beef in the refrigerator for a day.  But, I was not in a sensible mood.  I was hungry and I wanted to make dinner RIGHT NOW.  My solution was undoubtedly unconventional but I promise, the end result was delicious.

Note:  I used Canola oil throughout the entire stir-fry process until the very end.  I used sesame oil to prepare the leafy celery tops and green onions, which topped the dish.  The intermittent and distinct flavor of sesame oil gave the dish an element of surprise. 

Ingredients:

1 lb frozen, marinated beef strips

2 Tbs cooking oil (I used canola oil)

2 Tbs fresh sliced ginger

1 onion, julienne sliced

2 medium sized carrots

2 celery stalks (with leafy green tops)

1 quarter head of cabbage

1 tsp sesame oil

2 green onions

2 jalapeños

Spicy sauces: Vietnamese chili garlic sauce and Ed’s Widow Maker (local wicked, habanero sauce)

Cooked white rice, enough for to serve four.

Directions:

Prepare steamed white rice.  Keep warm.

Prepare vegetables.  Chop and slice.  Set aside.

Box-cut jalapenos to remove seeds and membranes.
Frozen solid! OMG…what now?

Heat a wok to low heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.  Add the frozen beef.  Stir to coat and cover. 

Turn every few minutes and remove portions of beef as they warm and separate from the frozen glob of meat.  Set the thawed pieces of meat aside on a plate.

Continue to heat the beef until all of it is thawed.  This took about 10 minutes at low heat, covered.  Remove and set aside.

Add one tablespoon cooking oil to wok and crank up the heat.

Add sliced ginger and stir for 30 seconds.

Add the vegetables and stir fry until the vegetables become tender, but not overcooked.

Add the beef and stir over high heat.  Turn the heat off and prepare the serving dish.

Add cooked white rice to a large serving bowl.  Create a well in the center, for the stir fry.

Add the stir-fried beef and vegetables to the bowl.

Return the wok to the stove and set heat to high.  Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil.  Add the celery tops and green onion.  Stir fry for about one minute and transfer to the top of the serving bowl.

Serve with additional hot sauces and fresh jalapeño for the adventuresome…no need to punish everyone, I suppose.

Stir Fry Noodles with Pork Loin Roast

The pork loin is an economical and versatile cut of meat.  A whole loin can weigh as much as 8 pounds.  I like to buy the whole loin and section it off into 2 pound pieces.  I usually apply a different dry rub or marinade to each section.  They can be wrapped in foil and plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for weeks, or even months. 

The loin is a very lean cut of meat and can be slow roasted, sliced into steaks or roasted at high temperature for a short period of time, which is what I did for this recipe.

I wanted to make an Asian inspired dish with noodles and as I was looking at the various types of noodles at the grocery store I couldn’t decide between udon noodles or rice vermicelli so I closed my eyes for a moment and thought about what flavor and texture I really wanted.  The answer came to me quickly. 

Ramen noodles.  Yes, the inexpensive ramen noodles that can be purchased for as little as 25 cents per package.  Ramen and I go back a long way.  Ramen was there when I needed something to fit my very tight budget and ramen rarely disappointed me.  You can add anything you want to ramen, which makes it a near-perfect food, in my opinion.

For the marinade:

1/3 cup dark soy sauce

4 Tbs cup sesame oil

2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

3 green onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 Tbs chopped fresh ginger

4 Tbs garlic chili paste (Sambal)

2 lbs pork loin

For the stir fry:

4 oz broccoli

1 large carrot

¼ head of cabbage

8 oz mushrooms

3 green onions

¼ cilantro leaves

2 Tbs cooking oil

½ cup marinade, cooked and strained

2 tsp hoisin sauce

2 packs of dry ramen noodles  (You won’t need the seasoning packets)

Directions:

Trim the fat from the top of the pork loin (optional).  

Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. 

Add the pork loin and marinade to a large, seal-able storage bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours.

Bake the roast at 425° for one hour, uncovered.  While the roast bakes, prepare the stir fry vegetables.

Peel and cut the vegetables.  Separate the white root ends from the green parts.  Leave the root parts whole and chop the rest of the green onions.  Slice the cabbage into ½” strips.  Slice the carrots, broccoli and mushrooms into bite sized pieces.  Set the vegetables aside. 

Soften the ramen in boiling water.  Do not overcook.  Strain the ramen and set aside.

Add the marinade to a skillet and cook until boiling.  Strain out the solids and reserve the sauce.

Remove the roast from the oven and cover with a foil tent an let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. 

While the roast rests, make the stir fry.

In a hot wok, add two tablespoon of cooking oil.  Add the broccoli, carrots and the green onion roots and stir for a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms and stir for a minute. 

Add the cabbage.  Stir for a minute and then add ¼ cup of the cooked marinade and the hoisin sauce.  Stir to incorporate. 

Add the ramen and mix everything together.  Add the chopped green onions and cilantro and mix lightly. Turn the heat off and let the stir fry sit in the wok while you slice the pork roast

Slice the pork as thinly as you can. 

Arrange the slices on a serving platter.  Add the stir fry to the serving platter.   Drizzle remaining sauce over the sliced pork.

Chicken Marsala

I don’t make Chicken Marsala very often, mainly because I rarely have Marsala wine on hand but, every time I make this I tell myself that I should always keep a bottle of Marsala within arm’s reach.  The sauce that the wine produces is rich and smooth.  A good Marsala sauce results in a beautiful balance of sweet and savory flavors.  Heavy cream can be added to the sauce to make it luxurious, to the point of decadent. 

Note: Most recipes for Chicken Marsala call for some cooking sherry to be added, along with the Marsala wine.  Cooking sherry is another thing that I rarely keep in stock, so I skipped it.  Marsala and sherry are both sweet wines and I didn’t think I would lose any significant flavor by omitting the sherry. 

Ingredients:

¼ cup flour

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ tsp dried oregano

4 chicken breasts, sliced ¼“ thick

4 Tbs butter

4 Tbs olive oil

1 cup thinly sliced shallots

1 ½  cup sliced mushrooms (an 8 oz package)

½ cup Marsala wine

Directions:

Slice the chicken breasts horizontally into ¼”slices.

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and oregano together in a bowl.  Coat the chicken in the flour mixture and set aside for several minutes.

In a skillet, melt the butter and oil over at medium/low heat. 

Add the shallots and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove the shallots and reserve. 

Place the coated chicken in the pan, and brown, slightly.  Do not crowd the chicken.  You will probably need to make two batches.  Turn the chicken after a minute, or so, and then once again to lightly brown the other side. 

Set the first batch of chicken aside to a warm area.  Add the second batch of coated chicken to the pan.

Once the second batch of chicken is done, add the first batch back to the pan. Add the mushrooms and shallots to the pan.  Finally, add the Marsala wine.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, turning the chicken one more time during the process.

A wonderful brown sauce forms in a matter of a few minutes. 

Cashew Chicken

Making a stir-fry doesn’t need to be a complicated process.  Decide what you want in the stir-fry and prepare those items by cutting them into bite sized pieces.  Determine the type of sauce you would like and have it ready.  You can use a bottled sauce from the store or a homemade sauce or you can say the heck with it and skip the sauce all together.  Choose appropriately sized serving platters or bowls and keep them close at hand. 

Most of my stir-fry dishes are accompanied by steamed rice.  The method I use for making steamed rice takes about an hour, which may seem strange for “20 minute rice” but it has two advantages.  First, and most importantly, the rice comes out nice and fluffy every time.  And second, an hour gives me plenty of time to prepare the vegetables and meat and enough time to finish the stir-fry. 

For the rice:

Add 1 cup of white rice to a strainer or colander.  Rinse the rice under cold water from the kitchen faucet and swish the rice around by hand for several seconds.  This removes some of the starch from the rice.  Add the rice to a 4 quart pot and cover the rice with water.  2 cups of water should do the trick.  Cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes, without heat.  Turn the heat on and bring the water to a boil.  Remove the lid and stir the rice with a fork and cover the pot again.  Turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting.  Let the rice simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Don’t open the lid until you are ready to eat.  Allow the rice to steam for at least 30 minutes.  I like to let it steam for 40 minutes.  When you are ready to serve, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.  Turn it out to a serving bowl.

Cashew Chicken Ingredients:

2 Tbs cooking oil

2 chicken breasts (cut into bite sized pieces)

½ onion (diced)

2 bell peppers (diced)

3 Tbs thinly sliced ginger

1 cup cashew nuts

2 green onions (diced)

Marinade:

2 Tbs baking soda

2 Tbs corn starch

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Sauce:

1 Tbs oyster sauce

1 ½ tsp soy sauce

1/3 cup water

¼ tsp white ground pepper

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

½ tsp sesame oil

Sauce Thickener:

1 Tbs cornstarch

1 Tbs water

A splash of soy sauce

Directions:

Marinate the chicken in the baking soda for about 15 minutes.  Rinse the chicken to remove the baking soda and pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Marinate the chicken with the cornstarch and vinegar for 15 minutes.  This two-step marinade will allow the sauce to adhere to the chicken.

Prepare the sauce and the sauce thickener and set aside.

Once all of the items for the stir-fry have been prepped, heat the wok and add a tablespoon of cooking oil.

Add the chicken.  Stir-fry until the chicken is solid white and firm.  Remove the chicken to a bowl. 

Add the onions, bell pepper and ginger.  Stir-fry briefly.  Do not overcook the vegetables. 

Dump the chicken back into the wok and mix with the vegetables.  Continue to stir until the chicken is fully cooked.  Add the sauce and continue stirring. 

Move some of the vegetables and chicken away from the center of the wok and take a look at the sauce.  If it looks thin, you might want to add the sauce thickener.  I almost always add a thickener.  You can shove everything away from the center and add the thickener to the sauce and whisk until the sauce thickens but I find that it is easier, in the long run, to remove everything from the wok except the sauce and then add the thickener and whisk.  Then, return everything to the wok and add the cashews.  Stir again and turn everything out onto a serving platter or serving bowl.

Serve with steamed rice and stir-fried broccoli.