Chinese Super Bowl Wings

It’s Super Bowl weekend, so of course – it’s time for wings, right? Here is a faux Chinese (meaning I created it) recipe for chicken wings – sweet and spicy and baked or grilled instead of fried, so much better for you than the traditional hot wings. You can get whole wings and twist them into a triangle by tucking the tip over the second joint, or you can use the drumettes and/or second joints. Do try to buy pastured chicken if you can find it in your area – you’ll do your tastebuds, your body, your environment (and the chicken) a favor.

ingredients:

  • 3 doz chicken wings

marinade:

  • 1 c  Shaoxing cooking wine  or dry sherry
  • 1/4 c light soy sauce
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T apricot preserves
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh ginger root, minced

garnish:

  • toasted sesame seeds (optional) – a mix of black and white is nice

method:

  1. Rinse the wings and pat them dry.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.
  3. Drain the marinade off into a saucepan heat to a boil, reduce to a slow boil until reduced to a syrupy consistency, 15-30 m.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 or preheat the grill.
  5. If you are grilling: grill the wings 4-5 m, baste the top with some of the sauce, turn over, baste the top and grill for another 4-5 m. If the outside begins to blacken too much, move the wings to a part of the grill that is cooler. If you have a gas grill, turn one burner off, move the wings to that side, leave the other side on, and cover the grill. If you are baking: bake the wings10 m, baste the top with some of the sauce, turn over, baste the top and grill for 5-10 m more. The juices should run clear when pricked to the bone at the joint or thickest part.
  6. After removing from the heat, immediately sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. If you plan to use the sauce for dipping, be sure to bring it back to a boil and simmer it for 5 m, adding a bit of water if it’s too thick.
  8. Serve with the sauce and/or some hot chinese mustard.

do ahead:

The wings can be prepared ahead and refrigerated overnight – don’t sprinkle with sesame seeds. Brush with the sauce and reheat in a 250 degree oven until warm, then sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

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Scallion Loaf

Getting tired of rice with Chinese food? This savory loaf makes an excellent accompaniment for Chinese dishes, it contains less fat than scallion pancakes, it’s baked instead of fried (so you have time to do other things while it cooks), and it makes a great savory breakfast as well!

ingredients:

  • 1 recipe yeast dough
  • 1 T sesame oil or neutral flavored oil, if you prefer
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 1 T sesame seeds, a mix of black and white is nice
  • 1 egg, beaten

method:

  1. Roll the dough into a square approximately 1/2″ thick.
  2. Brush the dough with the some of the oil, then sprinkle with some salt and scallion.
  3. Fold the right 1/3 of the dough over the middle 1/3, then fold the left 1/3 over that, pressing down gently with your hands.
  4. Brush the dough with the rest of the oil, then sprinkle with remaining salt and scallion.
  5. Allow the dough to rest for 5 m – this will make it easier to continue.
  6. Fold the top 1/3 down over the middle 1/3, then fold the bottom 1/3 up over that.
  7. Gently roll the loaf into a square approximately 12″ on a side. The oil will make this a bit tricky, but you needn’t make it perfect. If you let the dough rest 5-10 m, it will become less likely to retract when rolled.
  8. Place the loaf on a baking sheet, brush with the egg (be careful not to let the egg drip onto the pan – it’s a mess to clean up!), sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  9. Move to a warm, draft-free place to rise for 30 m. after 15 m have passed of this time, preheat the oven to 350.
  10. Bake the loaf for 12-15 m. If you want a more rosy brown color, you can brush the top with oil and CAREFULLY broil it for less than 1 m. Flip it over, brush the bottom with oil, and repeat the broiling process.
  11. Cut into wedges and serve.

Split Pea “Cake”

The term “cake” is a bit misleading here – this sweet is really more like a jelly or stiff pudding, but as it is served in slices it seems appropriate to call it a cake. The ingredients may be a bit off-putting – who puts split peas into dessert?! – but you’ll be surprised at how delicious (and nutrtitious) this is. You can find split peas in the dreid beans section of most conventional grocery stores. A good dessert to make ahead for a Chinese meal or to have on hand to serve with tea, it seems like Chinese New Year (gongxi facai!) is a good day to post this.

ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb yellow split peas
  • 1/2 c sugar, raw cane is best
  • 2 T honey
  • water

method:

  1. Sort through the peas carefully, removing any grit and green peas from them, then rinse well.
  2. If you have a rice cooker, you can cook the peas with 1.75 c water as you would rice; if you use a pot to cook rice, used 2.5 c water (see Basic Steamed Rice).
  3. Add the sugar and honey, mixing well, then puree in the blender until completely smooth.
  4. In a saucepan (avoid aluminum or iron, which will cause discoloration of the paste), cook the mixture until when dropped from a spoon it mounds on the top instead of instantly disappearing into the mixture. This can take up to 30 m.
  5. Scrape into an 8″ or 9″ square baking pan, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for 5-6 h until completely set.
  6. Cut into squares, diamonds, or other shapes, and serve.

accompaniments:

  • For added color, you can cut jellied cranberry sauce into pretty shapes and add them to the top of each piece.
  • This also goes well with a fresh fruit sauce, such as a raspberry coulis, which would add color and a bit of acid to cut the sweetness of the cake.

Happy New Year – Gongxi facai!

The lunar New Year, still the biggest festival in China, will be celebrated on January 26 this year. All over China the trains, buses, and planes are packed as anyone who is able rushes to their ancestral home to be with family for this time. I remember the sound and smell of firecrackers lingering for days in the streets of Taipei – it seemed as though they started at midnight on New Year’s Eve and continued all the way through to the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the new year.For descriptions of traditional New Year foods and activities, just look up “Lunar New Year” or “New Year” in any Chinese cookbook you have: Fuchsia Dunlop has a colorful description of New Year celebrations in Hunan Province in Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, and Eileen Yin-Fei Lo writes with great nostalgia about the holiday in My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen. The children’s author Demi has a wonderful description for kids in Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!

Celebrations usually involve lots of feasting at home and lots of visiting, and more food is served at every home visited. Children are traditionally given a new outfit (red is preferable – the color of good luck and prosperity) and after performing a ceremonial bow (ketou or kowtow) to each adult receive hongbao, red envelopes with cash inside. Just as on Halloween our American kids chant the “Trick or treat, smell my feet” rhyme, the traditional Happy New Year wishes (gongxi facai) have been tweaked into a rhyme by naughty children: “Gongxi facai, hongbao nalai,”  which roughly translates into “Congratulations, may you prosper…now hand over the red envelope!”

If you’re planning on throwing a lunar new year party, consider making dumplings with your guests – if they come to help, you can pass the time making piles of dumplings, then cooking and eating them at your leisure – you do have to wait until midnight to set off those firecrackers, after all! You can find recipes for pork and vegan dumplings along with cooking instructions and even a video of how to wrap them in these posts: Pork & Cabbage Dumplings and Vegetable Dumplings. If you want to serve a more elegant meal, try the Happy New Year Menu or devise your own from the Recipes page, being sure to review the Menu Planning Tips post.

Properly scaled change

Coming as it did after the “Day of Service,” President Obama’s inaugural speech continued this train of thought (and action) by invoking duty, humility, restraint, and responsibility along with hope, virtue, and truth. (I was amused by the coverage of the speech because much of the media was scrambling to identify the line that would be remembered in the ages to come – it seems to me that our new president’s speech defied that sort of analysis because he very pointedly avoided speaking in sound bites.) I was repeatedly struck by his use of the pronouns “we” and “us” – in his very first line he says “humbled  by the task before us” when he could very logically and understandably have used “me.

The call to a Day of Service and the inauguration speech’s challenge to take action made me think more deeply about what change for the better I personally would like to effect in the world. It would all seem very overwhelming – what can one person do in the face of so many large-scale problems – except that I have been keeping one of my New Year’s resolutions and reading an excellent book of essays by Wendell Berry: Home Economics. In the second essay, “Getting Along with Nature,” he writes about the damage an industrial economy wreaks on the relationship between man and nature – it is because of the massive scale of the industrial economy that man and nature are so often considered to be in opposition, whereas “A properly scaled human economy or technology allows a diversity of other creatures to thrive.” In the following piece, “Irish Journal,” he writes,

Industrial hopes have almost invariably tended to devalue…modesty of scale….. [T]hat poor work is affordable is an illusion created by the industrial economy. If bad work is done, a high price must be paid for it; all “the economy” can do is forward the bill to a later generation – and, in the process, make it payable in suffering.

It seems that the bill has now come due – President Obama gave a sobering list of the challenges we face. How will we make ends meet, pay the bill, and move on? It would be amazing to see all Americans step up to the plate and think about what each and every one of us could do with our education/training/experience/passions that would help to make a difference, no matter how small, in the lives of those less fortunate than we are.

My work with GrowingGreat has inspired me to think about re-entering the food business, but not in the way I originally was involved in it by work in restaurants and catering. With a pending move and another chance to reinvent myself, I’m now hoping to find something “socially meaningful” to do with my food background – education? work with food pantries? Stay tuned, and in the meantime, give some thought to what YOU can do to help pay the bill – it’s the small scale work that will allow others to thrive.

Chicken with Mushrooms (Moogoo gaipan)

Pronounced mogu jipian in Mandarin, but probably best known as “moogoo gaipan,” this is a basic stirfry that appears on many restaurant menus but is, as most dishes are, infinitely more healthful and tasty when made at home. In the interest of taking out processed/dried ingredients and using fresh, local ones, I replace the dried woodear and/or canned straw mushrooms that many recipes call for with fresh shiitakes, but you could use whatever mushrooms you find fresh at the market. For a bit of color, you can add a green vegetable to the mix – I recommend broccoli or green pepper, but it’s particularly delicious with snow peas, which are already appearing at the farmers’ market in Southern California. (Maybe our 80+ degree heat wave is good for something?!)

ingredients:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, approximately 6 oz – try to find pastured chicken if you can – you’ll do your body, your tastebuds, the environment, and the chicken a favor!
  • 1/2 lb fresh snow peas
  • 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems reserved for making broth, caps cut into 1/4″ slices or quartered
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 T oil

marinade:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 T water
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt

method:

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Slice the chicken breast against the grain into wide slices, approximately 1/8″ thick, then add to the marinade and let it rest for 20 m, then strain out as much marinade as possible.
  3. Rinse the snow peas, snap the ends off, pulling off the strings that will come off with the ends. If the peas are large, cut them in 1/2 on a slight diagonal.
  4. Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add 1 T oil and heat just until it shimmers.
  5. Stirfry the mushrooms and snow peas briefly, add the salt, and stir to combine, then remove to a plate.
  6. Heat the remaining tsp of oil until it shimmers, then add the chicken and stirfry quickly until the pieces separate and lose their pink color. Return the vegetables to the wok and stirfry quickly to combine.
  7. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Twice-Cooked Pork

This dish often shows up on restaurant menus in America, and it seems there are a million different variations. Because the pork is cooked twice, you cannot make this with a very lean cut, and pork belly really is the way to go if you can find it – just be sure to serve it with lots of lower-fat vegetable sides to compensate for the high fat content. If you can’t find pork belly, use the least lean cut you can find – stay away from the loin.

I do try to stick to fresh, whole, close to the source ingredients, but in this recipe I do use tian mian jiang, which you can read about in the Pork Shreds with Chinese Broccoli post. Hoisin sauce or even miso paste, available in most conventional groceries’ Asian section is a fine substitute.

ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb pork belly, preferably from a pastured pig – better for you, for the pig, and for the environment!
  • 1 fresh red chili (or you can substitute 1/4 of a red bell pepper if you don’t like spicy food)
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 T oil
  • 2 T tian mian jiang
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp salt, to taste

method:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. In the meantime, seed and cut the chili into long strips, or, if you are really daring, cut the whole chili into rounds on a slight diagonal.
  3. Cut the scallions into 1″ pieces on the diagonal.
  4. When the water boils, add the pork, reduce to a simmer for 20 m. Do not boil, or the meat will be very tough.
  5. Remove the pork from the water, let it rest until cool enough to handle, then cut it into thin slices against the grain.
  6. Heat the wok over high heat, then add the oil just until it shimmers.
  7. Explode the chili until fragrant, then add the meat, stirfrying just until it is heated through and starts sizzling.
  8. Add the scallions and the remaining ingredients, stirfrying well to combine.
  9. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

variations:

You can add just about any vegetable to this dish, adding to its color and nutritional content – the most common additions seem to be bell peppers and bamboo shoots.