Where to find great takeout in Ann Arbor

We’re so spoiled being able to cook healthy Chinese food at home, that we are almost invariably disappointed when we eat in a Chinese restaurant. Most Chinese restaurants in America are not at what one could call the forefront of the SOLE (sustainable/organic/local/ethical) food movment, and our bodies notice the difference. Add to that what we call the “MSG moment” so often experienced after a Chinese meal, and we are often left moaning, “Ugh, why did we DO that?”

When people say, “You blog about Chinese food and your husband’s Chinese – you MUST know the best places to get Chinese food in Boulder/Chicao/LA  (fill in the city in which we happen to be living),” my inclination has always been to respond, “Well, um, yeah…that would be my house!”

I’m pleased to report, though, that we have discovered a new alternative in Ann Arbor! If you live in our city (or in nearby Ypsilanti), you can now get free delivery of delicious and healthful Chinese food by ordering from Mei’s Organic Chinese Kitchen. Each week Mei offers a menu that includes 2 entrees, a salad, a soup, two steamed rolls, and rice – all made with predominantly organic and locally grown ingredients. Mei frequents the farmers’ market and local independent grocers, such as Arbor Farms Market, which means she supports the local economy and local growers, too! In addition, her recipes are gluten- and (refined) sugar-free! One order is plenty for 2 adults for a meal plus leftovers for lunch, so if you have a family, I recommend ordering extra rice, soup, and rolls.

We’re wishing Mei and her crew success – it’s awfully nice to be able to eat Chinese takeout without regrets!

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Simmered Duck

It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked a duck, but inspired by the recent acquisition of a pastured one from our lovely local farmers at Back Forty Acres, we’re back on track. The beauty of a pastured bird is that it is much leaner than the conventionally farmed version, and the flavor – well, there’s just no comparison!

One of our favorite duck preparations is a dish in which the duck is simmered whole in a spiced liquid, then served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. In China, it would usually be chopped, bones and all, into bite-size pieces with a huge cleaver: you eat the pieces, spitting out the bones as you go. If that is unappealing or you don’t own a cleaver (or your kids refuse to eat it that way!) you can carve it much as you would a roast chicken or turkey, slicing the breast, removing the wings, and leaving the drumsticks and thighs intact or cutting the meat off the bone.

Eileen Yin-fei Lo has a detailed description of how the spiced liquid was made (and kept for years) in her grandmother’s kitchen, but it is possible to simplify the process and make the liquid for a single use if you don’t have the time or energy to keep it safe for that long! We also prefer a “white-simmered” version (which doesn’t contain soy sauce) to her “red-simmered” one.

Whole star anise and anise seed are generally available in the spice section of most grocery stores.

ingredients:

  • 1 duck, 4-6 lb
  • 2 T Chinese cooking wine or sherry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 stalks scallion, cut into 1″ sections
  • 3 slices fresh ginger root
  • 3 pieces star anise or 1 tsp anise seed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan or other peppercorns – the black/white/green/red mix is nice here
  • zest from 1/2 an orange
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves

method:

  1. Rinse the duck with cool water, then pat dry. Rub it inside and out with the cooking wine, then with the salt, and let it stand 1 h in the refrigerator.
  2. Place the scallions and ginger inside the duck cavity, then put the duck in a large pot.
  3. Add  the remaining ingredients and enough water to cover the duck.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, immediately reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer for 1.5 – 2 h.
  5. Let the duck cool in the sauce just until it’s cool enough to handle, then cut it into bite-size pieces with a cleaver or carve it as you wish. It can be served as is, or with a garnish of fresh scallions.

variations:

  • The cooking liquid can be reduced over medium high heat until it’s a sauce consistency, then drizzled over the duck meat.
  • If you prefer the duck at room temperature, remove the bird from the liquid and let it cool up to 30 m before slicing.

do ahead:

  • Cool the duck in the liquid in an ice-water bath in the sink, then refrigerate it in the liquid if you prefer to serve it chilled.
  • The duck can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and chilled in this fashion. You can either serve it cold or remove it from the liquid and let it come to room temperature (about 30 m) before serving.

Thanks for the link!

Tangstein’s Blog: Healthy Chinese Home Cooking has been listed as one of the Guide to Culinary Schools“Best Asian Cooking Blogs!”

Food in the News and on the ‘Net

Disturbing news on the scary food front:

Marion Nestle blogs on the egg recall: “Take home lesson: If you just have a few chickens, waste is not a problem. If you have millions of chickens in one place, you have a disaster in waiting.” One more reason to love your local pastured egg provider!

And here’s a rather unscientific project that should still give you pause: The Happy Meal Project documents in photographs how a Happy Meal looks after 137 days on the kitchen counter. Assuming all pictures are, in truth, documenting this lack of decomposition, I have to wonder how one could be sure that a Happy Meal is indeed “fresh” as is labeled on slide one. One more reason to avoid fast food and cook and eat from scratch at home using whole, close to the source ingredients, I’d say!

And some more positive links:

Change.org provides a good summary of food labeling terms: 8 Misleading Food Label Terms Every Eater Should Know

Food + Society Alliance posted a good intro to food issues: Food and You