Tag Archives: scallions

Sibling #7 Claims the Family Favorite: Beef Fried Noodles

Oliver, or sibling number seven, was my first “baby”. His wasn’t the first live birth I saw, (that distinction belongs to Elaine—sibling #6 for those keeping track at home) but one’s level of awareness is far more acute at twelve than it is at ten. Oliver wasn’t weaned yet when mom found out that she was pregnant with #8, so Oli was booted from mom’s bed & came to stay with me in my Harry Potter-esque room under the stairs. I would wake up every couple of hours to give him a bottle, sing lullabies, and rock him back to sleep in the 2sq. feet of available standing room.

By the time Oliver was a toddler the kitchen was my well-established domain. He would often patter in, stare up at me with his big brown eyes and beg for lumps of brown sugar (the closest thing we had to candy). I could never refuse. I’d sneak him into the pantry where the massive 50lb. sacks of dark brown sugar were stored & together we’d dig out a few choice lumps. Back in the kitchen I’d set him on the countertop & listen to him giggle as he sucked on one and played with the others in his chubby little hands. Once or twice I even slipped him a taste of whatever wine I was cooking with. He’d pucker his little face, smack his lips and ask for more. Don’t judge. I was fourteen.

I’d like to think that our kitchen escapades had something to do with Oli’s current love of food and comfort around the stove, but the more likely driving force is his veracious appetite. Like most male 18-year olds Oliver eats like an unbridled horse after a race.

My sisters (my usual accomplices in the kitchen) & I figured out early that fried noodles are a perfect meal to whip up when you’re short on time & surrounded by ravenous teenagers. It’s a “kitchen-sink” type dish—as in “throw in everything but”. Honestly we could pull everything out of our fridge, cut it up uniformly, boil some noodles, throw together a good sauce & 15min later the hoards would be chowing down on a delicious meal.

Occasionally, if Oli’s hungry enough, he’ll pause from figuring out his current favorite song on the piano or texting his multiple lady friends & cook up his own wicked version of fried noodles… sometimes, if you’re lucky, he’ll even share.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
8 oz. spaghetti *Cooks note I
½ lb. skirt steak
Salt
Black pepper
5 shiitake mushrooms
2 carrots
2 celery ribs
2 handfuls of Chinese greens (bok choy, tat soi, Chinese broccoli)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled & minced
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
¼ tsp. sugar
1½ tsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. chili garlic sauce (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced

  • Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Season generously with salt.
  • Slice the beef, against the grain, into thin strips. *Cooks note II. Season with ½ tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients
  • Slice the mushroom caps. Julienne (thin long sticks) the carrots and celery. Slice the Chinese greens lengthwise.
  • Heat a skillet and 2 tsp. of neutral oil over high heat. When the oil is lightly smoking throw in the carrots, celery & a pinch of salt. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Remove.
  • Add the shiitake caps to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 1 min. Remove.
  • Add 2 tsp. neutral oil to the pan. Immediately add the minced garlic and ginger. As soon as it becomes fragrant (you don’t want any color) add the beef to the pan. Let the beef sear gently for a few seconds before adding 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. oyster sauce, ¼ tsp. sugar & 1tsp. sesame oil to the skillet (and the chili garlic sauce if desired). Turn the heat to high & cook for 30 seconds. Remove & set aside until the noodles are finished cooking
  • Once the water comes to a boil add the noodles. Cook until al dente. Drain.
  • Return the skillet to stove. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add whatever Chinese greens you’ve chosen plus a splash of chicken stock or water. Cook for 30 seconds-1minute, stirring frequently. Add the cooked carrots, celery, shiitakes & beef. Stir. Add the remaining 1 tsp. of soy sauce and 1 tsp. oyster sauce. Add the noodles. Stir-fry over medium-high heat. (If the noodles begin to stick to the skillet add a little chicken stock or water)
  • Cook stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes. Finish with a final drizzle of sesame oil. Divide between two plates. Top with sliced scallions (and Sriracha for those who want extra heat)

Cooks Note I: The recipe calls for spaghetti because that’s most likely the type of noodles everyone has on hand. Sometimes I’ll use an Asian egg noodles or rice noodles but most of the time I just use good ol’ spaghetti.

Cooks Note II: Look closely at the beef, with skirt steak it should be fairly apparent which way the fibers are running… lay the steak down so the fibers are running horizontally, slice vertically. You are now cutting against the grain!

Advertisements

Riffing On Cookbooks: David Chang’s Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes

I have an ever-expanding collection of cookbooks, chef memoirs, food and travel related novels. These hefty volumes used to anchor the bottom rungs of my living room bookshelves, but recently have begun to climb upwards—even threatening to evict my “please-be-in-awe-of-my-intelligence-and-take-me-seriously” foreign policy books.

Given my affinity for Asian cuisine, perhaps it’s not surprising that one of my favorite cookbooks is Chef David Chang’s, Momofuku. His recipe for fried chicken is reason enough to buy the book. Brined, steamed, fried and tossed in a spicy, salty, garlicky, gingery vinaigrette, it just might be the best fried chicken I’ve ever cooked or eaten. Unfortunately, making the delectable fried chicken requires a 2-day commitment (there’s the brining, steaming and drying before you ever get to the actual frying part!), thereby limiting my juicy bird feasts to a few sporadic times a year.

However, there are other recipes of note. One of which is the Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes. Onions, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies, Chinese fermented bean sauce & spicy Korean chili powder make for a complex and highly addictive dish.

As tasty as Chef Chang’s dish is, after a couple times of faithfully following the recipe I began to deviate. In fact I don’t use the recipe any more, rather I use the idea of the dish as inspiration for my own. Each time I riff on the original, simply using whatever I have on hand. Sometimes I’ll use ground pork, the next time bacon (if you use bacon sparingly it won’t overwhelm your dish, just enhance everything with its goodness). This weeks’ version consisted of a shiitake & enoki mushrooms, bok choy, onions, silken tofu, Korean rice sticks and ground pork.

And for a robust vegetarian dish simply cut out the meat completely and colorfully market it as a… Mushroom & Tofu Sichuan Ragù.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 Tbs. neutral oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Salt
½ lb. ground pork (or 2 strips of bacon, thinly sliced)
10 shiitake caps, sliced*
1 bunch enoki mushrooms, last inch of the ends removed
1 cup dried chilies
1 Tbs. Sichuan peppercorns
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tbs. chili black bean sauce
1 tsp. kochukara (Korean chili powder)**
1 Tbs. soy sauce
½ cup mushroom stock
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 cup mini rice sticks
2 cups roughly chopped Chinese greens (snow pea shoots, tatsoi, bok choy)
1 packet silken tofu, drained
2 scallion stalks, sliced
½ cup fried shallots***

  • Put a large pot of water on to boil (if this boils before you are ready to add the rice sticks just turn it off and keep it covered until it’s needed)
  • Heat 1 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and ½ tsp. of salt. Cook, stirring often until the onions begin to melt and turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden. About 10 minutes longer.
  • While the onions are cooking place another large skillet & 1 Tbs. of oil over high heat. When the oil is lightly smoking add the shiitake, cook for 1 min. Add the enoki and cook 1 minute more or until mushrooms are soft. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Return the skillet to the stove. Turn the heat to high and add 1 Tbs. oil. Add the ground pork and ½ tsp. of salt and ¼ tsp. of white pepper. Brown the pork, breaking apart any clumps as you go along. Once the meat is brown, about 1-2 minutes, remove & set aside.
  • Buzz the Sichuan peppercorns in a spice or coffee grinder. Pour 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet. While the oil is still cold add the sliced garlic, dried chilies and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Turn the heat to medium high. When the color of the chilies begins to darken and the garlic becomes fragrant pull the skillet off the heat.
  • Stir in the chili bean sauce & kochukara. Return to the heat. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring quickly. Add the mushroom stock, soy sauce and sugar. Stir.
  • Add the onions, mushrooms, ground pork & sesame oil. Stir through for a quick minute. Remove from the heat.
  • Salt the pot of boiling water generously and add the rice sticks. Cook for 2-3 min. Add the chopped greens. Cook for 30 sec – 1 min. Greens should be slightly wilted but still bright green. Drain.
  • Return the mushroom mixture to the heat. Add the drained rice sticks & Chinese greens.
  • In a separate bowl whisk the tofu until creamy then add it to the mixture on the stove. Stirring through as the ragu returns to a boil.
  • Divide the ragu between 2 bowls. Top with scallions and fried shallots.
  • Serve with steamed rice and enjoy immediately.

A shot of dinner from a couple weeks back… the bacon version

Cooks’ Notes:

*When you bring home the mushrooms remove the stems from each shiitake cap. Place them in a small pot with 2 cups of cold water and ½ tsp. salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 min. Strain and reserve.

**I found kochukara at Super H Mart in VA. It’s incredibly spicy so be careful when adding it to the dish.

***Readily available at Asian supermarkets

Forbidden Rice with Macadamia Nuts and Garlic

The second best thing about being on vacation (the first being that you’re actually on vacation) is discovering new food—unknown produce, exotic spices, exciting flavor combinations, or even just an ingenious use for a common ingredient. While in Maui this August I was rendered speechless by a beautiful silky coconut and vanilla sauce enveloping delicate prawns at the famous (and somewhat tourist-trappy) Mama’s Fish House. Balancing coconut cream and vanilla in a successful savory dish takes serious skill and restraint. Perhaps even more impressive was the breadfruit gnocchi at Merriman’s, a testament to the chef & proprietor’s dedication to local produce. The cooks no doubt employed a touch of culinary sorcery to turn the starchy tropical fruit into soft pillows for the butter-poached lobster to rest on.

Personally I find the most memorable dishes are often the simplest. Case and point: Merriman’s macadamia nut garlic rice. Simple, obvious and yet surprising—this dish begged to be taken back as a souvenir. Of course when I got home, I couldn’t help but tweak it… just a little. Step one was to bring the macadamia nuts to the forefront. I don’t know why, but at Merriman’s they cooked the nuts and rice together so that although the nuts imparted a deep flavor throughout the dish, texturally you couldn’t differentiate them from the rice. I’ve chosen to highlight the macadamias by toasting the chopped nuts lightly & tossing them with the cooked rice at the end. My second tweak is a splash of walnut oil, a little something to further accentuate the delicious nutty flavor. Lastly, a few slices of scallion finish the dish with a peppery zip.

Forbidden rice is a gorgeous heirloom Chinese grain that turns dark purple when cooked, and has a nice “al dente” texture. This dish is fragrant, exotic, striking & yet straightforward… if it were a woman I think my husband would be tempted to run away with it.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
¾ cup short grain white rice (I use sushi rice)
½ cup forbidden rice
Salt
Handful of macadamia nuts, chopped
2 small cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp. walnut oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced

  • Wash the short grain rice gently in a small pot, drain and repeat until the water is clear (about 10 times). After the final rinse and drain, add ¾ cup of cold water & a pinch of salt. Cover and place on the stove over high heat. When it comes to a boil immediately turn the heat down to low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes.
  • For the forbidden rice simply add the rice, ¾ cup + 1 Tbs. of water and a pinch of salt to a small pot. Again, cover and place on the stove over high heat. When it comes to a boil turn the heat down to low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes.
  • Add the chopped macadamia nuts to a skillet (you can chop them on a cutting board or slip them into a ziplock bag and pound them gently with a meat tenderizer or similarly heavy object). If the nuts are unsalted add a pinch of salt. Lightly toast the nuts over medium high heat. When nuts are golden brown remove and set aside.
  • Pour 1 Tbs. of neutral oil into a skillet. Add the garlic. Carefully cook the garlic over medium high heat. Remove the garlic from the oil once it is golden and fragrant.
  • When both pots of rice are finished fluff the grains with a fork. Combine the forbidden & short grain white rice. Add the walnut oil, cooked garlic and toasted macadamia nuts. Toss to combine. Taste and add a pinch more salt if necessary. Top with scallion slices and serve.

Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with Scallion, Ginger and Cilantro Sauce

I was seventeen when I first started teaching English in Taiwan. I began with the preschool-kindergarten age group. Work started at 8am and consisted of me jumping around the room singing songs like The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. There were the occasional wet pants, (always the kids’) and the daily tears (not always the kids’).

By noon I was ready for a large meal and a quiet corner. One of my favorite workday lunches was the local staple, duck rice. I’d bike over to this little roadside stall where 50 NT dollars (a little less than two bucks) would get you half a roasted duck chopped up and set on a mound of rice. It came with a couple little containers of gingery, scallion goodness to be slathered over the moist meat and crispy skin. I’d regularly scarf this down and gather my wits before heading back to school to do my best rendition of Little Bunny Foo Foo.

It wasn’t too long before I moved on to teaching high school and business level English. Thanks in part to make-up and the ability to skillfully dodge questions about my age. The job and pay may have improved but duck rice remained a lunch favorite.

Below is my version of the dish, with a couple tweaks. First, I add cilantro to the ginger and scallion sauce. The fresh herbal punch brings another layer of flavor and brightens the sauce. Second, I use chicken breast instead of duck. This is simply because I don’t have the time or the necessary tools (air compressor, fan, wok) to properly roast a whole duck. It’s also friendlier to those (…let’s call them Westerners) who don’t enjoy picking around the bones.

The scallion, ginger and cilantro sauce is great with just about anything—roasts, noodles and stir-fry dishes. If covered well it’ll keep in the fridge for a couple days. Although, it tastes best 15-20 minutes after you make it.

Sometimes I’ll throw this together for my husband’s lunch since it’s simple to make and reheats fairly well. Occasionally I fret that I’m setting the feminist movement back a couple decades by sending my hubby off in the morning with a packed lunch. So in an effort to quell my ridiculous guilt I even out the score by making him sing a verse from Little Bunny Foo Foo in exchange.

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts (skin on)
salt
white pepper
¾ cup scallion, minced
1 Tbs. ginger, minced
¼ cup cilantro, minced
2 tsp. rice vinegar
½ tsp. soy sauce
2½ tsp. neutral oil such as vegetable or grapeseed oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
¼ tsp. salt 

  • Heat the oven to 400°
  • Generously season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and a little white pepper. Set aside and allow the meat to temper (come relatively close to room temperature).
  • Cut the scallions down the middle, halving them lengthwise. Slice in half again so that you end up with four long strips. Finely slice the scallion, both white and green parts.
  • Finely mince the peeled ginger. If you have a microplane you can use it instead of stressing about perfect knife work.
  • Mix the scallions, ginger & the last 6 ingredients together in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • Heat a skillet and about 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. Once you begin to see little wisps of white smoke add the chicken breasts, skin side down. Sear for 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium high. Continue to cook for another minute. Flip the breasts and sear the other side for 2 minutes.
  • Place the skillet and chicken into the oven and finish cooking through, about 8 minutes. Remove when breasts feel firm to the touch or internal temperature reads 165°.
  • Allow chicken to rest a few minutes before slicing. Serve chicken over rice and top with scallion, ginger and cilantro sauce.