Monday, August 22, 2011

Sesame Chicken Wings

These chicken wings are super sticky and flavorful.  They were a big hit at the Super Bowl party I brought them to last year.  
Maltose honey can be found at the asian grocery stores.  Regular honey can be used instead, but the wings will not turn out as sticky.  

Sesame Chicken Wings
12 chicken wings
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup hoisen sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup maltose honey*
2 tsp five spice powder
5 tbsp sesame oil
1 stalk green onions, minced
3 tbsp sesame seeds
*Place the jar of maltose honey in hot water for about 15 minutes to soften before use, this will make it easier to scoop out of the jar.
Combine oyster sauce, hoisen sauce, soy sauce, maltose honey, and five spice powder in a sauce pan over low heat.  Stir frequently until the mixture is completely blended.  Turn off heat.  Stir in sesame oil.  Let mixture cool.  Toss wings in marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  
Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking pan with nonstick aluminum foil.  Spread wings evenly on aluminum foil.  Pour rest of marinade over wings.  Bake for 45 minutes or until wings are cooked through.  Sprinkle sesame seeds and green onions over wings. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Steamed Fish w/ Ginger and Scallions = Next Day Fish Flake Jook

My favorite fish preparation is steamed with ginger and scallions then drizzled with a soy sauce and oil dressing.  The heated oil brings out the essence of the ginger and scallions.  Kwai Fei Gai is also prepared in a somewhat similar fashion.  That is also my favorite way to cook chicken.  I guess I'm just a sucker for anything that is steamed and dressed with the scallion and ginger oil.  It goes so well over steamed rice.  Mmmm, my mouth waters just thinking about it.
Steaming is the best way to enjoy any fresh salt-water fish with a firm flesh.  I don't recommend this recipe for fresh water fish like trout or catfish.  This method highlights the taste and texture of the fish instead of masking it with stronger flavors.  It is best to use the freshest fish possible.  I have always thought that this dish is the reason why most Chinese restaurants have the live fish tanks.  I would not order this dish from a restaurant without those tanks.
My mom used to make this dish with a whole fish that she gets from the market that same day.  Head and tail included.  Since I was cooking for one, I got a single fillet of sushi grade mahi mahi.  

Steamed Fish w/ Ginger and Scallions
8 oz fillet of firm fleshed, salt water fish (mahi mahi, snapper, sheepshead, etc)
1 stalk scallions, minced
4 inches fresh ginger, julienned or grated
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 drops sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce

Place a steam rack in a wok.

If you don't have a steam rack like that one, you can rig one up with two pairs of chopsticks.  Like so:

Add enough water to the wok until it just stops short of where the plate would be placed on your rack.  Heat to simmer.  
Spread half of the ginger and scallions evenly onto a heat proof plate large enough to fit the fish, but smaller than your wok.  Make sure the plate has sides that comes up. 
Place your fish on top of the ginger and scallions.  Spread the rest of the ginger and scallions on top of your fish.
Place the plate on the rack.  Make sure water level is sufficient.  Cover with wok lid and steam for about 10 minutes.
*If you are steaming a whole fish, make sure the fish is cleaned.  Scour both sides of the fish with 3 parallel slashes and stuff with ginger and scallion mixture as well.  Add an additional 5 minutes of steam time for every 8 oz.
Take plate off rack.  Drizzle with soy sauce.  Take rack off wok.  Drain water and dry wok.  Heat oil in wok.  Carefully pour heated oil over fish.
If you have any leftovers, you have all the ingredients to make Fish Flake Jook for breakfast the next morning.  
Fish Flake Jook
From Leftovers:
leftover steamed fish, flaked into bite-sized pieces
leftover steamed rice
water or chicken broth
white pepper
Simmer the leftover rice with twice as much water or broth, stirring frequently until rice is broken up.  Add more water or broth if rice becomes too thick.  I like my jook to be more of a soupy consistency.  Turn off heat.  Stir in fish flakes.  Ladle into bowls.  Add salt and white pepper to taste.

From Scratch:
8 oz fillet of firm fleshed, salt water fish (mahi mahi, snapper, sheepshead, etc), slightly frozen
1 stalk scallions, minced
4 inches fresh ginger, julienned
2 drops sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 cup uncooked rice
3-4 cups water or chicken broth
white pepper

Thinly slice fish against the grain.  Cut fish into bite-sized chunks.  Mix fish together with scallions, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  
Bring water or broth to boil.  Add rice.  Lower heat to a simmer.  Partially cover by placing lid over pot, but propping one side of the lid up by placing a chopstick underneath one side of the pot.  Stir occasionally.  Cook for about 30 minutes or until rice is soft and broken.
Turn off heat.  Immediately stir in fish.  The residual heat should cook the fish without overcooking it.  Ladle into bowls.  Add salt and white pepper to taste.  Makes 6 servings.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lazy snacks - Nori wraps

Summers are lazy for me.  Especially when it comes to turning on the stove or oven in an already hot house.  My friend VT introduced me to the idea of lazy nori wraps.  I dare not call it sushi or even categorize it as Japanese food since our ingredients vary so much.  Sometimes it's a snack, sometimes it's a meal.  The wraps are basically nori, a starch, some kind of pickled veggie, and maybe a protein.  The protein is optional.  Make sure all the ingredients are either chilled or at room temperature.  Otherwise, you'll have some burned fingers.

Nori Wraps
sheets of nori
starch ingredient
pickled veggies, cut into small pieces
protein ingredient (optional), cut into bite-sized chunks
Take a sheet of nori and cut it in half.  Cut those in half again.  And cut those in half again.  You should have rectangles that are 1/6th the size of the original sheet.  Or you could also buy the little nori rectangles that are pre-cut to that size. 
Place a scoop of the starch ingredient, a piece of pickled veggie and the protein ingredient in the middle of a piece of nori.  Fold and enjoy.
Easy, right?  Here are some variations that I have tried out.
  • smoked salmon, capers, white rice
  • umeboshi, bĂșn (rice vermicelli noodles)
  • Spam, sushi rice
  • quinoa, cilantro, lightly pickled cucumbers, tomatoes
  • leftover Red Quinoa Salad
  • tuna salad, orzo pasta, capers
  • century eggs, gari, white rice
  • deviled eggs, sun-dried tomatoes, brown rice
  • sticky rice, pork sung

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Go Ahead, Crowd the Mushrooms

Julia Childs stressed, "Don't crowd the mushrooms."  

Crowding would result in steamed instead of the nicely browned mushrooms.  But seriously, who has the time and patience to brown batch after batch of mushrooms?  I have a 14-in pan and each batch barely yields a single side serving.
Crowd the mushrooms, but crowd them in a cast iron pan.
I have found the perfect solution.  Crowd the mushrooms, but crowd them in a cast iron pan.  
Cast iron retains heat well enough so that the moisture from the mushrooms will soon evaporate away, allowing the mushrooms to brown. 
Oh, Julia.  I love you, but I'm breaking your rules.
Do not stir!

Sautéed Mushrooms
8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or any vegetable oil)

Heat cast iron pan over med-high heat.  Add oil and swirl around to make sure oil covers the entire surface.  Allow the oil to heat for 30 seconds.

Spread the mushrooms evenly in the pan.  
DO NOT stir. I know it's hard to resist stirring, but it is important to the browning process to not stir until after the first layer of mushrooms starts to brown.  

Cook until the mushroom juices evaporate.  

Once the first layer of mushrooms have just started to brown, stir up the mushrooms so that the other layers get to the bottom of the pan.  Spread evenly.

The mushrooms will shrink during the cooking process, allowing more surface area on the pan.

Do not worry about the pan being dry at this point. Let the juices from the other layers evaporate and brown. Do no add more oil.

There you have it, perfectly browned mushrooms even with crowding.

Nicely browned mushrooms :o)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Living It Up...In National City (The Waterfront Grill)

Great view, right?  That was my lunchtime view.  Was I at a fancy yacht club?  Nope, I was lunching in National City.  Yep, far in the background behind those sparkly yachts is the Navy yard. 
I was actually lunching in front of a place that sells yachts!  Yep, those babies are brand spanking new.  And right next to the sales office is the Waterfront Grill (not to be confused with the Waterfront in Little Italy).  
The Waterfront Grill is in a fairly new building on Pier 32 in the mostly industrial area of National City.  It's yacht club posh without the posh membership fee.  

Walking in, the menus were in a basket that hung on one of the columns underneath a sign that directed me to order at the counter.  I decided on the Blackened Fresh Fish Sandwich with a side salad ($10.50) and iced tea ($2.25).  I was handed real glassware and a number for the server to find my table.  There's indoor and outdoor seating.  Since the weather has been so nice and warm, I decided on the covered patio overlooking the pier full of boats located just outside the sales office.  As I wait for my food, I fantasized about owning one of the yachts and being one of those people who spent the day out on it instead of having to schlep back to the office right after lunch.  How cool would it be to drive up on my shiny new boat and have lunch?  Sighs.

My plate arrived with real flatware wrapped in a linen napkin.  The sandwich was open faced on toasted ciabatta bread with the usual sandwich fixings.  Lettuce, tomatoes and red onions.  My fish was indeed fresh and moist, seasoned with a cajun rub that had just the slightest hint of heat.  I was expecting the side salad to just be lettuce and some tomatoes.  Instead, I got a spring salad mix with tomatoes, sections of mandarin orange, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, carrot shavings and a tangy vinaigrette.  Ahhhh.  So this is how the other side lives....

The Waterfront Grill
Pier 32
National City, CA 91950 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Red Quinoa Salad

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is a grain that is very rich in protein and amino acids.  The taste and texture is similar to a nuttier couscous.  I tossed together a vegetarian quinoa salad that was both refreshing and surprisingly satisfying.  The quinoa packaging instructions say to cook it with  1 part quinoa with 3 parts water.  Some of my friends who are more familiar with this grain also recommend that method, similar to cooking white rice.  I have not been successful with that method.  My quinoa never turned out very fluffy that way.  I recently bought a new cookbook which included instructions on steaming quinoa.  It was genius. My quinoa turned out light and fluffy.

Red Quinoa Salad
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
3 tsp salt
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
3 tbsp dried cranberries
baby spinach and arugula mix
Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve.  Bring water to boil.  Add quinoa and boil for 10 minutes.  Drain quinoa into a fine sieve.  Fill pot up with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Place sieve with quinoa over the pot of boiling water.  The water should not touch the quinoa.  Adjust water level accordingly.  Place lid over quinoa.  Steam for 15 minutes.  Stirring every 5 minutes for even steaming.  Check water level constantly and add more boiling water as needed.
Let quinoa cool.  Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Mix in pine nuts, feta and cranberries.  Serve chilled over spinach and arugula.