SUPERNOVA MEETS WOK

My wok is 18 years old, it was one of the first gifts I received when I moved from France to the US, back in 1995.  Thank you, dear friend, you know who you are…  😉  I used it a lot in Oklahoma, even though our stove was not powerful enough to bring the best in stir-frying.  The wok patiently waited for me inside a box when we traveled for two sabbaticals, and into the box it went again when we moved to the Little Apple and co-existed with an electric stove that even Benjamin Franklin would consider sub-par.  Once Supernova was installed, I went to the basement to retrieve my old friend, apologized for the neglect inflicted upon him, and said his loyalty would be compensated: he would meet a superstar and they would live happily ever after…   Happy to report that it was love at first flame!

wok1

HOISIN CHICKEN WITH CASHEWS
(inspired by Fine Cooking magazine & Barbara Tropp)

2 Tbs peanut oil
1 medium shallot,  sliced
2 Piquillo peppers, sliced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch chunks and velveted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. snow peas, trimmed
Crushed red chile flakes
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup hoisin sauce diluted with 2 Tbs water
1/3 cup roasted cashews

The day before or a few hours before your meal, velvet the chicken using this method. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the shallot slices and cook for 2 to 3 min. Add the Piquillo peppers  (I buy them jarred) and cook until both the pepper and onion are browned around the edges. Remove the vegetables from the skillet; set aside. Pour the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in the skillet. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, add it to the oil, and cook, stirring frequently, so that all sides brown, 2 to 3 min. Stir in the snow peas and sprinkle in some red chile flakes. Add the ginger. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the thinned hoisin sauce. Simmer for 1 min. to wilt the snow peas and finish cooking the chicken.  Sprinkle with the cashews and serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served2Comments:  Velveting the chicken makes this type of stir-fry so much better that it’s worth investing the small amount of work to do it.  Since the chicken can stay in the egg white mixture for up to 24 hours, you could conceivably do it the evening before you intend to make it for dinner.  I prefer to do this preparation either when I wake up, or if time allows, at lunch time. Piquillo peppers are from Spain, so their use in this dish qualifies as “fusion-cooking”.  In reality, I had an open jar in my fridge and wanted to use it up.  So there. 😉

What I love the most about this recipe is the simplicity of the finishing sauce, a mixture of hoisin and water, no cornstarch to deal with.  The snow peas barely got in touch with any heat, so they stayed bright green and with a little crunch that was perfect to add that extra something to the dish.  A real keeper for a weeknight, there were only three little pieces of chicken left, which made for a super light lunch next day. But, at least I did not have to share…

Hoisin Chicken with Cashews

ONE YEAR AGO: 500 Posts and The Best Thing I ever made

TWO YEARS AGO: Back in Los Angeles

THREE YEARS AGO: White House Macaroni and Cheese

FOUR YEARS AGO: Korean-Style Pork with Asian Slaw

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH HOISIN-GRILLED CHICKEN & SOBA NOODLES

hoisin222
I adore soba noodles. Whenever I serve them, the meal feels special to me.  For this dinner, I used green tea soba noodles, immediately kicking things up a notch (remember Emeril from the old days of FoodTV?).  Green tea soba has a nice color that fades just a little during cooking. Of course, you can use any type of noodles, including whole-wheat, if soba is not available where you live.  The whole menu came from the latest Cooking Light issue, which is full of great recipes, by the way.  The hardest part of the preparation was cutting the sugar snap peas, but other than that, very fast from beginning to end, making it ideal to celebrate that evening still a bit far from the joys of the weekend…  😉

HOISIN-GRILLED CHICKEN WITH SOBA NOODLES
(adapted from Cooking Light June 2013)

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 + 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
3  skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
salt
green tea soba noodles (or regular soba)
1 + 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
toasted sesame seeds to taste
sliced green onions, to taste

Combine hoisin, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and five-spice powder in a large bowl.  Add chicken; toss to coat.  Grill for 10 minutes or until done, flipping the pieces half-way through cooking time.  Remove from the grill, let it stand for 5 minutes tented with aluminum foil.  Thinly slice across the grain.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Prepare the dressing for the noodles by mixing rice vinegar, sesame oil,  soy sauce, and Sriracha in a small bowl. Reserve.

Add noodles to the boiling water; cook for about 4 minutes.  Add peas; cook 1 minute or until noodles are tender. Drain. Add reserved dressing to the noodles & peas mixture.  Toss to coat. Arrange noodles on a serving plate,  top with chicken slices.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ingredients
Comments:  The recipe calls for cooking the sugar snap peas in the same pot with the noodles.  It is a nice thought to simplify things and avoid having two pots of water boiling, but next time I will cook them separately. It will be easier to assemble the dish, tossing noodles with dressing, then adding the snap peas and mixing them gently.   I like sugar snap peas barely cooked, almost blanched, to retain their bright color and bite.   Leftovers next day  were still very tasty, but just a minute in the microwave turned the peas into a sad dark green, dangerously pointing towards the gray.  Delicate creatures they are!

I served cucumber salad as a side dish, as suggested in Cooking Light. The recipe is on the link I provided.  You may notice I omitted the peanuts.  Cucumbers have been a constant side dish these days. They are simply perfect for this weather.  😉

served2

ONE YEAR AGO: The Manhattan Project

TWO YEARS AGO: Carrot “Nib” Orzo

THREE YEARS AGOA Sticky Situation

FOUR YEARS AGO:  The Garden

HOISIN EXPLOSION

Last week I finished my third year of Mandarin, a challenging but rewarding journey!   To celebrate, I prepared a Chinese recipe for our dinner.   Cookbooks and websites sometimes mistreat ethnic cuisines: too often it’s  enough to finish a stir-fry with some soy sauce, cornstarch and then label it Chinese.   For the alternate, informed approach I reached for  Barbara Tropp, who was to Chinese cooking what Julia Child was to French cuisine: she studied it to the point of becoming an expert, and shared her knowledge through excellent writing.    Barbara Tropp’s “Modern Art of Chinese Cooking”  is a culinary masterpiece like no other on the subject, and if you have genuine interest in learning to prepare authentic Chinese dishes, you’ll need this book.

Here is what Tropp said about the recipe I chose:

Subtly sweet and rich, with a classic contrast of velvety chicken, slippery-crisp vegetables and crunchy nuts, it combines every technique you need to know to produce elegant, restaurant-style stir-frys. The taste explosion that makes this dish so appealing is a multi-regional affair.  Hoisin is a predominantly north Chinese condiment, chili is a Szechwanese touch, while wine used as it is here is an Eastern taste.”

I love it when a cookbook writer goes beyond providing recipes.  I am still saddened by her unfortunate death  when she was only 53 years old.

HOISIN-EXPLOSION CHICKEN
(adapted from Barbara Tropp)

1 pound chicken breast, cut in bite size pieces
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tsp Kosher salt
4 cups water + 2 tsp peanut oil

1/2 cup whole blanched almonds or cashews
1 medium red bell pepper
6 ounces bamboo shoots, sliced
fresh cilantro leaves

Aromatics
2 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon finely minced green onions
1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes

Liquid seasoning
3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 + 1/2 Tbs Chinese rice wine
2 tsp soy sauce

Mix the egg white, wine and salt and process until smooth and thick (30 to 60 seconds) in a food processor or blender.  Place the chicken in a bowl and add the egg white marinade over it, tossing well to completely coat the pieces. Refrigerate from 8 to 36 hours, the longer the better.

Toast the nuts in a 350F oven, or by gently frying them with a little bit of peanut oil on a non-stick skillet.  Do not allow them to burn. Reserve.

Cut the seeded red bell pepper into squares.  If using canned bamboo shoots, rinse them well and blanch for 10 seconds in boiling water – this will refresh their taste.  Cut in thin slices. The veggies and nuts can be prepared one day in advance. Mince the cilantro right before finishing the dish.

Combine all aromatics and mix well in a small bowl.  Mix all the liquid seasonings in another small bowl.  Reserve both.

Velveting the chicken:
Bring the water/oil to a simmer, do not allow it to go into full boil.  You want to see small bubbles forming around the rim of the water.  Stir the chicken to loosen the pieces slightly, and drop them in the water, stirring to separate them.   Simmer until they are about 80% cooked  – this should take about 20 seconds.  It’s important not to over cook the meat.  When in doubt, cook less.   Remove the pieces  to a plate with a slotted spoon.   Once velveted, the meat must be stir-fried right away.

Finishing the dish…
Heat a wok over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact.  Add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl it to glaze the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle one piece of bell pepper, add the peppers and the bamboo shoots to the pan, stir frying them briskly until they are evenly glossed with oil and heated through, about 1 minute.  Remove the vegetables to a dish.  Return the wok to the stove, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the aromatics, stir until fragrant, 15-20 seconds, add the liquid seasonings, and stir to combine.  Add the velveted chicken pieces and the vegetables, toss quickly to cook through, about 30 seconds.   Turn off the heat, add the nuts and the cilantro.   Adjust the seasoning and serve over white rice.

ENJOY!

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to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This recipe calls for an important step in the meat preparation for stir-frying: “velveting.”   Tempting as it might be to skip it, don’t do it: the improvement in the texture will shock you! You’ll use an extra pan and spend a few more minutes in the overall preparation, but it is a small price to pay for textural perfection.  Barbara Tropp’s recipes are quite detailed, often extending over several pages, which some people may find a bit excessive.   I have a small dry-erase board on which I write down a condensed version of the recipe to take to the kitchen.  Interestingly enough, I originally got the board to practice writing Chinese characters, so using it for Chinese cooking seems like a natural move… 😉

I’ve made this recipe with water chestnuts instead of bamboo shoots, snow peas in addition to bell peppers, and peanuts instead of cashews. You can adapt it to what you have available, as long as you preserve the basic techniques. Like all stir fry recipes, once the ingredients are prepared, the cooking happens at lightening speed,  which is music to my ears on busy weekdays…

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