Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday Night Dinner Party - Making Chinese

That first bit of consciousness on a Saturday morning is usually met with a sense of joy knowing I can turn it off and sleep for a little longer or linger in that bit of euphoria of not having to get out of bed.  This morning, I woke, tried not to open my eyes but all I could think was "must start prepping".  I immediately started to take inventory of what needed to be done for each dish.  At this point, I might as well get up and get started.  
It's 10:30 am and I've pretty much done everything I can do for now.  Everything's washed, trimmed, sliced, chopped, and cleaned.  For easier clean up, all the ingredients have been separately bagged or wrapped in cellophane with a tinge of guilt for using so much plastic.  Sauces have been mixed and placed in separate containers.  Serving dishes have been selected for each course.  There is still much to be done, but cannot be until later today.  Time to take a little break and type out the blog. 

Dan Dan Mein
I loosely followed this recipe which I found online a year or so ago.  Instead of splitting up the two sets of ingredients, I mix everything together into one sauce except for the green onions.  I also like to add a little white vinegar and water to dilute the sauce a bit.  It is otherwise a very strong and thick sauce.  I also wok fried some ground pork with a little bit of the sauce.  To serve, place cooked noodles in a bowl, top with a little bit of the sauce, a bit of ground pork, a few sliced green onions, some julienned cucumber and chopped cilantro.

Roast Duck Buns
A trip down to my favorite roast duck joint, King's Barbecue, made this course a breeze.  I got a whole roasted duck which I deboned and sliced into thick pieces.  Before serving, I heated the sliced duck in a pan for a couple of minutes.  Steam the buns, put a little hoisin sauce in each bun, a slice of duck, sliced cucumber and julienned scallions.  

Honey Walnut Shrimp - minus the walnut
Make life easier on yourself and use peeled and deveined shrimp.  These usually come with the tail shell still on.  You will have to remove that part of the shell.  With a sharp knife, slit the back of the shrimp a little further, but be careful not to completely split the shrimp in half.  Making this slit will cause the shrimp to curl and open up when cooked, creating a ball shape which makes for a prettier presentation.  
Beat two egg whites and add in enough corn starch to make a batter.  Toss in the shrimp to coat.  Heat peanut or vegetable oil to 360f and fry the shrimp for 2 or 3 minutes until golden.  Remove from oil and let sit for a minute. Then toss with the honey sauce.
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Condensed Milk
1 Tbsp Honey
2 tsp Lemon Juice
Small pinch of salt
If you like it a little sweeter, add a little more honey.  

Pan Seared Sea Bass, Shiitake Mushrooms, Oyster Sauce Broth
Sea Bass might be my favorite fish.  I love the texture, the richness, and it always seems to cook well for me.  I purchased one larger fillet and sliced it into 3/4" to 1" pieces.  Sprinkle salt and ground white pepper on both sides of the sea bass.  In a large flat saute pan over high heat, place enough vegetable oil to coat bottom of pan.  When the oil begins to smoke, place the fish into the pan and do not crowd or else it won't brown properly.  Turn heat down to medium high and let sear for about a minute.  Then put 4 tablespoons of butter into the pan.  Once it's melted, tilt the pan and continuously ladle the butter over the top of the fish for another 2 minutes or so.  Press the fish with your finger to check for doneness.  It will continue to cook for a little bit after you remove it from the pan.  Drain the fish on paper towels with the top side down and the seared side up.

For the broth, I used the bacon dashi I had made earlier in the week.  I saved it in a jar and froze and defrosted it.  With about a cup or so of dashi, I added 2 tsp of oyster sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, and a few turns of the black pepper mill.  Heat to a boil and it's ready to use.

Slice 8-10 fresh shiitake mushrooms into 1/4" thick pieces.  Saute in vegetable oil and salt.  
Set aside until ready to use.

Take the green parts of a scallion and julienne into very thin pieces.  Soak in cold water.  This kind of takes the strong edge off the green onions and makes them curl up for a nice presentation.  Drain on paper towels. 

Now that I've typed all this out, I realize it is in reverse order.  Cook the sea bass last and prep everything else first.  It requires quick assembly, so make sure you have everything ready to go once your fish is cooked.

Three Cup Chicken
1 1/2 to 2 lbs chicken thighs
5 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
3-4 pieces of ginger in 1/4" thickness
3 scallions cut in half cross wise
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup cooking wine
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Thickening agent of corn starch and water
20 or so Thai basil leaves
This is a household favorite.  It is called Three Cup Chicken because traditionally it is equal parts soy, wine and sugar.  I do not like it as sweet, so I cut the sugar down and add water so I can have extra sauce that is not too salty to have with rice.  My kids will pour it on top like hot fudge on ice cream.  
I usually make this with cut pieces of chicken drumsticks.  But for this dinner, I used boneless chicken thighs for easier eating.  Cut the chicken into 2" pieces.  Blanche in boiling water to remove impurities, blood, etc.  Drain and rinse the chicken.  Heat the sesame oil in a large sauce pan over medium high.  Add in garlic, ginger, scallions and let fry until fragrant.  Then add the chicken, soy, wine, water and sugar.  Bring to a rapid boil, cover and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes.  At this point, you can remove the pan from the heat and set aside until ready to serve, which is what I did.  When ready to serve, bring back to a boil for another 5 minutes.  Add enough thickening agent to make a nice thick sauce that coats the chicken.  Add the basil, stir in until it is just wilted.  Serve with white short grain rice.

Wok Fried Pea Shoots and Pan Fried Shiitake Mushroom
I've written several times about my love for pea shoots.  When you trim them, make sure you use only the tender parts.  I've purchased ones where you can use the whole stalk, and then times where I wind up tossing out two thirds of it.  You can tell by pinching off the leaves.  If it's difficult to pinch the stem off, it's too tough to eat.  Saute in plenty of oil.  I heat the oil over medium high heat, sprinkle salt into the oil before tossing in the pea shoots.  Toss and cook only until the shoots are wilted.  Do not over cook.

Ginger and Scallion Oyster Sauce Beef
1 lb Beef Flap Meat or Flank Steak
6 Scallions, sliced diagonally
1 Tbsp Ginger, julienned
1 1/2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Cooking Wine
Thickening agent of corn starch and water

Slice the beef across the grain.  At Uwajimaya, where I purchased the beef, they sell a cut they called flap meat.  I have not seen it in other markets, but I love it for this type of use.  If you don't find it, flank steak is a good substitute.  They look very similar, but I find flap meat a little more tender for wok frying.  
Heat your wok to smoking hot.  Add about 1 Tbsp of veg oil and toss in the beef.  Fry until almost fully cooked.  Add in the oyster sauce, soy and cooking wine and toss to combine.  Then add in scallions and ginger and fry until scallions are wilted.  Use the corn starch and water mixture to thicken the sauce.  This is a wonderful way to intensify your flavors by thickening the sauce and adhering it to whatever you are cooking.  

The best part of the meal?  The friends of course.  The food is just a fringe benefit.  

Oh, and I have to say thank you, to my friends, for indulging me in my blog and helping me remember to photograph everything.

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