What’s Cookin’?

I haven’t posted a new recipe on the blog for a while but, rest assured, Matt and I are eating well!  We’ve been re-making a lot of our favorite recipes and, quite frankly, I’m finding less motivation to try new recipes since we know we can throw together a garlicky pasta dish, flavorful stir fry, or quick rotisserie chicken burrito in less than a hour with delicious results.  Here are some of the dishes that we’ve been enjoying this Spring…  (mouse over for a link to each recipe)

This Spring has been pretty hectic with traveling, racing, and LOTS of yard work, but I have a feeling that things will slow down soon and we’ll find ourselves paging through our trusty cook books in search of new recipes to try.  We’d like to try smoking something (ribs? brisket?) this Summer and maybe try a grilled Romaine recipe.  I also definitely want to make Paella and I’d like to start making more desserts (cobblers and crumbles, anyone?).  I better start looking at those cookbooks!!

Do you have any go-to Summer recipes that you love making at this time of year?  Tell me about them (and feel free to link to them) in the comments!

Chicken Lo Mein

This past weekend was our first free weekend since before our wedding! No DockDogs events, no traveling, no commitments… just time to ourselves! We celebrated by sleeping in both days, going out to lunch together (because we slept through breakfast) and watching hours of the British Open and Tour de France. I also did a lot of running on our brand new treadmill and Matt started a construction project that involved cutting open our bedroom wall in multiple spots… more on those events in a future post!

For dinner on Saturday we made a new recipe from our trusty cookbook, Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge. I know I’ve said this before but this cookbook is AWESOME! In addition to savory recipes like Kung Pao Chicken and Hot Pepper Beef, this book is also full of helpful cooking techniques, information about ingredients and a whole tutorial on how to select and care for your wok. We have always been amazed by how great the recipes from this book turn out and Saturday’s dinner of Chicken Lo Mein was no exception. Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Chicken Lo Mein

Chicken Lo Mein with Ginger Mushrooms (from Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young)

You will need…
12 oz. fresh thick Egg Noodles*
2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
12 oz. boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs, cut into 1/4″ thick bite-sized slices
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely shredded (cut into tiny matchstick-like pieces)
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Rice Wine or Dry Sherry, divided
1 teaspoon Cornstarch
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce, divided
1 teaspoon Salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon Ground White Pepper
2 tablespoons Peanut Oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
3 cups Napa Cabbage, thinly sliced
4 oz. Shiitake Mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
1/2 cup Scallions, finely shredded (try using a Negi cutter to shred the scallion into even threads)
*We couldn’t find egg noodles so we used a package of Kame Stir-Fry Hokkien Noodles that we simply microwaved to heat up.

Cook or heat up your noodles until al dente according to the package instructions. If using fresh noodles that you have to cook in boiling water, drain the cooked noodles and rinse several times with cold water. Place the cooked noodles in a bowl and stir in the sesame oil. Set aside.

Combine the chicken, ginger, 1 teaspoon rice wine, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the white pepper in a small bowl. In another small bowl combine the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine and 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Heat a wok over high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and add the red pepper flakes. Stir fry for 10 seconds then push the flakes to the sides of the wok and add the chicken mixture. Spread the chicken evenly on the bottom of the wok and allow to cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute, then stir fry the chicken for another 30 seconds or until it starts to brown. Add in the cabbage and mushrooms and stir fry for 1 minute or until the cabbage wilts. Transfer the wok contents to a plate.

Pour the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil into the wok then add in the noodles and stir fry for 15 seconds. Stir in the rice wine/soy sauce mixture and add the scallions, chicken mixture, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Lo Mein Close Up

Chicken Lo Mein Dinner

Shanghai Noodles

Shanghai Noodles

When Matt and I were in college we were lucky enough to live 5 minutes away from a wonderful Chinese restaurant called Sang Kee Asian Bistro. Sang Kee specializes in noodle dishes and it quickly became our favorite restaurant. After college we moved away from Sang Kee but, as luck would have it, a brand new Sang Kee opened up right down the road from our house and we were able to satisfy our need for tasty Chinese noodle dishes once again.

Unfortunately the local Sang Kee didn’t do very well in its new location and it closed about a year ago. We had been going about our lives feeling rather noodle-deprived until last week when we realized that we should just try to make our own version of a Sang Kee dish! (Eureka!) We decided to make one of my favorites, Shanghai Noodles, and, after a quick web search to consult some recipes, came up with the following tasty dish. Enjoy!

Shanghai Noodles (adapted from the recipe on Cooking With Alison)

You will need…
1-2 tablespoons Peanut Oil
2 packed cups of Cabbage, cut into slices (approx. 2” long by 1/4″ thick)
2 Carrots, sliced into long, skinny sticks (approx. 2” long by 1/8” wide)
Splash of Dry Sherry
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin, sliced into thin strips (2-3” long by 1/2” wide by 1/8” thick)
1 bunch Green Onions, cut into 2 inch pieces (plus some thinly sliced as a garnish)
3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce
2-3 “pinches” of Ground White Pepper
1 lb. freshly cooked and drained Udon Noodles (these are fat, white noodles, see below*)
1 1/2 teaspoons Sesame Oil

Stir-frying the Pork and Veggies

Before beginning, make sure that all of your ingredients are prepped as described above. Heat up a wok over medium-high heat and coat with peanut oil. Add the cabbage and carrots and stir fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the sherry and add the sliced pork. Continue to stir constantly for 1-2 minutes until the pork is just cooked through then add the green onions and stir. Add the soy sauce, white pepper and noodles and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil. If desired, garnish the finished dish with thinly sliced green onions.

Shanghai Noodles 2

*A note on Udon Noodles – Dry/uncooked Udons are sold in larger grocery stores, but I’ve found that they are much thinner than the noodles that Sang Kee serves. Therefore, we resorted to buying 4 packages of Japanese-style Udon soups that each included a vacuum-pack of flexible, fat Udon noodles and a dried soup flavoring packet. We discarded the flavoring packets and, after combining the 4 packs of noodles together and boiling them for 2-3 minutes in a pot of water, found them to be a good substitute for the Sang Kee noodles. I’m sure there must be an easier way than this but we haven’t found it yet!

Shanghai Noodles 1

Cumin-Scented Beef Stir Fry with Vegetables

I love my 14 inch carbon steel wok. Yup, I said it – LOVE!! Matt gave me a wok last year for my birthday and our old 12 inch frying pan has barely touched the stove since. We are constantly using the wok for a variety of culinary tasks such as sautéing peppers and onions, frying bacon, concocting the ideal combination of sausage and pasta, browning taco meat, and, of course, making delicious Asian stir fries.

If you want to learn more about woks and the yummy creations that can be made in them, I recommend that you invest $23 to buy Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young. In addition to featuring dozens of delicious recipes with full color photos, this book includes several pages of clear, concise instructions that cover techniques like seasoning a wok, slicing fresh ginger, shredding scallions, and properly cutting a variety of meats and poultry.

We’ve spent the last year honing our stir frying skills on several of the recipes in the book including Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Lamb, and Hot Pepper Beef. Here’s the recipe for our latest dinner from the cookbook: Cumin-Scented Beef with Cauliflower, Carrots, Tomatoes and Green Onions… yum!!

Cumin-Scented Beef Stir Fry with Vegetables (from Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge)

You will need…
12 oz. Flank Steak, cut against the grain into ¼ in wide strips
1 tablespoon Corn Starch
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons Dry Sherry (or Rice Wine if you have it)
1 tablespoon Peanut Oil
1 ½ cups Canola Oil
1 tablespoon Garlic, Minced
½ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 cup Cauliflower Florets, cut into bit-sized pieces
½ cup Carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
¾ teaspoon Salt, divided
1 teaspoon Cumin
½ cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
10 oz. Cooked White Rice

Combine the beef, corn starch, soy sauce, sherry, and peanut oil in a bowl and mix well. Heat the canola oil in a flat-bottomed wok over high heat until the oil is 280°F. (We used our normal meat thermometer to check the oil heat.) Add the beef to the oil and spread it evenly in a single layer on the bottom of the wok. Cook until the outside surface of the beef is just starting to change color, about 15 seconds, and then remove the wok from the heat. Carefully extract the beef from the oil with a kitchen skimmer and place on a paper-towel-lined plate.

Pour the oil into a large cup or bowl and set aside. Clean and thoroughly dry the wok and the return to the stove over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved oil along with the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir fry for 20 seconds or until aromatic. Add the cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and stir fry 2-3 minutes. Add in the cumin and stir fry for 5 seconds. Return the beef to the wok and stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and green onions. Stir fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute until beef is cooked through and ingredients are well combined. Serve with rice and enjoy!

Hot Pepper Beef

Who knew flank steak could be so delicious?!   I had heard of flank steak before but I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t actually ever cooked with it until a few months ago when we first tried this recipe.  Now we’re hooked!  In this stir fry, the flank steak takes center stage amidst a variety of green veggies in a sweet and spicy hoisin sauce.  The steak is juicy, tender, and flavorful and is light years beyond the rubbery, tasteless “steak strips” that you see pre-packaged in the supermarket.

This recipe comes from our awesome Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge cookbook by Grace Young.  We tweaked the original recipe to add the fresh green beans and garlic scapes that I picked in our garden earlier this week.  Enjoy!

Hot Pepper Beef Stir Fry with Green Beans and Scapes (serves 2)

You will need…
12 ounces Flank Steak, cut with the grain into 1/4″ thick x 2″ long slices
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
3/4 teaspoons Salt, divided
1/8 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Dry Sherry
1 tablespoon Ketchup
2 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
1/2 cup Red Onion, thinly sliced
3 quarter-sized slices of Ginger, smashed
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Handful Green Beans, trimmed
3 Garlic Scapes, cut into 3-4 inch pieces
Peanut Oil
1 Green Bell Pepper, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 10 ounce package Jasmine Rice from Trader Joe’s, cooked

Combine the steak, garlic, cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, black pepper, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the sherry, and 2 teaspoons cold water.  Stir well to coat the meat.  In a separate bowl or measuring cup, combine the ketchup, hoisin sauce, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sherry.  In yet another bowl, combine the red onion, ginger, and crushed red pepper.  Place the green beans and garlic scapes in (yes, another) bowl.

Green beans and garlic scapes from my garden made a nice addition to this recipe.

Heat a wok over high heat until a drop of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds.  Add a tablespoon of the peanut oil, swirl around the wok, and add the steak to the wok.  Spread the steak evenly over the bottom of the wok and let it sear undisturbed for 1 minute.  Then stir fry the steak for 1 minute and transfer it to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok, swirl, and add the onion mixture.  Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the green bean/scape mixture and continue to stir fry for 1 minute.  Add the green pepper, stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the steak and any accumulated juices back to the wok.  Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the ketchup mixture and stir fry for 30 seconds until the steak is just cooked through.  Remove from heat and serve over rice.

Chicken Fried Rice

Fried Rice is one of the many dishes that Matt and I have wanted to master (or at least become proficient at making) since we got our wok back in November.  We tried a fried rice recipe a few months ago but it was over-seasoned with white pepper (the smell of white pepper still makes me cringe!) and definitely not what we were hoping for.  We were just talking about how we should try making fried rice again when, coincidentally, Danny from Danny’s Kitchen posted a tasty-looking recipe for chicken fried rice.  I immediately decided that we’d try Danny’s recipe and I’m happy to report that it was delicious!

Making fried rice takes some forethought because the rice should be made a few days in advance and then refrigerated.  I don’t have a rice cooker (though it’s sounding more and more like a gadget that I should get… maybe for our wedding?) so I cheated by microwaving some Trader Joe’s frozen jasmine rice on Tuesday and storing it until today.  For the veggies, I used raw carrots instead of frozen ones since that’s all I had.  I cooked the raw carrot with the frozen vegetables which left the carrots fairly crunchy and hard.  If I were to use raw carrots again I would steam them slightly before adding them to the wok to ensure that they ended up with a softer texture.

Chicken Fried Rice (also check out the original recipe on Danny’s Kitchen!)

You will need…
2 – 10 oz. packages frozen Trader Joe’s Jasmine Rice (cooked 2 days prior and stored in a sealed container in the fridge)
Peanut Oil
2 cloves Garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1/2 medium Yellow Onion, finely diced
1 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 3/4″ cubes
2 Eggs, whisked together in a small bowl
Approx. 3/4 cup frozen vegetables (I used about 1/4 cup frozen peas, 1/4 cup frozen corn, and 3 chopped carrots since I didn’t have frozen carrots)
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce

Heat up your wok over medium-high heat and add about a tablespoon of peanut oil.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and onions and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Push the garlic and onions to the perimeter of the wok and add the chicken in one layer in the bottom of the wok.  Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute, then stir fry the chicken until it is cooked through.  Remove the chicken, garlic and onions from the wok and set aside.

Add more oil to the wok if needed, then add the whisked eggs and cook until they are scrambled.  Remove and set aside.  Add more oil again if needed, then add the rice and stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Add the frozen vegetables and the soy sauce, then stir fry for 8 minutes.  Add the egg and chicken back into the wok and stir fry for an additional 3-5 minutes until heated through.  Season with extra soy sauce to taste and enjoy!

Kung Pao Chicken

Last Fall Matt and I decided that we wanted to learn how to stir fry. We got a great cook book, a brand new 14 inch carbon steel wok, and what seemed like dozens of various sauces, oils and seasonings. Since then we’ve made several recipes and all of them have had a much fresher and more authentic taste than any jarred stir-fry sauce that we had tasted in the past. Our favorite stir fry so far has been the Kung Pao Chicken. It may look like there are a lot of ingredients (because, well, there are!) but it is definitely worth it!

This posting is not really a recipe because I’m not actually listing the exact quantities of each ingredient. If you are interested in making this stir fry I recommend that you purchase the cook book that we use – “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” by Grace Young. This book is great because it not only has delicious recipes like Mongolian Lamb, Hoisin Pork, Hot Pepper Beef, and Kung Pao Chicken, it also has detailed information about stir fry food prep and techniques (seasoning a wok, mincing garlic, shredding scallions… all of those skills you never knew you needed until you tried to make a “real” stir fry!). The book is well-written and the recipes are delicious and I highly recommend it.

Kung Pao Chicken

Here are the many, many ingredients that you will need: (I’m not listing quantities here – you should check out the cook book to find them!)
Chicken Breast, cut into cubes
Minced Ginger
Minced Garlic
Soy Sauce (use wheat-free soy sauce for a g-free recipe)
Dry Sherry (or Shao Hsing Rice Wine)
Chicken Broth
Balsamic Vinegar (or Chinkiang Vinegar)
Dark Soy Sauce
Sesame Oil
Peanut Oil
Red Chili Peppers OR Chili-Garlic Sauce (that’s our one addition to this recipe… it tastes good though!)
Sichuan Peppercorns (Update: we mail-ordered these from Spices, Inc. with great results)
Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
Unsalted Roasted Peanuts
Minced Scallions
Cooked White Rice

Just a few of the many ingredients you will need!

Combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt and cold water. In another smaller bowl or measuring cup combine the chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and the rest of the rice wine. In yet another small bowl, combine the remaining sugar and salt and add the scallions and peanuts. Now you are ready to start stir frying!

Now you’re ready to start stir frying!

Heat your wok on high heat and swirl in half of the peanut oil. Add the chilis (or chili garlic sauce, in our case) and Sichuan peppercorns and stir fry for approximately 1 minute until chilis begin to smoke. Push the chili mixture aside and add the chicken. Spread the chicken in one layer on the bottom of the wok and cook for 1 minute undisturbed, then stir-fry for an additional minute.

Kung Pao Chicken

Swirl the remaining peanut oil into the wok and add the red bell peppers. Stir fry for 1 minute, then swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir fry for another minute. Add the peanut-scallion mixture and stir fry for a final 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve over white rice.