Category Archives: chinese

The F Word

Hot and Sour Soup and Pike Place Chinese Cuisine

Click here to listen to me talking about hot and sour soup on KUOW.
Recipes are down below.

Hot and sour soup isn’t the prettiest, or even the second-prettiest soup there is. In fact, if I had to curate a list of beautiful soups, it would be miles below pho and chicken noodle, pasta e fagiole and tom yum. Hot and sour soup looks like dirty nothing in a bowl.

At least, that’s what I thought, before I got to know it. I guess it’s a soup like some people, that way – it’s easy to pigeonhole and walk away from, if you don’t know any better.

I grew up “hating” hot and sour soup, which means I’d never tasted it. (I hated a lot of things, including, but not limited to, anything with spice, foreign flavors, or ingredients whose entire preparation I didn’t personally witness from start to finish.) At Chinese restaurants, my family ordered a big bowl to share, and I ordered egg drop soup. The waitress would rattle her cart to our table and hold my lone bowl up accusingly, as if to ask Who ordered the boring soup?

Me. It was always me.

A few weeks ago, I came very close to doing the same thing, because I enjoy the simplicity of egg drop soup, and because it’s what I’ve always ordered. But for whatever reason – perhaps because I wasn’t really paying attention, or maybe because I am now An Adult Who Likes Things – I hopped on the hot and sour bandwagon, along with the rest of the table. And I tasted my new favorite soup for the first time.

I know. That f-word. It’s a bit of a shock to see it on the screen, even. I’m not a big fan of favorites. I go for change, and variety, and different every time. But this soup, people. If I count correctly, I’ve had hot and sour soup nine times in two weeks. Nine times. (Obsess much?)

The thing is, it’s worth obsessing over. Don’t look at it; taste it. Sip a spoonful, and the first thing you’ll notice is the texture – a bit of cornstarch makes it silky, almost satiny. It glosses over the tongue in a way few Western foods can, every drop somehow fatter and smoother. If you’re lucky enough to get a bit of soft, ribbony egg (and were lucky enough, in the first place, to pick a soup whose preparer got the egg to bloom up just right, like in the photo above), it glides across your palate. Then there are the cloud ear mushrooms, which don’t really taste like much, but have a lovely crunch, like some sort of terrestrial seaweed. (They supposedly improve circulation, too.) There are lily buds, with their vegetal, almost artichoke-like flavor. (Bet you didn’t even notice them the first time.) And then . . . then. . . there’s the clean, astringent hot of white pepper, and the brisk, bracing vinegar flavor.

Of course, there are endless variations. I tried rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, and a mixture of various vinegars. (I think I like white vinegar the best, because its flavor is stronger than rice vinegar but not too fruity.) There’s also whatever else the cook feels like adding – little gifts, like chunks of tofu, or pork, or carrot, or chili. I’d been tasting soups everywhere, trying to figure out, since I’d never been down the hot and sour soup road, what I liked. More tofu? More pork? More hot? More sour?

Then, gazing out the windows at the rain on the Sound at Pike Place Chinese Cuisine one day, slurping the bowl above, I had a BFO: I could probably make hot and sour soup myself. At home.

Hot and sour is, after all, a rather homey thing. Traditionally made with the most humble ingredients – dried staples, small bits of meat  – it’s a soup made with leftovers. They just might not be the leftovers you have in your kitchen.

I scurried around Pike Place Market, collecting ingredients. (You can get everything there.) I made a few traditional versions first, relying on recipes from Grace Young, Mark Bittman, and Susanna Foo, until I learned what combination of flavors I liked.

As it turns out, I’m sort of greedy. I like a healthy combination of tofu and pork – more than one usually finds in restaurant versions of hot and sour soup – and more than anything, I like a soup made with good, homemade stock. I like to tinker with the pepper and vinegar, until I get it just right. And I like to eat my hot and sour soup right when it’s fallen just below scorching, screaming hot – which is to say, immediately.

I also like the version I made using what’s available now at farmers’ markets here in Seattle – Northwest leftovers and pantry staples, if you will, like dried porcini mushrooms, and kale, and carrots.

Only problem now is deciding which one’s my favorite. Time for bowl number ten.

Homemade hot and sour soup

Hot and Sour Soup (PDF)

Northwest Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup (PDF)


Filed under chinese, farmer's market, gluten-free, Lunch, pork, radio, recipe, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

A way with leftovers

thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving really was was all that: Four women, more or less, buzzing around in the same in same six square feet in an otherwise very large kitchen, like bees in a blender with the top wide open. We chopped and spooned and buttered and mixed, smelled and tasted and barked and laughed. In a fit of last-minute organization, my mother taped all our recipes to an easel, which was genius, because it prevented people from actually entering the kitchen to find out what we were making, or how much garlic we planned to sneak into the mashed potatoes, or whether we really did have all the ingredients for sweet potato pie. We limited our six trips to the grocery store to before noon on Thursday, which seemed like a major accomplishment, and round about 4 p.m., the turkey came out brown and beaming.

the thanksgiving board

My brother didn’t help much, unless you count plying people with scotch and herding them out of the kitchen, which, come to think of it, is about as important a job as any. (Thank you.) He also lead the pie attack. Twelve of us polished off three pies in not much more than 24 hours, which makes me proud to be a Howe.

pie line-up

But he saved his culinary efforts for leftovers.

Josh doesn’t cook by the book. (He couldn’t. He doesn’t own a single cookbook.)

There’s no problem there – his food is delicious, and he clearly loves making it. And instead of teaching himself to cook in a methodically guided way – picking, say, one ethnicity to learn about, or one dish to perfect – he scampers from country to country, digging into favorites without any regard for how much knowledge he might have previously gathered about a given cuisine.

I think it’s admirable. No one should need a passport or a pedigree to cook new food.

The day after Thanksgiving, he and my sister woke up with a mission: They were determined to make congee with our turkey leftovers.

I, for one, had never had congee. Ever. I get to a dim sum restaurant, and the call of fried or strangely wiggly food far outstrips any curiosity about plain ol’ rice porridge. But Josh is apparently a new devotee, and my sis, who’s started weekly pilgrimages to discover all of Seattle’s dim sum, isn’t far behind.

It was 9:30 last Friday morning, and we’d already had breakfast. (Not that that matters to me these days. I can eat three or four breakfasts without blinking.) I left for a walk with my cousin and grandmother, and by the time we came back, the house smelled like he’d put a turkey in a rice cooker – all the starchy heaviness of a permeating rice aroma, plus the deep, almost fatty scent of dark meat turkey, and a whiff of ginger.

I won’t lie. I didn’t do a thing. I just walked right over to the pot, and scooped some into one of the bowls my sister made recently. It tasted calm and comforting, like a bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal with Thanksgiving stirred in.

For the record, I hear this is much more fun to make if you call them shit-talking mushrooms.

turkey congee 2

Post-Thanksgiving Congee (PDF)

It’s a week after Thanksgiving, and the only thing you have left to show for it is half a container of dried out dark meat and the turkey stock you don’t really want to save ‘til next November? Don’t throw either out. My brother’s congee, patterned after the rice porridge frequently eaten as breakfast in some Asian cultures, is a bit unorthodox – but delicious, and ideal for weekend brunch on a cold day.

TIME: 2 hours, start to finish
MAKES: 8 servings

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
8 cups homemade turkey stock
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 bunch scallions, white and stiff green parts
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into quarter-sized rounds
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, quartered
2 cups shredded leftover turkey (preferably dark meat)

Place the rice in a large liquid measuring cup and add water to measure 5 cups. Transfer the rice mixture to a large, heavy soup pot, add the stock and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Cut 3 of the scallions into 2” lengths and smash them flat with the side of a heavy knife. Add them to the rice, too. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and garlic, plus a cup of water, and cook another 30 minutes. Add the shiitake mushrooms, and another cup of water, and cook 30 minutes more.

Slice the remaining scallions into thin rounds. Stir the turkey into the congee and cook for 5 minutes or so (just long enough to warm it through). Serve the porridge hot, garnished with scallions.


Filed under Breakfast, chicken, chinese, grains, kitchen adventure, leftovers, recipe, soup


At 2 a.m., my husband woke up yelling.

“What do you mean, the instruments aren’t running? What the hell happened?”

He sprung upright, cursed his (fantastic) intern, and made to get dressed.

“Jim, it’s over,” I soothed, trying to pull him back into bed without laughing. “It’s over. It’s done. Your experiment is done. You have data. You’re at home.”

It took a few minutes to convince him going back to bed was the best option.

This morning, he didn’t think it was quite as funny as I did. He reminded me that I’m normally the one who wakes up hawking jibberish. Last time it was something about sautéing the alphabet, which is a pretty accurate metaphor for my life, but still crazy.

After months of anticipation, we’re on the far side of what was undeniably the biggest week of our summer. But it’s over, all of it: Jim’s fieldwork, a carefully crafted plan that’s been in various stages of preparation for more than a year. My parents’ eight-day visit, timed around my 30th birthday, if I’m feeling selfish, or around my sister’s start at the University of Washington, if I’m feeling honest. Also done? Our Seattle not-really-summer, if the gloves I wore on our morning walk today are any indication, and my first real garden. (And, as it turns out, my oven. Again.)

It started with the birthday, of course. We had breakfast at Pete’s Egg Nest, our neighborhood favorite, then moved Allison into the most impossibly small triple dorm room known to man. Must have been quite the sight, twelve of us making sure three fully capable women had properly made beds, and enough hangers, and functioning dry-erase boards chock full of telephone numbers, should they all spontaneously combust and forget how to function without their mothers. Through all the bumping and sorrying and shy debating over what went where, I thought oh god, did I really ever live in one room with another person? I could touch all three of their beds at the same time, for goodness’ sake. The whole set-up seems ripe for head injury, not to mention emotional damage.

Tasting cupcakes!

But they seemed happy as clams, those three, so we left them, and had me a little bit of a birthday party at Oliver’s Twist, with 30 of Seattle’s very best cupcakes. (Really – is there any contest? Might as well call each and every one of them a trophy. That’s why there were considerably more than one per person.) There was great wine, and the kind of crisp-edged, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches that make a person wonder why we eat anything else for dinner, ever. My mother got tipsy, and my grandmother said embarrassing things. Then somehow, later, there were margaritas involved, and tequila shots, without the mother and grandmother.

And then it was over.

There never was a big epiphany. (Believe me, I haven’t matured a hair.)

But there was one moment – when my friends were singing and sharing cupcakes, and my parents looked young and healthy, and I felt like a million bucks wearing a flouncy pink dress that matched my grandmother’s shirt – when I felt a little bit invincible. It’s been a good summer. I’ve felt physically stronger than I have in a long time, and between friends and food and family, turning thirty made me feel just plain rich.

But now, it’s over.

It’s always this way, after my birthday. September 1st comes around a dark corner without any headlights on, and by the time I react, it’s tucked back in my blind spot, where I won’t find it again for an entire year.

Our first apples!

Yesterday, we decided to mark the end of summer with a harvest. We picked apples, all twenty or so from the wonky little espalier in the front yard. We pulled up the onions and beets, and gathered the cherry and pear tomatoes that have had enough sun to plump up colorful. It was bittersweet: Part of me smugged at how much I’d grown, my first year in that little plot in the back, and part of me sagged, realizing that now the apples and onions are in my blind spot, too, and that I’ll have to wait twelve more months to do what amounted to about eight minutes of picking again. I haven’t even begun to think about what I’ll do differently next year, but I’ll certainly plant more progressively. Sort of feels like I sent all my vegetables off to college at once. Besides those evergreen tomatoes, who’s left to mother?

And now, of course, there’s a different kind of responsibility. I can’t just go wasting a beet, if I only have 9 of them. I have to do the right thing, the first time. (Enter larger discussion on food values here. Summary: Growing your own increases awareness. Try it.)

Freshly dug carrots

My best garden surprise, and the crop that weighs heaviest with mustcookrightness, is a whole pound of sweet, crunchy carrots.

When my parents were here, my father asked how my carrots were doing. I’d failed to thin them out at the beginning of the season. I didn’t realize you had to, and then by the time their bushy little tops got about 4 inches tall, I felt guilty plucking them out of the ground, so I left them, and forgot about them altogether.

But Dad, he had to ask. “They’re small,” I said succinctly, and we moved on.

I was wrong.

Guess I thought carrots gophered their little heads out when they were ready. The greens had matured by yesterday, but since there wasn’t a speck of orange in sight, I’d assumed I had carrot threads, the babiest little specimens, instead of real vegetables. But they’re not baby carrots. They’re borderline adolescent carrots, or perhaps even real adult carrots, if the note on the package stipulating their expected stature can be believed.

Last night, we invited my sister over for Chinese food. (For practice, I should repeat my discovery: She’s not visiting. She lives in Seattle.)

It was quite a thrill, just picking up the phone in the middle of a bike ride like that, knowing I might very well see her two hours later. (Yesterday, I had my first-ever Power Gel. It’s been a long, long time since I tried to eat something without tasting it, but if I keep this biking thing up, I may have to get used to it. They’re vile. I planned our dinner in my head while we whizzed down Magnolia Boulevard, as a sort of atonement. Forgive me, for I have eaten notfood.)

Starting soy-glazed carrots 1

Allison sat at the counter while I cooked, listening to me rant about the broken oven, watching me roll the carrots over and over as I simmered them with chili and garlic, willing their wrinkles to accept a spicy counterpart to their sweet interiors.

“Have you ever stir-fried before?” I asked. She’d helped me prepare beef and vegetables for a supposedly spicy Szechuan dish, and I caught her staring at my empty wok, probably wondering why I had the heat on but nothing inside.

“I didn’t even know it was a verb,” she answered.

I explained how it goes quickly, especially on a stove with oomph, and as she watched me dump chilies and garlic and ginger into hot oil, September felt a lot more like a beginning than an ending.

It’s funny, how we mark time with birthdays and months and seasons, when the ending of one only really means the beginning of another. Our apples are in a basket on the counter, and the tree looks awfully naked, but the possibility of pie looms large. My garden is empty, but my tomato neighbor has begun striking. My parents have left, but my sister stays here. (Which means I can invite her over for stir-fry again. Only next time, it will actually be spicy.)

So yes, maybe summer is almost over.

I, for one, am thrilled.

Stir-fry dinner 1

Soy-Glazed Carrots with Chili and Garlic (PDF)

It’s not every day you meet a simmered carrot that tastes right eaten off a chopstick. But these babies – simmered with fiery chilies, so just a touch of heat finds its way into the vegetable’s nooks and crannies – are just that, carrots that feel right at home next to your favorite stir-fry and a pile of great brown rice. The heat plays best off sweet, freshly-dug carrots, which are smaller if they come from my garden, but you could also cut fat specimens in half crosswise, then cut the thick part in half again lengthwise.

TIME: 5 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1/2 pound garden carrots (roughly 1” around at the thick end), tops trimmed
1 small Thai chili, split lengthwise
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Place the carrots, chili, and garlic in a large skillet in a single layer and fill with water to just cover the carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and cook at a strong simmer, turning occasionally, until carrots are just tender when pierced with a skewer (about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your carrots).

Using a large lid, drain off any remaining liquid. Decrease heat to low, add soy sauce and sesame oil, and cook until liquid has reduced and glazes carrots, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Glazing carrots

P.S. My oven is running extremely slow. The recipe for last week’s Ginger Shatters may require less oven time. If you give them try, please let others know how long yours take.


Filed under chinese, recipe, side dish, vegetables

Ninja night

Pork and broccoli stir-fry

Pork and Broccoli Stir-Fry (PDF)
Recipe 363 of 365

What with the new TSA requirements, it’s getting harder and harder to show off your Ninja skills to the family over the Christmas holidays. Save your stuff for stir-fry night. Get the rice cooked and all the ingredients chopped before you even start heating the pan, then gather everyone around, and work fast.

TIME: 30 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 4 servings

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons sambal oelek (or Chinese chili sauce)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons freshly grated (or very finely chopped) ginger
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thin
1 pound pork, sliced thin for stir-fry, fat trimmed
1 pound broccoli, florets cut off and chopped into bite-sized pieces, stalks reserved for another use
6 scallions, chopped into 1” segments
Cooked white or brown rice, for serving

In a small bowl, mix the soy, sesame oil, sambal oelek, cornstarch, ginger, and water together until smooth. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat. When hot, begin working quickly: Add the oil, then the garlic, and swirl the pan once. Add the onion slices, and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, until the onion begins to soften. Add the pork, and cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and scallions, and cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Stir the soy mixture again until smooth, then pour over the pork and broccoli mixture, and cook, stirring, for another minute or so, until the sauce thickens and coats all the ingredients. Serve immediately, over rice.

stir-frying pork and broccoli

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Filed under chinese, pork, recipe, vegetables

Eat with your hands

I find eating with my hands so gratifying. I’m not sure whether it’s just that I don’t do it as frequently as perhaps I should, so I’m not used to the textural experience, or if it’s because it makes me feel like I’m doing something a little naughty. Either way, I love it. Try wrapping big, healthy lettuce leaves around juicy stir-fried pork tenderloin and vermicelli, and I think you’ll agree.

preparing rolls

Peanut Pork and Vermicelli Summer Wraps (PDF)
Recipe 228 of 365

This recipe, inspired by one in the June 2006 issue of Gourmet Magazine, is relatively flexible: make it as is, or omit the peanut butter, or add an Asian chili sauce to the pork, for some heat. Serve wrapped in lettuce, as I do here, or pile the pork mixture over rice or just over chopped lettuce. And be sure to prepare appropriately: have all ingredients chopped before you turn on the stovetop.

TIME: 35 minutes
MAKES: 3 to 4 servings

2 small (50 grams each) packages vermicelli (bean thread noodles)
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
6 scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced, then divided in half
1 pound pork tenderloin, chopped into 1/2” pieces
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup bottled teriyaki sauce (such as Trader Joe’s Soyaki)
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
Asian chili sauce, such as sriracha, to taste (optional)
12 large lettuce leaves (Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Oak Leaf, or French Crisp work well)

Prepare the vermicelli according to package instructions. Rinse well with cold water after softening and set aside in a strainer to drip dry.

(This is what my package looked like:)

Rice vermicelli

Heat a large skillet (or wok) over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the oil, then add the ginger, garlic, and half the scallions. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then add the pork, and cook, stirring and breaking the pieces of meat apart, for 2 minutes, or until almost no pink remains. Add the water chestnuts and teriyaki sauce, and simmer until the sauce is very thick and caramel-like, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the peanut butter, and season with sriracha, if desired. Stir in the remaining scallions.

To assemble, arrange a small handful of noodles and a few scoops of the peanut-pork mixture inside a lettuce leaf (along the spine of the leaf, so that when you roll it the spine doesn’t break), and roll it up like a burrito.

Summer Roll Taco

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Filed under appetizers, chinese, Pasta, pork, recipe, stir-fry

I saw the sign

Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve appreciated them.

Here’s what’s happened in the (almost) two days since that conversation: Two quesadillas. Made by Tito. A two-hour nap. Lots of very productive work time. A long, luxuriously slow dinner at El Gaucho, which I’ll tell you about later. Ate some chocolate. (But, um, not in that order.) Egg burrito for breakfast. Made by Tito. Two articles came out; I finished three others. Turned two small pieces down, took on one bigger article. (Notice: I didn’t take all three.) Leftovers for lunch. Trip to the gym today, followed by another nap. More writing. No cooking. No recipes written. Some thinking.

As is almost always the case, the best thoughts come to me when pen and paper are the farthest away. I jumped onto the ellyptical machine and S.O.S. came blasting through my ear buds. S.O.S. indeed, I thought. I gave myself thirty minutes to make up my mind. I turned the machine to an easy setting and felt its gentle motion begin to loosen up my spine.

I opened Arthritis Today (yes, I’m a faithful A.T. reader, no laughing) to a piece that caught my eye: Express Yourself, said the header. Ease pain and boost immune function with expressive journaling. A whole article on how writing about your feelings can ease your symptoms. Well hey, isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Might explain why I get so dang verbose when I’m not feeling great. Hogwash is good for my health. I turned the page. Rihanna crooned.

I could care less about losing those last ten pounds or finding the right slingbacks for summer, but A.T. can sure drag me in with their headlines. Bounce back after a setback, it said. Don’t get sidelined by a good flare. I started reading, the words wobbling up and down with my cadence, and sure enough, an achievement psychologist from nowhere other than Seattle named Dan Tripps had something to say about setting and reassessing goals. Is this a sign? I wondered.

“Goals should be adaptable,” said Dr. Tripps. And “continuity is critical for sustaining momentum.” Oh, and “stick to your schedule.”

Adaptability. Continuity. Oh, Dr. T., how did you know? Both of these things are important. So I’ll continue. But I’ll adapt. I’ll keep going, but allow more silly things. Cocktails. Leftovers. The perfect grilled cheese sandwich. And I’m going to take help, if you want to give it.

It turns out my husband has a thing or two he needs to get off his chest in the recipe department, too. I may share a recipe or two of his for beer – “Seattleite” was his latest, a good pale ale – or perhaps slugs, the lumpy mounds of baked dough he likes to make with leftover pie crust. The recipe starts, “Have your wife make a pie. Ask her to save the extra dough for you.”

See? That’ll be two for one. Adapting.

I did like hearing from you.

You pointed out things I hadn’t thought of, like the fact that I seemed to have set up an equation where I either did Project or Proposal, never considering that part of the reason my enthusiasm for this project might be flagging is that I have the wrong equation to begin with. Health-wise, pulling the proverbial throttle back on hogwash and replacing it with something else would be, well, not exactly forward progress, in spoon terms. I admit, you’re right.

Arthritis Today gave me a few more pointers, too. (Except SOCK SCIENCE: In Pursuit of the Perfect Sock. I skipped that one.) That I’m young, for example. Sure, it’s a goal, but there is no ticking time bomb on a cookbook, and I doubt I’ll become measurably less creative in the next ten years, much less in the next six months.

I also read a piece about a woman my age with rheumatoid arthritis, about her struggles with her dream to complete a marathon. To my absolute horror, I felt a tear trickle down my face. In the gym. Thank goodness no one does cardio on sunny Friday afternoons.

I guess the other thing that’s occurred to me is that I don’t necessarily have to have an answer: Why am I doing this? Who cares? I’m doing it.

Yes, I’m doing it. If I hiccup somewhere along the way, so be it. You’ll forgive me. If you have an original recipe to send me, meaning YOU wrote it, by all means, send it along. You never know when I’ll have another bout of self-doubt.

Plus, I just got this new lens for my camera (way on sale!) . . . and you’ll only stand for so many photos of my dog.

Chicken with Rosemary-Garlic Cream

Recipe for Chicken with Rosemary-Garlic Cream
Recipe 180 of 365

I once had an instructor in culinary school who said, “fat equals flavor,” over and over in each class. “Fat equals flavah, people!” This recipe isn’t short on either. And it’s a good test for your toothpaste.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 2 servings

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the oil, and swirl to coat. Add the chicken, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes per side (undisturbed), depending on the thickness of the meat.

Scoot the chicken to the sides of the pan, and place the butter in the center. When melted, stir the garlic and rosemary into the butter, and let cook for about a minute, stirring. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, increase the heat to high, and simmer the cream until thick enough to coat the chicken, about 2 or 3 minutes, turning the chicken in the sauce as it cooks down.

Serve the chicken hot, topped with the remaining sauce.


Filed under chinese, commentary, recipe

The last braise

Raw Pork Belly

A few weeks ago I bought a small slab of pork belly from Skagit River Ranch, hoping that I’d finally be able to translate the meltingly tender texture I’ve experienced at places like Tilth into a version I could create in my own kitchen. I thought I’d use someone else’s recipe for my first attempt, but since I seem to have fallen off the cookbook-purchasing wagon recently (hmmm, perhaps this writing-a-recipe-every-day thing has something to do with it?), nothing on my shelf seemed new enough to accommodate the way our country’s pork-eating habits are moving to more interesting parts of the pig. Trips over to and The Food Network for ideas revealed plenty of recipes that started with “you’ll need half a pork belly,” or, at best, “four pounds pork belly.” That, or “two tablespoons pork belly, finely diced.” I had a generous pound of pork belly, and I wanted to use it all.

So I took my friend Pat’s advice, and just braised it in soy sauce, along with garlic, ginger, hoisin, and orange juice, since I knew my western taste buds might gawk at a pure soy flavor with no added sweetness. Without further ado, perhaps the last braise until fall:

Pork Belly with Soy & Ginger 2

Recipe for Pork Belly with Soy, Ginger, and Orange
Recipe 145 of 365

Pork belly is basically bacon, cut differently. It looks obscenely fatty, but when braised, the fat melts into the meat and produces a most delicious, tender layer of pork unequaled in other cuts of meat. I’m that annoying person that usually cuts little bits of fat off of chicken or beef and scoops them onto the side of my plate, but I eat this fat. Note that the portions are rather small; you won’t need much.

All the pork belly I’ve enjoyed in restaurants has been astonishingly simple – just pork braised in apple cider, or wine, or beer, but never many ingredients, because the pork really speaks for itself. Although it still offers the same emotional satisfaction of most braises, this recipe is astonishingly easy to put together – no browning, just mixing. It is best made the day before, so you can refrigerate it overnight and skim off any excess fat before reheating and serving the next day, over sticky rice, mashed sweet potatoes, or brown rice.

TIME: 15 minutes active time (really)
MAKES: 4 servings

1 1/4 pound piece pork belly (weighed without rind), cut into 4 squares
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 3” piece ginger, finely slivered
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce or shoyu
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the onions on the bottom of a large, ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid (such as a Dutch oven). Place the pork pieces on top, fat side-up. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour over the pork and onions.

Cover the dish and bake for 2 hours, rearranging the meat in the pan (but not flipping it) once during cooking. Let the pot cool to room temperature before refrigerating overnight. Before serving, skim off any accumulated fat, and reheat the meat and onions over the stovetop on low heat for about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Yummy pork belly

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Filed under chinese, farmer's market, kitchen adventure, pork, recipe

Little hands

This morning I was thrilled to see my first set of seedlings sprout; I woke to find my baby mixed greens standing up to wave at me from their place beside the kitchen sink, like so many tiny vegetable hands:

Really baby greens

And without further ado:

Chicken Leg, comin' atcha!

Recipe for Hoisin-Orange Chicken Legs
Recipe 72 of 365

Like a sticky, Asian-inspired, baked-not-fried version of chicken wings, these drumsticks are not a clean experience. Serve them with carrot and celery sticks and bleu cheese for dipping, and plenty of paper towels.

TIME: 40 minutes, plus marinating time
MAKES: 5 legs

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon finely ground fresh ginger
1 – 2 teaspoons sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste
5 big chicken drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the hoisin, soy, orange juice, ginger, and sriracha until blended. Add the chicken drumsticks, turn to coat, and marinate at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, covered, turning once or twice during marinating.

Before cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the drumsticks to a foil- or silicon baking mat-lined baking sheet, draining any extra liquid off the chicken legs and back into the marinade bowl. Bake the legs for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, transfer the marinade to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook the marinade at a low simmer, lowering the heat if necessary and stirring occasionally, until the marinade reduces to a sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 to 10 minutes.

After they’ve baked the first 10 minutes, turn the legs over and brush them with the sauce. Bake 30 minutes more, for a total of 40 minutes, turning and brushing with more sauce every 10 minutes. Transfer the legs to a serving platter, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

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I want a short, short lens

A former personal chef client from Massachusetts was looking for a great short rib recipe that was also relatively kid-friendly and low-maintenance. I bought short ribs from the Skagit River Ranch stall at the Ballard market last week, and got out the ol’ slow cooker. I just heard that All-Clad makes a new slow cooker with an insert that you can actually put right on the stove to brown meat – how clever, and perhaps worth the hefty price tag. Why did it take so long for someone to come up with that? And why did I buy my slow cooker before said invention?

This recipe was entirely inspired by, though not really adapted from, the recipe from Stonewall Kitchen Favorites (by Kathy Gunst, Jonathan King, and Jim Stott) for Beef Short Rib Stew with Bok Choy in an Orange-Ginger-Hoisin Sauce. One day I walked into Kathy’s house at about 9 a.m. and started my day with a bowl of this warming, Asian-flavored stew that she was testing for the book. Since then, I’ve developed the opinion that short ribs taste best with deep, earthy, Asian flavors. And, I admit, I eat the leftovers in the morning, whenever possible.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to photograph braises or anything remotely stew-y, please speak up. I can’t help but compare my stew photos to excrement, no matter how nice and delicious the food looks and tastes in real life. Just when I think I’m becoming a better photographer, my uneducation slaps me in the face. Last night, when I was lamenting not having a macro lens for my schmancy new camera to take close-ups of the short ribs (inside, at night, with no natural light), I wanted to change the shutter speed. My husband, who is undoubtedly more photographically educated but perhaps not as artistic, helpfully suggested switching the camera to manual and changing the F-stop. “The what?” I asked accusingly. Time for a photography class.

Recipe for Slow-Cooked Beef Short Ribs with Soy and Ginger


Filed under Beef, chinese, farmer's market, recipe

Recipe 8: Spicy Garlic Beef Stir-Fry

I bought a frozen package of stir-fry beef from the Skagit River Ranch stand at Seattle’s University District farmer’s market last fall. Yesterday I thawed it out and was surprised to find, instead of the typical grocery-store cuts of beef (which are about the size and shape of hand-cut French fries), a big stack of (1/8” thick) sliced sheets of beef. I left them stacked up like index cards, and sliced them again across the grain into 1/4” thick strips. THIS is the beef to stir-fry—I can’t be sure of what cut it was, because I didn’t ask, but it cooked before the garlic began to burn, which is often a problem when I stir-fry with too-big pieces.

Recipe for Spicy Garlic Beef Stir-Fry

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The Miracle of Chinese Take-Out

I have discovered the miracle of Chinese take-out.

Easter night. We worked all morning, went to a yoga class, and cleaned the house all afternoon. The sun set, and suddenly we were faced with an empty fridge and no plan for dinner–unusual circumstances in these parts.

We looked at each other mischievously. My husband glanced sideways at the take-out menu stuck to the side of the fridge. Before he could change his mind, I dialed, ordered egg drop soup and mu shu pork, and finished dusting. I drove to Peking Palace, Falmouth’s reasonably priced and fairly delicious Chinese restaurant, and waited, embarrassed by my sweatpants, as they replaced the pork egg foo yung they’d mistakenly made with my mu shu.

At home, hungry bliss. Hot soup, steaming mu shu. Easy. Not enough plum sauce, but you can never win. I have (finally) lost my Chinese take-out virginity, and I have a million tiny soy sauce packets to prove it.

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