Archive | January, 2010

Farewell old friend

26 Jan

The House of Chan has fallen.
Yesterday’s Chinatown fire ripped through our beloved childhood Chinese joint. As bulldozers demolished the blackened ruins of the two-storey red brick building, our heart broke.
True, the mostly-Cantonese buffet had long ago closed and had been replaced by a succession of others.
But during childhood, it was our family joint.
Past the mahogany roasted ducks hanging by their necks in the butcher’s window, through the red wooden doors, up the steep staircase, through the bamboo curtain the five of us went on Wednesdays or Sundays. The day of the week never mattered. The lure of the constantly topped up steam trays, while perfect for little kids, predictably wore off as our palates grew up along with us. After a decade, we simply stopped going.
The neon plastic sword-decorated Shirley Temples, won ton soup, sweet and sour spareribs, and thickly-battered egg rolls were easy to leave behind. But the chicken wings became the stuff of family legend. Hot from the fryer, they were crispy, dry, garlicky and salty. Our kid brother plowed through them like a small feral animal, typically leaving a mound of knawed bones so high our parents were forced to look elsewhere as waiters collected the plates.

 


The fresh, plump wings came straight from Chinatown butchers. Today’s pre-frozen and commercially-sauced pub wings aren’t in the same league.
The restaurant is gone for good now. The exotic fish tank, velvet wallpaper and smoky mirrors remain a hokey memory. But we miss the idea of having a family joint — a small place where the friendly owners greet you by name and no matter how sophisticated you consider yourself, you comfortably lapse into ordering the same dishes over and over again.

House of Chan was everything good Chinese food and custom is: family time spent sharing tasty favourites. (More early Chinese takeout tastes here.)

With nostalgia in mind, here are some memories…

DRY CRISPY GARLIC CHICKEN WINGS

4 lb/2 kg chicken wings
2 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
Oil spray
Place chicken wings on a tray and leave in the fridge for a few hours to dry. Or just use a paper towel to pat the wings dry.
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions.
Preheat oven to 250F
Line a baking tray with foil and top with a rack. Spray the rack with oil spray.
Place wings in a ziplock bag. Add the baking powder and salt, then toss to coat evenly.
Place the wings on the baking tray in a single layer with the skin side up. They should just fit snugly. They will shrink when they cook as the the fat renders.
Place wings on the lower middle oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.
Move wings up to the upper middle rack and increase the oven temperature to 425F Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through.
Remove baking tray from the oven and let it stand for five minutes.

Season with a light shake of garlic powder/garlic salt blend. *We would love to try a scant shake of five spice powder.

Serve immediately.
____________________________

CHINESE CHICKEN BALLS
from Michael Smith

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Few drops sesame oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 3 green onions, sliced

Fill an electric deep fryer with peanut or canola oil and heat to 365°. (I think I will try roasting these in oven).

Puree chicken, soy sauce, ginger, cornstarch, sesame oil and egg whites in a food processor until smooth. Add the carrots and green onion and whiz briefly just until stirred in but not pureed.

Using a pair of tablespoons form the chicken mixture into rough ball shapes. Carefully drop them into the fryer oil using one of the spoons to push the mixture off the other spoon. Fry until they are golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes depending on the size.

_________________________________________
RED SAUCE

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

2/3 cup pineapple juice

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine pineapple juice, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Workplace potlucktics

25 Jan

Do you have foods banned from your office kitchen?
Office politics can be just as cut- throat when it comes to lunch, it appears.
Our office fridge smell is toxic. Subsequently, if you are part of the Monday morning crew and absent-mindedly place your day’s lunch in the refrigerator, it gets tossed during the morning’s weekly mass cleaning. (P.S. who are these lunch-leaving people? Apparently the same ones who forgo washing their dishes and leave them in the sink. Really?)
We have learned the hard way after losing our perfectly fresh lunch.
This recent purchase may be the answer to our problem.


The built-in cold pack keeps our lunch safe and cool as it sits out on our desk. And today, it’s keeping our lunch out of the hands of those who would trash it alongside someone’s week-old take out. When you’re trying to save money and eat well, this is a pretty good solution.

The first time we encountered this bright-tasting salad 15 years ago, we were in hippy heaven. A tiny vegetarian cafe offered a sweet and sour blend of nutritious broccoli, red onion, raisins and sunflower seeds bound with a mustardy yogurt mayo. The sweet and nutty combo was a healthy delight.
We’ve since learned that it’s been a potluck and buffet table staple for ages, but we can’t sleuth the social anthropology or origin of broccoli-trail mix salad. We’d have assumed it was a Mollie Katzen creation (UPDATE: see Mollie’s broccoli, apple creation at bottom). Online, a bacon-laden version declares it Amish; another labeled Wisconsin Sunshine Salad includes grated cheddar. Some add slivered almonds or pecans, other forgo nuts altogether. One adds sliced red grapes.
Regardless, it is simple and nutritious, and makes a fantastic lunch to take to work.

BROCCOLI SALAD
3 cups broccoli florets (steamed or raw)
1/4 cup chopped red onion (we have been grating onion and reducing the amount down to a couple of teaspoons.)
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup raisins (I substituted a mix I keep handy for shaking on salads: roasted sunflower seeds, tropical dried fruit, dried cranberries, flax seed).
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup low fat yogurt (I used vanilla and omitted the sugar called for in this recipe. Honey balkan-style is great also. One day I’ll try a creamy vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar, dijon, and a touch of maple syrup.)
¼ cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbs. lemon juice
(I also added a few tablespoons of hemp hearts simply because they were on hand.)
Greens if you have them

Steam bite-sized broccoli florets and set aside to cool. Mix onion, nuts, raisins, and feta. Add broccoli. Mix dressing (yogurt, mayo, dijon and lemon juice) and add to salad.
Serve atop salad greens.

Broccoli, Apples, and Red Onion Salad
Mollie Katzen
1 large bunch broccoli
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons honey
5 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 medium sized tart apple, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put up a large saucepan of water to boil. While waiting for this to happen, remove and discard the thick lower stems of the broccoli, and cut the thinner upper stems and tops into medium-sized spears.
Measure the vinegar into a medium-large bowl. Use a small whisk to stir constantly as you add the mustard, garlic, salt, and honey.
Keep whisking as you drizzle in the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will thicken as the oil becomes incorporated.
By now the water should be boiling. Turn it down to a simmer and add the broccoli. Let it cook in the water for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it becomes very bright green and tender-crisp. Meanwhile, place the sliced red onion in a large colander in the sink
Pour the broccoli and all its water over the onion in the colander. ( The hot water will wilt the onion slightly upon contact. ) Place the colander of vegetables under cold running water for a few minutes, then shake to drain well.
Transfer the vegetables to the bowlful of dressing. Use tongs to toss until the broccoli is well coated, adding the apple slices as you go. You can serve this right away, or cover and let it marinate in the refregerator, where the flavor will deepen. Serve cold or at room temperature, topped with freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dinner Party

9 Jan

The best dinner party story I’ve ever read was about Johnny Marzetti. Not a guy, but a questionable-sounding noodle casserole.

From the New York Times: “In ‘The Party,’ Sally Quinn gives the recipe for her mother’s version (spelled “Johnny Mazetti”) and tells the story of the time she borrowed her mother’s electric casserole cooker to make it at her tiny Dupont Circle apartment in Washington. She’d invited all sorts of grand people over — Fleur Cowles, Ambassador David Bruce and his wife, Evangeline — but unfortunately forgot to plug in the casserole. By the time she remembered, and the casserole was at last done, everybody was drunk, and, according to Quinn, David Bruce was trying to make out with Barbara Howar in the bedroom. It was, she wrote, ‘one of the best parties I’ve ever had.'”

Fortunately, we were invited to a dinner party where our host did manage to whip up the main dish. And you know it was a success, because we are still dreaming of it the next day. The humble-looking curry served over fluffy, fragrant jasmine rice was the perfect dish, as a raucus group of 12 drank gallons of wine and laughed and shouted over one another with one outrageous story after another. All of that revelry works up an appetite and this rich, velvety curry hit the spot. It was room temperature by the time we finally staggered to the table, but that only made the flavours more pronounced.

COCONUT BEEF CURRY
Recipe from Canada’s Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye. We experimented with a generous scoop of apricot jam. It was a sweet, rich, mellow curry. We’re thinking next time to add more red curry paste.

1 tbsp canola oil 15 mL
2 lb stewing beef, cut into 1 inch cubes 1 kg
2 onions, sliced 2
2 cloves garlic, minced 2
2 tbsp paprika 25 mL
2 tbsp ground cumin 25 mL
1 tsp cinnamon 5 mL
2 tsp red curry paste or 1 tbsp (15 mL) curry powder 10 mL
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped 4
1 lb peeled baby carrots, chopped 500 g
2 tbsp tomato paste 25 ml
1 – 14 oz can coconut milk 1 – 398 mL
1/2 cup water 125 mL
1 tsp salt 5 mL
chopped fresh cilantro

In a large nonstick skillet, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add beef and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per batch or until browned on all sides. Add onions, garlic, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and curry paste (or curry powder). Saute for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer mixture to slow cooker. Add potatoes and carrots. In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, coconut milk, water and salt; mix well. Add to slow cooker; stir to combine with meat and vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours, until vegetables are tender and stew is bubbling. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

Here is another version, clipped from the New York Times, still as yet untried.

COCONUT-BRAISED BEEF
2 hot dried red chilies
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
Juice and zest of 2 limes, or 2 tablespoons rice or other mild vinegar
2 tablespoons corn, grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 1/2 pounds beef, preferably chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups coconut milk (or 1 can, about 1 1/2 cups, plus 1/2 cup water)
Salt to taste
Preparation
1.Put chilies, garlic, ginger, chili powder, lime juice and zest in bowl of a food processor, and process until everything is minced, or mince by hand and combine.
2.Heat oil over medium-high heat in a skillet that can later be covered. Add spice paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and covered with sauce.
3.Pour in coconut milk, and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer, stirring only occasionally (but making sure mixture is simmering very slowly, with just a few bubbles at a time breaking the surface) until meat is extremely tender, at least an hour and possibly closer to 2.
4.Uncover and cook until sauce is very thick and caramel-colored, stirring frequently so it does not brown. Season to taste with salt, and serve with white rice.

JUST FOR FUN:

johnny mazetti

JOHNNY MAZETTI

2 green peppers

2lbs onions

1 stalk of celery

Chop all of the above and saute in olive oil.

Brown 2 lbs of ground round steak and place in dutch oven.

Add:

2 cans tomato paste

2 cans Arturo sauce

2 cans tomato soup

2 cans mushrooms

1 large bottle stuffed olives

2 tbsp worchestershire sauce

Simmer two to three hours.

In a roasting pan, combine mixture with 4 packs of cooked egg noodles. Top with shredded cheese and bake for one hour.

Tea and Sympathy

8 Jan

It’s painful to watch grieving loved ones in despair. You can offer solemn words and hugs, but we sometimes struggle trying to find the right way to let them feel supported. No matter if someone’s lost a loved one, a special pet, a job, a romance — food helps. Nothing too spicy or sophisticated — think mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes and ham.

The following homey classics aren’t sophisticated, but they’re in regular church ladies’ rotation for a reason: they are comforting, uncomplicated, and always appreciated.
If you’re really on your game, give someone you care about a food hug.
UPDATE: SEE NEW KING RANCH CASSEROLE VERSION AT BOTTOM!
UPDATE: church lady casserole a.k.a Peas Be With You!

JANICE BEATON’S MAC AND CHEESE

An 8 oz or 240 g block of cheese yields approximately 2 cups (500 mL) of grated cheese.

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped onions

1 tbsp (15 mL) minced garlic

6 tbsp (90 mL) flour

4 cups (1 L) hot milk

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp (2 mL) cayenne

2 cups (500 mL) grated cheese (Janice says mix one cup of Gruyère or aged gouda cheese with one cup of old cheddar, edam or crumbled blue cheese)

1 pkg of penne (1 lb or 500 g)

1/2 cup (125 mL) coarse breadcrumbs

Bring 5 quarts (5 L) of water to a boil in a large pot.

In the meantime, saute the onion and garlic in butter over medium heat for five minutes (without browning). Add flour and cook (this mixture is called a roux) for approximately 10 minutes over low heat. Slowly whisk in the hot milk, along with the mustard and cayenne, to make a bechamel (white) sauce. Cook bechamel for 15 minutes over medium low heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Cook the pasta for approximately 13 minutes in rapidly boiling water. The pasta should be cooked less than al dente, as baking time in the oven will cook it further. Drain.

Add half of the cheese to the bechamel and stir until the mixture is homogenous. Add the pasta and mix just until blended. Place one-third of the pasta/sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch (23 by 33 cm, 3.5 L) pan. Sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Add another one third of the pasta and top with the rest of the grated cheese. Layer the last portion of pasta over this and top with the breadcrumbs. Bake, covered (aluminum foil will do), for 35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degreesF (200 degrees C), remove foil and bake 15 minutes longer, until the pasta is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are browned. Let stand for five minutes, cut and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

BEEF SOUR CREAM NOODLE BAKE

2 pounds lean ground beef

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 pound cottage cheese

Minced green pepper

1/3 cup choped green onion

1/2 cup grated swiss cheese

2 cups tomato sauce

8 ounce package of egg noodles

In a large pan, cook noodles in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain & set aside. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream. Add onion and peppers. Set aside. Brown ground beef & drain any fat. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato sauce to ground beef. Grease 9 x 13 inch cake pan or casserole dish, and arrange the following layers: Noodles, cheese mixture, meat mixture – then repeat. Top with grated Swiss cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.

KING RANCH CHICKEN CASSEROLE

You don’t want to offer anything too spicy or exotic, but this has a cheesy, creamy, comfort. Great picture here.

Note: If you can’t find Ro-Tel tomatoes, substitute one 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes and one 4-ounce can chopped green chiles. Cojack is a creamy blend of Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. Jack cheese can be used in its place.
KING RANCH CASSEROLE
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 jalapeno chiles, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 (10-ounce) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes (see note)
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
4 cups shredded Cojack cheese (see note)
Salt and pepper
2¼ cups Fritos corn chips, crushed

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Lay tortillas on two baking sheets, lightly coat both sides with cooking spray, and bake until slightly crisp and browned, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then break into bite-sized pieces. Using potholders, adjust top oven rack to middle position.

2. Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onions, chiles, and cumin until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until most of liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add cream and broth, bring to simmer, and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Off heat, add cilantro and cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Scatter half of tortilla pieces in 13 by 9-inch baking dish set over rimmed baking sheet. Spoon half of filling evenly over tortillas. Scatter remaining tortillas over filling, then top with remaining filling.

4. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle Fritos evenly over top and bake until Fritos are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool casserole 10 minutes. Serve.

To make ahead: The casserole can be assembled through step 3 and refrigerated for up to 1 day. When ready to serve, cover casserole with foil and bake until filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil, top with Fritos, and proceed with rest of step 4 as directed