Another installment of vintage Seventeen, circa 1986.
Happy Chinese New Year!
Our neighbourhood takeout joint was Ming’s Kitchen; a 1970s Cantonese oasis for screaming, whining kids crazy for egg rolls.
For years, those hot, white plastic cylinders always contained the same order: wonton soup, chicken so gai or almond gai ding, moo goo gai pan, and of course, sweet and sour spareribs.
Curiously, the tender almond chicken is a treat we won’t outgrow. We’ll skip the deep-frying and the gravy cloak of cornstarch-thickened chicken broth and soy. Bright lemon sauce and a bed of braised bok choy sounds lovely.
ALMOND CHICKEN with lemon sauce
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, broken into pieces (try some ground coursely)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons water
2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
Preheat oven to 400º. Place breadcrumbs in a medium bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Place almonds in a separate bowl, and set aside. Place eggs in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons water, and beat lightly. Dip chicken in egg mixture, wiping away excess with your fingers, and dip in breadcrumb mixture. Dredge until lightly coated. Dip in egg again, and then coat thoroughly with almonds.
Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Sauté chicken until nicely browned, about 3 minutes, and turn over. Cook 1 minute more; then transfer pan to oven, and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
1 tablespoon slivered garlic
1 tablespoon slivered ginger
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
With pan on high heat, add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add stock, lemon juice, sugar, soy sauce and lemon rind. Bring to boil, add cornstarch mixture and sesame oil and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and toss with chicken.
Serve on bed of shredded crunchy iceberg lettuce or braised bok choy
Our favourite Chinese chicken wings are dry, garlicky and salty. Paired this week with a favourite movie or two (Farewell My Concubine, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Raise the Red Lantern), these aromatic wings sound like a perfect treat.
SPICY CHINESE FIVE-SPICE RUBBED CHICKEN WINGS WITH CREAMY CILANTRO DIPPING SAUCE
40 chicken wing pieces or 20 whole chicken wings
2 tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder (available at grocery or Asian specialty food stores)
3 tsp. cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce
What you’ll need for Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
Kosher or regular salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions for Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce:
1. Combine ingredients in mixing bowl, and whisk.
2. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Directions for Wings:
1. Preheat your oven to 500°.
2. If you have whole chicken wings, cut off wingtips and cut the wings in half at the joint. Discard wingtips or freeze to make stock at a later time.
3. Place the wings in a large bowl. Sprinkle five-spice powder and cayenne on the wings, add a few pinches of salt and about 15 grinds of black pepper.
4. Rub the mixture into all the wings until no extra loose rub remains. Wash your hands.
5. Line the wing pieces up on a baking sheet so the side of the wing that has the most skin is facing up. Roast until cooked through, browned and crispy, about 25 minutes. Serve hot with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce.
“Burgers made from leftover spicy pork wonton filling is a favorite staff lunch at China Moon Cafe in San Francisco. The meat mixture is moist and zestily seasoned, so a mild Dijon mustard is a terrific accompaniment…. Wonton, by the way, translates as “cosmic chaos”. The word dates back to Chinese antiquity when the universe was described as a jumble of light and dark enclosed in a thin shell, hence the edible invention of the wonton.”
China Moon Cafe Wonton Burgers
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. green onions — sliced
1/4 cup cilantro or Chinese chives — chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh gingerroot — finely minced
2 1/2 tablespoons garlic — finely minced
1/4 cup plus 1 T. soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine OR dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons hot chili oil
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 pounds pork butt — coarsely ground
(1 part fat to 3 to 4 parts lean)
2 French baguettes — each cut crosswise — into 4 equal — portions
In a large bowl, combine the green onion, cilantro, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, salt, pepper, chile oil, and stock and mix well. Add the pork and stir in one direction with your hands or a large spoon just until the mixture can be thoroughly blended. Do not overcook the meat. (At this point the mixture can be sealed airtight and refrigerated overnight. The flavors will actually enlarge. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)
Handling the meat mixture as little as possible to avoid compacting it, divide it into 8 equal portions nd form the portions into rectangles to fir the bread. Brush a heavy skillet with a film of oil. Remember that the pork will render some of its own fat, so you’ll need only minimal oil for cooking. Place the pan over high heat and heat it as hot as possible. Add the patties and sear, turning once, until well browned on both sides. Reduce the heat and cook until done to your preference.
Cut the French bread lengthwise and spread the cut surfaces of the baguette portions with mustard and enclose the patties inside.
This salmon rillette is a signature dish from Le Bernardin, served to all guests at the beginning of lunch.
We are keen to lighten the mayo with some yogurt or sour cream so it doesn’t taste like a cafeteria sandwich. Also, vermouth may be a good change for the poaching liquid sometime. See smaller portion at bottom.
Le BernadinServes 8
1 bottle dry white wine
2 Tbsp. (25 mL) chopped shallots
1 tsp. (5 mL) fine sea salt, plus more to taste
2 lbs. (1 kg) fresh salmon fillet, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
6 oz. (170 g) smoked salmon (in 1 piece), fat trimmed, cut into small dice
2 tbsp. (25 mL) thinly sliced fresh chives
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 cup (250 mL) mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) freshly ground white pepper
toasted baguette slices, for serving
Place the wine, shallots and 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the fresh salmon. Poach for 40 seconds. Drain in a sieve and run cold water over just to stop the cooking. Drain well and refrigerate until cold. Discard the poaching liquid.
Place the smoked salmon in a large bowl and stir in the chives. Add the poached salmon and use the side of a wooden spoon to shred the salmon as you mix. Stir in the lemon juice, mayonnaise and pepper. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (The recipe can be made up to 6 hours ahead). Serve with toasted baguette.
2 cups white wine
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 pound fresh salmon fillet, cut
into 1-inch pieces
3 ounces smoked salmon, diced
2 tablespoons thinly sliced
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– fine sea salt and freshly
ground white pepper
“Shanghai Garden. May I help you?”
“I’d like to order some take-out.”
“331 West 78th Street. Apartment 4F. I’d like to order some chicken with broccoli in a brown…”
“Brown sauce with brown rice. Cold noodles. I know. Every night the same!”
Miranda Hobbes’s yen for brown sauce may elude us, but we are down with the cold noodles.
First, a NYT version and then, David Lebovitz. How can you go wrong?
TAKEOUT-STYLE SESAME NOODLES
Recipe from Sam Sifton, New York Times, adapted from Martin Yan, Marian Burros, and memory.
1 pound Chinese egg noodles (1/8,-inch-thick), frozen or (preferably) fresh, available in Asian markets
2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
3½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or to taste
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8,-by- 1/8,-by-2-inch sticks
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes; they should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.
3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts. Serves 4.
The “Chinese sesame paste,” above, is made of toasted sesame seeds; it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain, untoasted sesame. But you could use tahini in a pinch. You need only add a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, and perhaps some peanut butter to keep the sauce emulsified.
By all means, add some Sichuan peppercorns if you like: toast a tablespoon’s worth in a dry pan, crush lightly and whisk the resulting mess into your sauce.
COLD NOODLES WITH PEANUT SAUCE
This recipe makes about 2 cups (500ml) of peanut sauce, which is more than you’ll need for four servings. But it’s pretty great on white rice as an afternoon snack or French fries.
The chicken needs to be hand-shredded since the uneven surface makes it easier for the peanut sauce to adhere to the meat. Toast the peanuts in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven on a baking sheet for about twelve minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until they’re well-toasted.
2 cups (300g) dark roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 to 3/4 cup (125-180ml) hot black tea
1/2 cup (125ml) oil, preferably peanut (see Notes) or coconut milk
1 tablespoon (10g) peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 small chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground Szechuan pepper (if available)
1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons chili paste or chili oil
1/3 cup (15g) packed cilantro sprigs or chives
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 pound (450g) wide Chinese noodles, often called Shanghai noodles (see Notes)
2 chicken breasts, boneless or on the bone
1 large cucumber
sprigs of cilantro
1. Put the peanuts, 1/2 cup (125ml) of hot tea, and the oil or coconut milk in a blender.
2. Turn the machine on and let it run for a few minutes until the peanuts are almost smooth. Then add the remaining ingredients and let the machine run until the sauce is pureed.
3. Check the consistency. If it’s too thick for your liking, add up to another 1/4 cup (55ml) of tea.
4. Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling salted water according to the time on the package. (I usually cook them a little less, since I like them chewy.)
5. Once done, drain and immediately run cold water over the noodles in the colander, turning them with tongs to cool them as rapidly as possible. Toss the noodles in a drizzle of oil and set aside.
6. Put the chicken breasts in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and add enough salt to estimate the saltiness of sea water. Cover and bring the water to a boil.
7. Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and leave the chicken breasts in the water for twenty minutes, covered. After twenty minutes, remove the chicken breasts from the liquid and let sit until cool enough to handle.
8. Shred the chicken breasts by hand into bite-size strips.
9. Peel the cucumber. Cut it in half lengthwise then remove the seeds with a spoon. Slice the cucumber diagonally.
10. Divide the noodles between the four bowls, top with chicken and cucumbers, then add a few generous, heaping spoonfuls of peanut sauce. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and encourage guests to mix everything together in their own bowls.
Storage Tips: The peanut sauce can be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to two months. The chicken breasts and the noodles can be cooked and refrigerated up to one day ahead.