Thursday, July 31, 2014

Megan's Spicy Chicken

I decided to see what would happen if I added all the ingredients I liked together in a pot with chicken. So, I seriously just added a little bit of this, a little bit of that, tried to think what else would go with what, and went with it. The outcome? A new favorite! I don't know if any real Sichuan person would nod his/her head in approval, or shake it in dismay, but I used components of what I know to star in Sichuan dishes, like chili peppers and peppercorns. Anyhow, this was my tribute to Sichuan in the form of a chicken dish. I want to name it Lee Family Spicy Chicken, because Tim has upping his spicy game, and can now eat from the same spicy dishes as the big kids (like me :D).

I like this dish a lot, not only because it is spicy and low maintenance ( just like me ;) ), but because the ingredients are fairly standard ABC kitchen ingredients. For me, I happened to have all of these ingredients in my kitchen. Your mileage may vary, but the good thing is that these ingredients keep well, especially if you take my advice from a previous post and freeze your ginger! For some pictures of ingredients not commonly found at American grocery stores, visit this post on Sichuan spicy cooked fish to see what all these things are.

The third version of this chicken; the plainest looking but the best tasting!
Our dinner comprised of this chicken, in addition to stir-fried cabbage (that I made without the spicy peppers), and lots of rice.

Megan's Spicy Chicken

2 lbs bone-in, skin-on dark meat chicken, cut into pieces
2 tsp oil (optional; see note)
4 scallions, sliced or broken into 3 inch lengths
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2" slice of ginger
1 fresh chili pepper, sliced (optional)
2 tsp fennel seeds
5+ dried red peppers (as you wish)
2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 star anise
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp la dou ban jiang
1 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 cup water
Optional garnishes:
Additional scallions, finely chopped
Additional thinly sliced fresh chili peppers
ground Sichuan peppercorns

1) Add oil (if you are using skinless chicken) to a heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven. On medium-low heat, cook the chicken until it changes color all around the outside. The oil from the skin should start to render at this point. Remove chicken from the pot onto a bowl or plate.

2) Lower the heat. Add aromatics: scallions through star anise (inclusive), and stir occasionally as the oil wakes up the spices and brings the fragrance out of all the ingredients. When you start to smell all the spices and aromatics, add the la dou ban jiang and stir it around until it also gets fragrant.

3) Add the chicken and accumulated juices back to the pot, and stir well to coat the chicken with all the ingredients in the pot.

4) Add soy sauce, wine, vinegar, and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low until the meat starts to pull away from the bone, about 10-20 minutes, depending on how large your chicken pieces are.
This one was more colorful because I had some garnishes
-I used skin-on chicken because I often just buy whole chickens and break them down myself. If you use skin-on chicken, you don't need to add extra oil, but if you use skinless chicken, be sure to add 1-2 tsp in the first step.
-I don't mind and actually enjoy biting into whole, cooked Sichuan peppercorns. If you don't, consider using a mesh strainer to fish them out, along with the anise, before eating it. Alternatively, put the peppercorns and anise in cheesecloth so that you can remove it later.
-I enjoy this dish with rice, but also think it would be excellent with noodles.
-This tastes even better the next day, like chili! Feel free to make this ahead of time, or even make big batches and freeze leftovers.
-For leftovers, I like to add in some rolling blade-sliced (gun3dao1) 滚刀 (or just diced) slender eggplants.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Easy Stir-Fried Taiwanese Cabbage

Taiwanese cabbage is flat instead of spherical like the green cabbage we see in most American grocery stores. Taiwanese cabbage is less dense than American cabbage, and its layers, as you can kind of see in the picture, are more loosely packed. Its layers are thinner, and crisp up very well when cooked. In general, the taste is lighter and more refreshing than normal green cabbage, in my opinion. Below is a picture of the Murdoc cabbage from this week's CSA. I believe its alternate name is 'pointed head cabbage'- the cabbage looks like a little cone (pre-cutting, obviously)! It's pretty cool. The picture on the right is "Taiwan cabbage" apparently, and ignore the yellow, but it's the only picture with a cross section I could find. I found Murdoc cabbage to be a great substitute for Taiwanese cabbage, and good thing, because that was one big cabbage!
Murdoc cabbage is on the left; Taiwanese cabbage is on the right. Look at the loosely packed leaves!
Today I'm sharing the recipe for a standby cabbage stir-fry dish...cabbage and garlic, up a notch. My mom used to cook cabbage and garlic for us, as a simple and tasty vegetables. I have since come to really love the Taiwanese cabbage.

For best results, cook this cabbage on the highest heat you can without burning the garlic (hence the slices instead of minced or chopped). The high heat helps to evaporate the water that is being released by the cabbage, so that it doesn't just get boiled. I'm sure most people have eaten some iteration of cabbage and garlic, but I like this cooking method because I feel that the ginger gives the cabbage an extra dimension besides garlic alone. The heat from the peppers is also nice to lift the dish a bit. This would be a good accompaniment to any Chinese or even just Asian meal that needs some vegetables.
Tim loves this stuff, and perks up when hears that cabbage will be in the dinner spread. I hope you will love it, too! :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Marble Chiffon Cake

Egg whites are one of my favorite ingredients to bake with. It probably surpasses chocolate in some instances (!) Did you know that the volume of an egg white increases by 6-8 times when it is whipped? When I was a budding baker in middle and high school, my dad would support my efforts by buying Costco quantities of eggs, sugar, butter, and flour. My dad also always ate everything I made, regardless of how bad or good it turned out. :)

My mom didn't use cookbooks much, so for my baking endeavors, I would have my mom's big blue binder of miscellaneous recipes, Mrs. Field's Cookie cookbook or a super ancient copy of Taste of Home baking cookbook (out of print, I'm sure) to browse through. I remember making all three egg-white-starring baked goods: chiffon, sponge, and angel food cake to test the limits of egg whites. I also was temporarily deluded into thinking that these cakes were healthier because they didn't use as much oil, and most (or all) of the volume came from eggs (as opposed to butter) ;)

Anyway..this marble chiffon cake became a favorite. I used to make it with a cream cheese icing, but this time just made it on its own. If you want the icing, refer to the link, or concoct your own from a combination of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and milk.
Marble Chiffon Cake
Sorry I don't have a side view picture of the whole cake! By the time I realized, too much of the cake was gone..

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Garlic Chive Pockets / Chinese Leek Boxes (jiu3cai4he2zi 韭菜盒子)

*Edit on 7/31/14 - Scroll down to see a video of my mom exhibiting perfect technique for some beautifully crimped jiu cai he zi!*

This is for you, Jen Fung!

My grandma tells me to eat napa cabbage in the winter, and garlic chives, or jiu cai, in the summer. This applies largely to dumplings, because two of the most common fillings are some variation on pork and napa or pork and garlic chives.

Tim and I were in Chinatown getting groceries and these chives were so fat and plump! I knew they would be good. They call them garlic chives because they smell and taste so strongly of garlic that one would think there is garlic in the dish as well.

Today, I will teach you how to make jiu3cai4he2zi ( 韭菜盒子), or literally, Garlic Chive Boxes. Chive pockets, for some reason, sounds more right to me. Maybe because of its association with hot pockets? Anyway, I toiled long and hard on this recipe...I made the dough 5 times before I was happy with it! I have lots of experiences with cold water dough, but the hot water dough was a new technique for me to learn.

These goodies are made with hot water dough, which also can be used to make scallion pancakes, potstickers, 小龍包 (xiaolongbao), or soup dumplings, and many other goodies.

I would eat jiucaihezi a bowl of xi fan or soup for dinner, or just as is for lunch or breakfast :) Enjoy!

I found my pictures! Yay! If you have the patience for it, you can follow along in the linked video to learn how to roll out the dough. Even if you can't understand her, the visuals definitely at least helped me! 

She uses a lot more water, but I'm not sure why, because her measurements gave me very goopy dough many times! Follow my water suggestions for success :)

Jiu Cai He Zi Chinese Leek Pockets
Look at that thin dough!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baking Essentials II: Ingredients

Do you want to start baking, but don't know where to begin? This is a list of what I consider to be the ingredients that are the backbone of baking. Chances are that most ingredients on this list will be called for in the recipes that you come across.

For baking equipment, refer to Baking Essentials I.