Chinese New Year

Happy Birthday, Valentine's Day and Chinese New year

Today is Ed's birthday and I was thinking about what to make for dinner. We used to go out to eat because there was a restaurant nearby that served chocolate cake with apricot filling, which he loved, but the restaurant closed. These days he doesn't eat cake, so there goes that.

No dessert, okay, that's his choice. But what about the main course? 

He'd appreciate stuffed cabbage. Or braised short ribs.

But mostly he likes Chinese food. Cantonese egg rolls or Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup. Mild or spicy.

Any kind of Chinese food.

I can't go wrong with Chinese food. Which he would also choose for Valentine's Day. Or to celebrate Chinese New Year (February 19th).

Here's one he loves: 

Beef with Orange

  • 1 large or 2 small navel oranges

  • 12 ounces beef steak

  • 1 large egg white

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • Sauce:

    • 1 tablespoon Mirin

    • 1 tablespoon water or beef stock

    • 1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

    • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar

    • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

    • 1 teaspoon sugar

    • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 thick scallions, chopped

  • 1 small serrano or jalapeno chili pepper, deseeded and chopped

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Peel the oranges, then cut the peel into bite size pieces and place the pieces on a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the pieces have dried. Remove from the oven and set aside. While the orange peel is baking, slice the meat and place the pieces in a bowl. Add the egg white and cornstarch and mix the ingredients thoroughly to be sure every slice is coated. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce by mixing the Mirin, water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame seed oil, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a stirfry pan or wok (or large saute pan) over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until the meat is completely brown. Remove the meat to a dish and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan. Add the scallions, chili pepper, ginger, garlic and orange peel and stirfry briefly. Return the meat to the pan and stirfry to distribute the ingredients evenly. Sprinkle the ingredients with sugar and stirfry briefly. Stir the sauce to be sure the cornstarch (which may have settled to the bottom) is completely incorporated. Pour the sauce over the ingredients and stirfry for about a minute until the meat is glazed. 

Makes 2 servings (or 4 with other dishes)

 

 

 

 

 

Pearly Meatballs

I always need hors d’oeuvre recipes because I entertain a lot. Most of the people who come over are really really familiar with the ones I repeat over and over (because no matter how much they like to try new foods, they are like most people and also want the favorites).  So I make a new recipe or two each time I have company. Experiments mostly, so my friends and family can be “test subjects” for a thumbs up or down.  But recently one of my daughters said “hey Mom, can I have your recipe for Pearly Meatballs?” And I realized I haven’t made these in YEARS! And they are so good, everyone loves them. I had stopped making them because well, frankly, they seemed old hat. But now that we haven’t had them in so long they seem fresh and I am remembering how much everyone looked forward to these.  I learned about Pearly Meatballs from the famous Florence Lin, Chinese cookbook author and teacher, who I met long ago at the China Institute. I tweaked her recipe here and there to suit our family. These meatballs are perfect for Chinese New Year (starting tonight) but also for the Superbowl on February 5th.   Pearly Meatballs   2/3 cup glutinous rice  4 large dried shiitake mushrooms  2 medium scallions, coarsely chopped  6 water chestnuts, coarsely chopped  1 slice fresh ginger, peeled, about 1/2-inch thick, cut coarsely  1 pound ground turkey (or veal but NOT beef or lamb)  1 large egg  1 tablespoon soy sauce  1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt  1 tablespoon rice wine  1/2 teaspoon sugar  white vinegar  chili-flavored oil  Place the rice in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let soak for 2 hours. Drain and set aside. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Drain, rinse, cut the mushrooms coarsely, and place in a food processor. Add the scallions, water chestnuts and ginger. Process until finely chopped (alternatively, chop the vegetables with a cleaver or chef’s knife).  Combine the meat, egg, soy sauce, salt, rice wine, sugar and chopped vegetables in a bowl. Shape the mixture into balls about 1-/14 to 1-1/2-inches in diameter (wet, cold hands make this easier). Place the drained rice on a plate. Roll each of the meatballs in the rice to coat the outside.   Place the rice-coated meatballs in a steamer. Bring the water in the steamer to a simmer. Steam for 30-35 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice is soft.  Serve with vinegar and chili-flavored oil. Makes about 24

I always need hors d’oeuvre recipes because I entertain a lot. Most of the people who come over are really really familiar with the ones I repeat over and over (because no matter how much they like to try new foods, they are like most people and also want the favorites).

So I make a new recipe or two each time I have company. Experiments mostly, so my friends and family can be “test subjects” for a thumbs up or down.

But recently one of my daughters said “hey Mom, can I have your recipe for Pearly Meatballs?” And I realized I haven’t made these in YEARS! And they are so good, everyone loves them. I had stopped making them because well, frankly, they seemed old hat. But now that we haven’t had them in so long they seem fresh and I am remembering how much everyone looked forward to these.

I learned about Pearly Meatballs from the famous Florence Lin, Chinese cookbook author and teacher, who I met long ago at the China Institute. I tweaked her recipe here and there to suit our family. These meatballs are perfect for Chinese New Year (starting tonight) but also for the Superbowl on February 5th.

Pearly Meatballs

2/3 cup glutinous rice

4 large dried shiitake mushrooms

2 medium scallions, coarsely chopped

6 water chestnuts, coarsely chopped

1 slice fresh ginger, peeled, about 1/2-inch thick, cut coarsely

1 pound ground turkey (or veal but NOT beef or lamb)

1 large egg

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon rice wine

1/2 teaspoon sugar

white vinegar

chili-flavored oil

Place the rice in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let soak for 2 hours. Drain and set aside. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Drain, rinse, cut the mushrooms coarsely, and place in a food processor. Add the scallions, water chestnuts and ginger. Process until finely chopped (alternatively, chop the vegetables with a cleaver or chef’s knife).

Combine the meat, egg, soy sauce, salt, rice wine, sugar and chopped vegetables in a bowl. Shape the mixture into balls about 1-/14 to 1-1/2-inches in diameter (wet, cold hands make this easier). Place the drained rice on a plate. Roll each of the meatballs in the rice to coat the outside. 

Place the rice-coated meatballs in a steamer. Bring the water in the steamer to a simmer. Steam for 30-35 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice is soft.

Serve with vinegar and chili-flavored oil. Makes about 24

Chicken with Hoisin Sauce and Cashew Nuts

It’s a well known fact that Jewish people have an affinity for Chinese food. In fact, Elena Kagan, our newest Supreme Court Justice, even made a joke about it during her Senate hearings (when asked what she did the prior Christmas — a reference to the Christmas Day bomb plot in New York City — she said that she probably did what other Jews do on Christmas: eat out at a Chinese restaurant).

Why this particular love affair between a people and a cuisine? People have speculated lots of reasons (for example, Chinese cuisine uses little or no dairy, making it easy to avoid mixing meat and milk products in violation of the kosher dietary laws).

But ultimately it’s about the food itself. Chinese food is so delicious and there’s such variety as well as an abundance of interesting flavors, it’s difficult not to like, whatever your ethnic background!

When it came to Chinese food, my family was no different from so many others as I was growing up. The official day to eat it with your family was Sunday. Starting with Wonton Soup and Egg Rolls, you also ordered two from Column A, two from Column B. Stuff like Chow Mein and Fried Rice. Moo Goo Gai Pan. Char Shu Ding. Cantonese specialties. Tom’s, the place we went to, was typical: maroon vinyl booths to fit a family of four. 

This was before 1965, when immigration policy changed in the United States under LBJ. If you’re young you have no idea what a culinary (and demographic) revolution this caused. People from Szechuan, Hunan and other provinces of China came here and showed us Chinese food like we never had it before. We’d never known the likes of General’s Tzo’s Chicken and Kung Pao Gai Ding. We never heard of hoisin sauce.

A lifetime ago.

I still love the old and familiar foods of my childhood. A fresh, crispy egg roll. Lo Mein. 

But we save that for the occasional takeout. At home, I cook the other dishes: stirfries, interesting noodle recipes; main dishes that use flavorful ingredients such as hot chili peppers, fresh ginger and sesame oil.

To commemorate the Chinese New Year of the Hare, which begins on February 3rd, may I offer you my favorite recipe for Chicken with Hoisin Sauce and Cashews? It’s quick, easy and really tasty.

Chicken with Hoisin Sauce and Cashew Nuts

4 skinless and boneless chicken breast halves

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sherry

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon soy sauce

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup cut up water chestnuts

1 cup cut up fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup cut up green bell pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1/3 cup cashew nuts

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces into a bowl. Add the rice wine, cornstarch and soy sauce and mix the ingredients well to coat the chicken pieces evenly. Preheat a wok or stirfry pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom and sides. Add the water chestnuts, mushrooms and bell pepper pieces and stirfry for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the salt, toss, dish out and set aside. Reheat the pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add the chicken and stirfry for 2-3 minutes or until all the pieces are white and there are no traces of pink. Add the hoisin sauce and mix it in thoroughly. Return the vegetables to the pan and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the nuts and toss the ingredients. Dish out and serve. Makes 4 servings