Sunday, January 15, 2012

52 weeks of cooking, Week 2: Chinese food

I could post on week 1 of the challenge, but that was a very uninspiring challenge for me - eggs. I HATE eggs. The smell of a cooking or hard boiled egg makes me want to gag. There's nothing appetizing at all about how they look. I won't eat them, unless they're baked into something. So, for the last day of the holiday break, I cooked breakfast for my nieces to get this challenge out of the way, making french toast. I also made a fried egg sandwich for my dad. I suppose the pain is over, at least.

See? Even if I had any photography skills, that would not be appetizing at ALL.

At any rate, Week 2 went much, much better. The theme was Chinese food, and although I'm not particularly good at asian cuisine, I decided to go for it. The full meal was comprised of potstickers, mongolian beef, and chicken and vegetable lo mein.

The potstickers were a lot of fun. KB was home sick from school, so BB stayed home too. BB had been asking to cook again, so I decided that this would be the perfect project. I went to the asian market and picked up some dumpling wrappers and other assorted ingredients, then stopped at Publix for ground pork. I mixed ground pork with minced garlic, minced ginger, green onions, some soy sauce and sesame oil, and some shredded bok choi, and put it in the food processor just to get the veggies into smaller bits and well-integrated.

I'm soooo glad I'd bought that dumpling/ravioli/mini-pie press a couple of years ago! This was our first chance to use it and BB took to it like a pro. By the time she'd made about 3 dozen, she was calling herself the 'dumpling magician'. I cooked them simply by steaming them over high heat, and tried this 'dumpling sauce' I'd found at the asian market instead of making my own, as I normally do. It was roughly the same as what I would make at home, so that's nice for when we decide to raid the other two dozen that are stashed in the freezer!

My 'dumpling magician' definitely put some magic into these yummy things.

I also made some Mongolian Beef, based off of this recipe, but with the addition of broccoli and bok choi. Overall, it turned out excellent, but I think I would slightly increase the sugar-to-soy ratio next time. I've already been asked when I'm going to make it again!

Finally, there was the lo mein. I used this recipe that I'd seen someone else post on with good results as a starting point, but changed it up a bit. First of all, I replaced the linguine with some wider noodles marketed as 'Chinese wide lo mein' noodles, but the linguine probably would've done just as well. Second, I reduced the amount of chicken to 3 thin-sliced breast pieces and added a lot of vegetables. Peas and broccoli from the garden were at the ready in the freezer, and I also added in some slices of carrot as well as more bok choi. Instead of shiitake mushrooms I used beech mushrooms, which were adorable and very tasty. I also completely ignored the cooking procedures - cooking chicken, then putting it in a bowl, then cooking the veggies, then cooking the sauce and noodles and adding it all together was a ridiculous idea.

Overall, the meal was a huge success. In retrospect, I wish I'd been more thorough in reading the comments about the lo mein recipe and picked up some oyster sauce, which appears to be the missing 'secret ingredient'. I will agree that it didn't have exactly the same flavor as what you get in a restaurant, and although it was very good, it was just different enough for BB to notice.

You can't fake that kind of excitement.

Total prep/cook time: 2.5 hours, including dumpling assembly.
Family happiness rating: 8/10, they asked where the fortune cookies were!

See the full album here.

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