Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sweet Cream Braid Doesn't Live Up to Name

So the other day, I decided I'd make a sweet cream braid from a recipe I've been wanting to try for years. Basic bread dough filled with sweetened cream cheese -- mmm. Except that when I cut into it, the cream cheese had totally disappeared. Poof. Like a magic trick gone bad. Well, I guess making something disappear would be a successful magic trick. But I wasn't happy -- I think you get the picture.

I was, however, extremely excited about braiding. I'll probably braid all my food from now on. Broccoli, pasta, chili, you name it. It will be braided.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Takeout Fake-Out

So whenever anyone suggests a recipe that is supposed to taste just like Chinese takeout, I usually say, "Yum, sounds great. Can you hand me the China Queen menu please?" Meaning that Chinese recipes never taste like Chinese takeout.

Except for this gem I found in Martha Stewart's Everyday Cooking. It tastes exactly like General Tso's Chicken. I think the secret is probably in the egg white-corn starch dip and the panfry. It turns out nice and crispy, and red pepper flakes give the sauce just the right amount of bite.

I know from Jennifer 8. Lee's The Fortune Cookie Chronicles that Chinese food isn't any more Chinese than those horses they stick outside of P.F. Chang's. I don't care. I still like it.

General Tso's Chicken (from Everyday Food)
  • 1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

The food: Make-it-at-home General Tso's Chicken
The verdict: I give this General five stars

Monday, April 6, 2009

Abbie Meets the S-Mart

Inspired by friends and fellow food fans Dan and Katie, I decided to make some Asian food this weekend: egg drop soup, steamed pork buns (which I'd made a few weeks ago and frozen) and a new potsticker recipe from Cuisine at Home.

In preparation, I took my first ever trip to the S-Mart Asian Supermarket & Café -- a whole new grocery store for me to explore. I was a little weirded out when I grabbed a cart and discovered it contained the now-empty shell of a small, boiled crustacean (wrapped tastefully in a napkin), but the experience really improved from there. Here's why:
  • Cheap veggies. (I love a good deal.)
  • Potsticker wrappers. (Normally I like to make everything from scratch, but given how long it takes me to just fill potstickers, I'm glad to accept a little help from the fine folks at the potsticker wrapper company.)
  • An ENTIRE aisle of sauces. That's right. One whole aisle.
I've loved sauces since I was a child, when I discovered the joy of mashed potatoes topped with A1. (Try it. You'll like it.) So imagine my giddiness at finding shelves and shelves of garlic sauce and sweet chili sauce and plum sauce -- and Heinz ketchup, which didn't seem particularly Asian to me, but who am I to judge?

Needless to say, I brought home an armload full.

The potstickers turned out pretty well, even if they took at least an hour longer to make than I'd anticipated. I filled these with Napa cabbage, ground pork, fresh ginger and little bit of salt and pepper and soy sauce, but there's plenty of room for experimentation, and next time I might mix it up a little.

(These are the potstickers, pre-frying and steaming. Please ignore the inexpert fan folding.)

If you're feeling like trying your own potstickers, I'd recommend checking out Jennifer Yu's excellent food blog, use real butter. You can find her recipe (and step-by-step photos) for potstickers here.

And if you're feeling like you need something to dip your potstickers in, we give the sweet chili sauce two thumbs up. You should head on over to S-Mart. Tell them the girl who was afraid of the crustacean carcass sent you.