Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Obi" Wan Fan - General Tso's Chicken

As part of our week in China, I, the Physicist, made General Tso's Chicken (and Tofu). I looked at a bunch of recipes and then basically winged it. I coated the chicken and tofu pieces in a batter made from an egg, half a cup of water, about a tablespoon of sesame oil, and a lot of cornstarch. At first, I only put in half a cup of cornstarch based on a recipe by Tyler Florence, but he was sadly wrong. This batter was runny and I probably added 2-3 times that much before it was thick, sticky, and coated the pieces well. Once this was worked out, I fried everything in the wok in batches, then dumped out most of the oil and made the sauce from garlic, ginger, red pepper, chicken stock, soy sauce, honey, and cornstarch to thicken. If I did this again, I'd dump all the oil and use fresh. After frying a pound of chicken and a box of tofu, the oil was a bit brown and brought a burnt taste to the final dish. The Girl would also appreciate less red pepper than I used. This was easy to play around with, adding more honey or cornstarch slurry at the end to get the result I liked, for instance, and I think it's a great next step beyond basic stir-fry. Overall, it was tasty, but could have been better. But there's only one way to learn.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Obi" Wan Fan - Chicken Asparagus Broccoli Stir Fry

So, I looked up "dinner" in Chinese . . . and got a translation in Chinese characters. Then, I looked up "how to say 'dinner'" and was told that it sounds like "wan fan". Hence, "Obi Wan Fan" week. (I know, we're geeks.) We were starting without many groceries, and even less time, but I quickly found this recipe at Bon Appétit, and The Physicist picked up the rest of the ingredients on his way home. Working together to chop up the veggies and chicken, it quickly came together in about 30 minutes, which was perfect. We did leave out the oyster sauce, because I wasn't sure I could handle that, but we easily substituted with soy sauce and a bit of cornstarch. It was lovely, and quick, and better than anything I could get from a Chinese food place, considering how fresh the veggies tasted. Served over some jasmine rice, it was divine. If you're looking for a fast, healthy alternative to take-out, this is the recipe for you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bollyfood - Makhani

Indian week of our international culinary tour was a couple weeks ago, but things got busy and I never blogged about the second meal in that delightful week. In the spirit of "better late than never", I bring you Chicken Makhani. This is another great dish for those new to Indian cuisine. With a sauce based on tomatoes and cream, it's just a little spicy, comforting, but exotic. I used this recipe as a basis, but I've used similar ones in the past with excellent results. I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I used minced garlic and ginger instead of ginger-garlic paste. I also browned the chicken and then transferred all of it into the pan with the sauce to simmer rather than moving just a little sauce over. Either way, this is simply delicious with some basmati rice and naan. To our delight, naan (an Indian flatbread) has recently appeared in the bakery section of our local grocery store!

During Indian week, I, The Physicist, also made paneer, a soft Indian cheese. It tastes great and I'm hoping to make it into something (paneer makhani or maybe paneer pakora where the cheese is coated and fried....mmm), but maybe we'll just eat it straight. Either way, it was a fun, easy, first try at cheese that didn't require anything special beyond some good cheesecloth. I started taking pictures of the whole process, but quickly got so wrapped up in what I was doing that I forgot to take more pictures. Maybe I'll remember next time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


This week, we've been exploring one of my favorite cuisines: Indian. There are some ulterior motives for this week, one of them being that learning how to make my favorite Indian recipes will hopefully save us moolah with my Indian food addiction. This is Quick Chicken Korma. Now, putting "quick" on the front of a korma recipe is kind of an oxymoron, but this recipe was excellent for a weeknight. Chicken korma is chicken in a mildly spiced, creamy sauce, with nuts. This one used cashews (so delicious!). If you have never tried Indian cuisine, this is an excellent beginner's dish, because it's not too spicy, and the chicken, nuts, cream, and yogurt are familiar ingredients. This recipe, though not the same as my favorite Indian restaurant's, was excellent, and easy to throw together. Serve it over some basmati rice, and you have found your new favorite comfort food.

Easter Peeps

I'm not a big fan of prepackaged peeps, but recently, I've learned how to make homemade marshmallow. It's easy, soft, delicious, and can be flavored just about any way you can imagine. It's really just a matter of making a syrup (sugar, water, and corn syrup, heated to boiling) and then whisking it with the stand mixer into bloomed gelatin and the flavoring. These ones were lemon flavored. After beating the mixture until it's nice and fluffy, The Girl piped them out into little chick shapes and coated some with powdered sugar and some with colored sugar. I can't tell you how awesome these are. If you haven't made marshmallow yourself, do it. Now!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cabbage. It's what's for dinner.

I love stuffed cabbage. When I say this, my mother usually makes a face, like I just said, "I love horseradish on ice cream". In her defense, she's never had stuffed cabbage (we're Irish/German, and never had much Eastern European food). I first had it made by The Physicist's grandmother at a family gathering. I, too, made a face when The Physicist told me what it was, but was seduced by the smell of saurkraut. (I love saurkraut.) Stuffed cabbage, or "töltött káposzta" in Hungarian, is a meatball of ground meat, onions, and rice, rolled in a boiled cabbage leaf, and stewed in a tomato-saurkraut broth. It's delicious. If you like saurkraut, you'll like this dish. Now, The Physicist's grandmother makes the finest stuffed cabbage I have ever eaten, but this recipe, from The Hungarian Cookbook by Yolanda Nagy Fintor, wasn't too bad. The sauce was a bit spicier (Yolanda adds a tablespoon of paprika), but overall, it was pretty close to Grandma's. This dish concluded Eastern European week. We only made the two meals, because it was a very busy week (I was babysitting 40 hours for a friend, so didn't have my usual free time), but we hope to get the usual three dishes done next week, as we begin our culinary tour of Asia.