Quick Meals, Salad, Soup, Vegetables

Vegetable fest.

A reader asks for the recipe for my cauliflower soup. Find two vegetarian recipes using classic winter produce here on the Soup and salad page.

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Q&A, Vegetables

Fun with eggplant.

A reader asks whether there’s more to eggplant than endless repetitions of parmesan. Read about other ways with eggplant – grilled, roasted and puréed, and blended into a creamy soup – on the Eggplant page.

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East Asian, Leftover Recycling, Pork Products, Quick Meals

Recycling is good, part 3.

I’m not going to lie to you. I still have a lot of pork left over from hamming it up a couple weeks ago. So far, we’ve eaten it roasted, and in a quick ragù. It’s been snowing all day – I think Baltimore got over a foot and it’s still coming down – and a steaming bowl of noodle soup sounds like the perfect low-effort dinner for a cold night.

Make the soup base, and then warm the pork by poaching it in the soup. Meanwhile, cook the noodles and prep the green vegetables. Almost any greens will do – if you don’t have bok choy or yu choy handy, but you’ve got spinach, that’s just fine. And if you don’t have Chinese wheat noodles (la
mian
), which I used because that’s what I had, use a different noodle.

A word about accompaniments in Chinese cuisine – there’s a lot more to finishing noodle soups and other dishes than soy sauce and chile oil. Briny, savory, pungent flavors, especially from fermented or dried seafood, are characteristic. Condiments such as XO sauce and sa-cha sauce, based on dried scallop or shrimp, and preserved or pickled vegetables, often are added to the finished dish.

pork, la mian, shiitakes, yu choy

Noodle soup with pork and greens

1 lb leftover roast pork, from preceding recipe or any other neutrally-seasoned roast pork recipe, in a chunk
6 c Chinese chicken stock, made as specified below, or 3 c store-bought chicken broth and 3 c filtered water
1 3-inch piece of ginger, halved lengthwise (4-inches if using store-bought chicken broth)
3 cloves garlic, smashed (5 if using store-bought chicken broth)
2 scallions, cut in 2-inch lengths
1/4 c soy sauce
3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 1-inch chunk yellow rock sugar, or 2 tbsp sugar
1 star anise

12 ounces wheat noodles (la mian)
1 lb leafy green vegetables, including without limitation bok choy, yu choy, choy sum, Chinese broccoli
4 dried shiitake mushrooms

Garniture:
2 scallions, sliced thinly into rings
Chile-garlic sauce
Toasted (black) sesame oil
Sa-cha sauce (such as Bull’s Head)

Place a deep pot over medium heat and add a small quantity of vegetable/canola oil. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and sauté until aromatic. Reduce the heat to low, and add the water or chicken stock, the Shaoxing wine and soy sauce, star anise, and the pork. Bring to a simmer and do not allow to boil.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook the greens until just crisp-tender. Remove from the pot with a skimmer or slotted spoon, return the water to the boil, and cook the noodles.

Drain the noodles, rinse, and immediately divide into a number of bowls (4-6 depending on hunger level). Just before serving, when noodles and greens are cooked, add the dried shiitakes to the broth/pork and cook until tender; remove and cut off the woody stem; slice thinly. Remove the pork and slice thinly across the grain. Add greens, sliced pork, sliced mushroms, and broth, ladled through a chinois, bouillon strainer, or a fine mesh sieve.

Garnish with scallions, red chile, sesame oil, and sa-cha sauce.

Chinese chicken stock

Do you make a lot of Chinese noodle soups? If so, consider making and freezing a Chinese chicken stock. The process is considerably less complex than classic French stockmaking.

5 lbs chicken wings, backs, necks (or other spare parts)
1 4-inch piece ginger, sliced
4 scallions, sliced into 3-inch segments
several white peppercorns
6 quarts cold filtered water

Bring the ingredients just to a boil and skim continuously. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover, and simmer for 3 hours. Strain through a chinois, use or chill down immediately, and store unused portion in refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for several months.

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Beef, East Asian, Soup

Noodle bowl.

My parents live in Taipei these days and I can say with confidence that no city in the world outshines Taipei in the street food department. You got your dumpling stands, your steamed meat bun guys, the green onion pancake specialists, the fried chicken people (more on that in a later post), the hot limeade, oyster omelettes, fried sausages on a stick…and then there are the noodle soups.

The noodle soup stands are ubiquitous and feature vats of noodles, and steaming broths, bowls of shredded or slow-cooked meats, bins of raw vegetables and eggs. Recently, the Taipei Main Station – the main railway terminal – opened an amazing food court featuring a wide array of noodle soups, curries, and other international meals. Their braised beef noodle soup – niu rou mian – is delicious.

Some specialists believe the best niu rou mian features separately cooked meat and broth. I agree but if you want to eat this on a weeknight, you can prepare a really good broth using just the meat. Both recipes follow – decide which way you want to go.

Braised beef brisket, noodles, gai lan.

Niu Rou Mian

2 lb beef brisket, cut into 1 1/4″ cubes – tendon and shank are great also
2 lb beef bones, preferably knuckle and oxtail
About 10 c filtered water
6 inch piece ginger, sliced 1/2″ thick lengthwise (slightly on the diagonal)
6 scallions, 4″ segments
1 onion, halved across the equator
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tbsp bean paste
1 tbsp hot bean paste
1/4 c soy sauce + 2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing wine
3 whole star anise
*****
12 ounces wheat noodles (la mian)
1 lb green vegetable, like broccoli raab or chinese broccoli (gai lan)
*****
Garniture:
Tiny red chiles, sliced into thin rings
Hot bean paste
Pickled mustard greens, chopped into fine dice – available in cans in Asian groceries
Scallions, sliced into thin rings
Toasted/black sesame oil

For the broth:

Note – see below for the easy way. Place a large deep pot over medium heat and add a small quantity of vegetable/canola oil. Add the onion. Do not stir but allow the onion to blacken. Remove from the pot. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and saute until aromatic. Return the onion to the pot, reduce the heat to low, and add the beef bones. Add 7c of water and bring to a simmer, skimming all the foam that rises to the top. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Strain through a chinois/fine strainer.

Meanwhile, in a separate heavy pot with a lid, combine the bean pastes, star anise, shaoxing wine, and soy with the remaining 3c of water. Add the beef and bring to a simmer. Skim the foam that rises to the top. Simmer until the beef is tender, about 2-3 hours depending on the type of beef and its fat/collagen content.

Combine the beef with its braising liquid and the strained beef stock. Bring back to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust with soy sauce. You can prepare this in advance and hold it for service (or freeze it and bring back to a simmer for about 10 minutes to heat the meat thoroughly before service).

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook the greens until just crisp-tender. Remove from the pot, return the water to the boil, and cook the noodles.

Drain the noodles and divide into a number of bowls (4-6 depending on hunger level). Add greens, beef, and broth. Garnish with scallions, red chile, bean paste, sesame oil, and pickled mustard greens.

* Easy route:

If you don’t want to deal with beef bones and two pots, you can make the beef and broth all in one shot.

Place a large deep pot over medium heat and add a small quantity of vegetable/canola oil. Add the onion. Do not stir but allow the onion to blacken. Remove from the pot. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and saute until aromatic. Reduce the heat to low and return the onion to the pot. Combine the bean pastes, star anise, shaoxing wine, and soy with about 10c of water. Add the beef and bring to a simmer, skimming all the foam that rises to the top. Simmer until the beef is tender, about 3-4 hours depending on the type of beef and its fat/collagen content. Remove the beef chunks to another container and strain the broth through a chinois/fine strainer.

Note to slow cooker enthusiasts: Once you bring the mixture to a simmer, you can transfer it to a slow cooker and cook it on low all day or all night. You’ll have super tender meat.

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Chicken, Quick Meals, Soup, Squash, Vegetables

Chicken Tonight.

Do you have an hour?  You can make this meal.

The key is to break down the chicken rather than roasting it whole, because the parts will cook within 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, as the chicken roasts and then rests, make the soup and prep the brussels sprouts.

1 chicken, broken down, breasts and leg/thigh quarters only
1 oz cold butter, flaked with fork
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp espelette pepper (or black pepper with a tiny pinch of cayenne)
2 sprigs thyme, leaves minced

Brussels sprouts:

1/2 lb sprouts, ends trimmed, halved
2 slices Nueske’s bacon or other smoky bacon, diced (1/4″)

Butternut squash soup:

1 leek, white only, washed well and julienned
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced (1/2″)
1 quart chicken stock
4-5 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
kosher salt, celery salt
espelette and cayenne pepper ((or black pepper with a tiny pinch of cayenne)

2 oz butter
handful sage leaves
1/2 lemon

Chicken: 40 minutes

Oven 350F

Cut the leg-thigh joint (do not cut through meat).  Combine butter, salt, espelette, and thyme.  Gently lift the skin on the chicken but do not remove; stuff  bits of the butter mixture under the skin.  Season the skinless side lightly with salt.

Place a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a small amount of olive oil when hot.  Add chicken, skin side down.  Baste meat as butter melts.  Turn chicken over, baste again, and place in oven.  Roast, basting twice, for 20 minutes.  Test for doneness (165F).  Remove and rest.  Immediately before serving, return to pan skin-side up and baste skin with melted butter.  Place under broiler and heat to crisp skin.

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Roast chicken, brussels sprouts, flageolet purée

Soup: about 30 minutes

Sweat the onion and leek until tender in a small quantity of vegetable oil in a stock pot. Do not allow to caramelize. Add the squash and sweat until tender.  Saute for about ten minutes until the squash has begun to soften. Add the herbs and the stock. Simmer until the squash is tender enough to fall apart when pressed with a fork.

Remove the thyme branches and bay leaves. Puree in a blender, in batches if necessary. Process the purée through a tamis. Return the purée to a sauce pot and bring to a simmer;  reduce to the desired texture. Season with salt, cayenne, and espelette. Seasoning with a small amount of celery salt in lieu of salt reduces the sometimes too-sweet taste of the squash.

To serve:  heat butter until foamy and beginning to turn light gold; add sage and fry until crisp.  Add a squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt.  Add sage leaves and brown butter to soup.

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Butternut squash, brown butter, sage

Brussels sprouts: 10 minutes

Place a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bacon and fry until crisp.  Remove bacon but reserve fat.  Add halved sprouts, cut side down, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Flip over when beginning to turn golden brown on cut side.  Return bacon to pan and cook 2 minutes more.   Season with salt.

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