Saveur Magazine Classic Recipes No.59- General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso's Chicken

As a child, every Friday night we would go to a Chinese restaurant with my father’s side of the family.  Nothing gave my father more pleasure than to order half the menu.  Of course, we would get the round table with the lazy susan, so no one had to really stretch that far to have all the different options he had ordered.  I, usually just ate a bowl of steamed peas or sautéed mushrooms.  Silly me. It wasn’t until I was about 10 that I discovered this dish, tangy, crispy, spicy and sweet all the same, I fell in love.

After moving to Spain, one of the things that I miss the most about living in the States, is good Chinese take out.  We do have Chinese take out, but it is nothing in comparison to the variety that we have back home.  It is such a shame, most of the time it all comes in a pool of its own oil, making everything soggy, bland and basically inedible.

So I was really happy to see that Saveur had included this recipe into their classics.  It took me a while to make, because finding the right ingredients here is quite difficult.  I still haven’t found somewhere close by to my house where I can buy them, but for this occasion I made an effort.  The only thing I couldn’t find were scallions.  Even in Barcelona they were hard to get!

So, on to the recipe.  I loved it.  Obviously less sweet than the restaurant version, this one was more tangy and it had such a great consistency.  Not overly spicy, which shocked me due to the amount of chili peppers I threw in, but that was great.  My family doesn’t tolerate spiciness as much as I do.  Surprisingly, my daughter was the one who enjoyed it the most.  Always the picky one, she even asked me to pack it up for lunch at school the next day.  My fiancé, however, not so much.  He hasn’t been exposed to the amount of Chinese food as I have, so his taste buds aren’t used to the complex flavours of this type of cuisine.  Nonetheless, it was delicious and a success!

Rankings:

Overall points: 7.6/10

Difficulty: Easy

Availability of Ingredients:  Easy for my American counterparts, a little harder for continental Europeans

Recipe:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. chicken stock

7 tbsp. cornstarch

6 tbsp. rice vinegar

6 tbsp. tomato paste

5 tbsp. light soy sauce

4 1/2 tsp dark sou sauce

2 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 in cubes

3 1/2 cups plus 9 tbsp. peanut oil

3 egg yolks

2 tbsp. minced ginger

2 tbsp. minced garlic

16 chiles de arbol

2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

Thinly slice scallions, to garnish ( I used leeks)

1. Whisk stock, 1 tbsp cornstarch, vinegar, tomato paste, 3 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, and 3 tbsp water in a bowl; set aside.

2. Place remaining cornstarch and both soy sauces, chicken, 3 tbsp peanut oil, and egg yolks in a bowl; toss.  Pour 3 1/2 cups peanut oil in a 14″ flat-bottomed wok; heat over med-high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 375 degrees.  Working in batches, add chicken; fry, tossing, until cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels; set aside.  Discard oil; wipe wok clean.

3. Return wok to high heat, and add remaining peanut oil.  Add ginger, garlic, and chiles; fry, stirring constantly, until fragrant and chiles begin to change color, about 30 seconds.  Add reserved sauce; cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken; fry, tossing constantly, until evenly coated with sauce, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in sesame oil.  Transfer to a serving plate; top with scallions.  Serves 2-3.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Alu Gobi – Cauliflower and Potato Curry

Caulifower and Potato Curry

 

20 years ago, I tried this dish for the very first time.  My college roommate, Salina, is from Kenya, but her parents are from Gujarat.  Apart from being one of the most incredible, beautiful and kindest persons I have met to date, she also opened up my mind to so many different things.  With her, I traveled to Kenya, and had one of the most life changing trips.  I entered not only Africa, but was received with open arms by her family, and they made me their protegé, and taught me so many things about Indian culture.  Back then, Salina used to cook for me.  I didn’t even know how to boil water.  But wow….she used to make these things that I had NEVER heard of.  But I loved them all.  I loved her little tiffin box full of spices.  I secretly coveted it.  I secretly wished I could be as talented as her in the kitchen.

But she did leave me with quite a few recipes.  Honestly, I don’t think I could have ever made them until now.  Thanks to the beauty of internet and the fact that I can now manoeuvre around a kitchen, I can figure out what “kala jeera” is (black cumin seed) and to figure out what “when the oil separates” means.  I think her recipes are beautiful.  It wasn’t from a book, she was cooking from her heart, and from her amazing mother’s heart.  ( I heart Bena- her mummy, my other mummy.)

So, today I decided to tackle this recipe, which was one of my favorites.  And I received the best compliment of all.  A friend of mine who has traveled extensively throughout India took one bite and said, “Mmmm, this takes me back to India!  Do you mind if I eat with my hands?”

And this of course, made me very, very happy.  Because my other mummy taught me how to eat with my hands too.

So, here is Salina’s wonderful Alu Gobi!

Serves 4

1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets

1 large onion, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 potatoes, chopped

1 cup peas

For the masala:

1/3-1/2 cup ghee or oil

1 tsp kala jeera (cumin seeds)

2 tbsp finely chopped ginger

2 green ( I used red) chillies, roughly chopped

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt, or to taste

2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

Wash the cauliflower, potatoes and peas together.

Heat the ghee/oil, and lightly fry the cumin seeds.  Add the onions and fry to a light golden color.  Add the tomatoes, ginger, chillies, turmeric powder, salt, coriander powder, chilli powder and garam masala to the onions.  Cook on low heat until the oil separates.  (About 10-15 minutes).  Add the cauliflower, peas and potato with about 1/4 cup water, and stir the vegetables until well mixed with the masala.  Cover the pan and simmer on low heat.  When cooked, if there is any liquid in the pan, increase the heat and evaporate until the sauce is thick.  Sprinkle with the chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with chapati, puri or paratha.  (I made spiced puris in the picture above).

From my Indian mummy’s kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemongrass

Chicken noodle soup with lemongrassI haven’t posted  a couple of days, but it’s not because I was neglecting you my friends, I just didn’t want to bore you to tears with the mush I have eaten.  You see, last Sunday I came down with a severe tooth ache,  and all I have eaten is porridge like stuff, or yogurt, or mashed potatoes.   I mean, I assume you didn’t want a post on how to make oatmeal.  Naaaaah. So, I kind of got tired of the blandness, and once my tooth started feeling better, I decided to venture on something a little more consistent, like a noodle soup. But, I was craving taste, and something different, so I picked up this copy of Fine Cooking magazine that I had lying around, and they had this amazing noodle soup on the cover.

I have to admit, this is easy, but it has a lot of steps to it.  So, to further ease the process, I changed up the recipe a little, like instead of cooking my chicken breasts, I bought a roast chicken and used them.  Also, since I love mushrooms, I added a bit more shiitake than called for, and it gave the broth more depth and flavour, it was more umami.

chicken noodle soup with lemongrass ingredientsThis soup is a cross between Vietnamese Pho and Japanese Udon, and the combination works.  I love the acidity of the lime juice, paired with the earthiness of the shiitake.  And who doesn’t love fresh cilantro and chilies?  (Yes, a lot of people, I know.)

The subtle aftertaste of lemongrass was divine, and every two bites or so you would get this bit of basil.  I really cannot wait to make this again.  It is going to be a staple in my kitchen this winter!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Apr/May 2010

Serves 4

2 1/2 tbsp canola oil

2 small boneless chicken breasts, butterflied (or use the chicken breast of a roast chicken, or any other pre-cooked chicken you have leftover)

3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings

2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, outer layers discarded , halved lengthwise, and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife.

1 tbsp fresh minced ginger

2 tsp packed light brown sugar

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered ( I used dry, and added 3 cups, presoaked in boiling water for 20 minutes.)

9 oz. udon noodles

1 Thai bird chili (or 1 small Serrano pepper) sliced into thin rings

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

1 medium lime, half juiced, and half cut into wedges ( I used three… I love me some lime!)

1 tbsp soy sauce, more to taste

2 medium scallions, trimmed and sliced for garnish

1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks, for garnish

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

If you are using the uncooked chicken breast, heat a dutch oven over medium high heat,add the oil and add the chicken breasts and cook until browned on each side and cooked through.  Transfer to a cutting board and let cool, and when cool to the touch, shred it with a fork or your fingers.  If you have leftovers, just omit the step and get to shredding!

If there isn’t enough oil left over, add a little more and then add the shallots to the pot.  Sprinkle with salt, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the shallots begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the lemongrass, ginger, and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the ginger and lemongrass sizzle and become fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth and shiitake, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and raise the heat to medium high.  Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.  Then turn off heat and let it sit for a while, so the flavours meld.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the noodles, stirring, until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a colander and run under cold water to cool slightly.  Drain well.

When you are ready to eat, heat the soup up again, add the chicken and noodles to the broth and cook until the noodles are completely tender, about 2 minutes.  Discard the lemongrass.  Stir in the chilies, torn basil, lime juice, and soy sauce; season with more soy to taste.  Divide noodles among 4 large, deep bowls.  Ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish with the scallions, carrot, and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges for squeezing.  Slurp away!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Ma Po Tofu

 

Last night, I learned two things:

1) I actually liked a dish with tofu!  So did my daughter and boyfriend!

2) It is extremely difficult, actually, damn near impossible to mince pork belly with my meat grinder.

That said, this turned out to be an amazing dish!  I had seen it many times on restaurant menus, but had always forgone ordering it due to my aversion to tofu.  You see, tofu to me, is akin to plastic nothingness.  I never got on the band wagon, and now I realize, that to truly enjoy this Asian/vegetarian staple, you have to cook it with something, so it can marinate and soak up all the flavours of whatever you are making.

I had recently seen a pretty good blog post from a fellow blogger, called Mrs. Chen: Old crone, pockmarked-face, tofu legend.  The description of the legend of this dish intrigued me, and his photos made me keen to try it.  So I did!  And I am soooo happy I did.  I absolutely loved it!  The sauce was just incredibly flavourful, chock full of garlic, spring onion, Sichuan pepper and chilies!

I did have a little bit of a problem though, we do have a couple of Asian markets here, so I made one variation to the sauce from the original recipe, I could find hot bean paste.  So, I added garlic black bean paste, and a tsp of this red chili paste/oil/madness to it.  I am assuming that this made up for the lack of it, and also gave it an extra garlicky umph!

So, thank you Andy, for pushing me to make this.  We will definitely make it again, and it has motivated me to try more dishes that include tofu!

You can find the original recipe here.

From my (via Andy’s) kitchen to yours,

Carla