Monday, October 27, 2008

The Best Fried Rice

I have always loved Chinese food. I still remember going to Fongs Garden in Las Vegas over 40 years ago. It was so different from anything I had ever had at home. I didn't try to cook Chinese for many years because I had never seen it done. But after starting to watch some cooking shows, Yan Can Cook is the first one that comes to mind, I decided to give it a try. Its really not very difficult, it just requires a lot of preparation before you actually start cooking.

The secret to good fried rice is cold rice. I usually cook about 5 cups of Calrose rice. Place the cooked rice in the fridge, stirring it occasionally to let out the heat, until it is chilled through. Another tip is to season all the ingredients as you stir-fry them. I begin by stir-frying a finely diced onion. Add a little salt and pepper and cook until soft. Remove the onion and place in a large bowl. Add a little more oil to the wok and stir-fry a bag of frozen peas and carrots, again adding a little salt and pepper. When heated through, and maybe even a little browned, place in the bowl with the onion. I then like to add some fresh bean sprouts. Don't over cook them, they need to still be crisp, but do season them with salt and pepper while cooking, and then place them in the bowl with the other veggies. Add some more oil and then drop in about 8 eggs, all at once. Don't scramble them, but let them cook a little as you stir them around. I have seen some people cook them like a big omelet and then slice it up. Its a little more work if you choose to do it that way, just make sure you season the eggs whichever way you do it. Add them to the bowl and then cook the meat. I usually use cooked ham. Dice it into 1/4 inch cubes and stir-fry it until a little charred. I have also used pork that I have slow-cooked slathered in Hoisin Sauce and then diced, or even chopped bacon. Chicken seems to break up too much in the rice. Oh, and by the way, you don't need to add salt and pepper as you cook the meat.

Add the meat to the bowl, wipe out any residue from the wok, add about 1/3 cup of oil (I use peanut) and heat it until shimmering. Be careful as you add the cold rice so it doesn't splash you with oil, and start breaking up the rice as you stir. I sprinkle about 2 tbls. of sugar on the rice as I'm stirring. As the rice begins to heat, add the soy sauce. 1/3 to 1/2 a cup should do. It helps break-up the rice, but you need to keep stirring so it doesn't burn. Dump in the bowl of meat and veggies and stir until combined. Return rice to the bowl and sprinkle with some fresh chopped scallion greens.

Fried rice is one dish that seems to be as good re-heated as fresh, so make enough for later.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Nuovo Coq au Vin

Do we have to call it "French Cuisine"?

I love cooking all types of food, but I have to admit that I have never ventured much into french cuisine. I did make a french onion soup once like they serve at Mimi's for my wife's birthday. It seemed like a lot of work for some broth with an over-sized crouton. I consider Italian food to be the supreme food of Europe, and perhaps the world, and really don't care much for anything French. I was however tempted beyond my ability to resist by a recipe in Gourmet magazine for Coq au Vin, a classic french offering.

It seemed quite simple, and I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I gave it a shot. It turned out O.K., but was a little too simple, too paysan. So on my second attempt I improvised..perhaps enough to call it European Cuisine, and thus maintain my distance from anything fran├žaise which requires a certain snootiness to even pronounce.

I began as per the original recipe, browning the thighs well on the skin side. I then removed the skin and browned the now naked thighs where the skin had been. I found that with the original recipe, as you finished cooking it, the skin became soft and elastic, not the type of texture that I like in chicken skin. By browning them with the skin first though, it made some nice carmelization for the veggies.

I then got a bit more creative with the veggies, adding some course chopped onion, about a pound of thick sliced crimini mushrooms, (I think some thick slices of portobello would do nicely too) and then at the very end of cooking I threw in a couple handfuls of fresh green beans to the top of the pot. I also added a little chicken broth and thickened it with flour to make it more of a gravy. It was excellent over the olive oil mashed potatoes recommended in the recipe. For the potatoes, the food mill makes them very light, and I probably doubled the amount of olive oil since I used russets instead of yukons. I think I will call this dish Pollo al Vino, Va bene?