Saturday, February 9, 2008

Garlic Ginger Oysters

I had some oysters leftover from Mardi Gras.
These were jarred oysters, extra small size.

I decided to sautee the oysters with garlic and ginger.

The fixins'

Oysters - I had about 3/4 of a 10 ounce jar of extra small oysters
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 green onion - chopped
1/2 tsp ginger chopped

Not shown - a corn starch slurry
1/2 tsp corn starch
1 to 1.5 tsp oyster sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup water

I usually don't use corn starch, but I figured the corn starch would thicken the juices which should help the flavors "cling" to the oysters. I believe some Chinese restaurants will lightly coat the oysters and quickly deep fry the oysters before adding to the final sauce. The coating also help the gravy cling to the oysters.

The cooking -
Heat a saute pan and add about 1 tablespoon of oil.
When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger and green onions to slightly brown and flavor the oil.
Add the oysters and saute for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the corn starch mixture and let it thicken - with corn starch as soon as it comes to boil, that's as thick as he mixture will get.

I had extra gravy and didn't want to waste it so I added white rice and let it soak up the flavors.

Garlicky, slight hot from the ginger, but I added an extra dab of chile paste.
Oysters may look odd, but they oysters are slightly sweet and the flavors are very nice.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today is the start of the New Year per the Chinese lunar calendar. As with other cultures, you need to start the New Year properly by eating the right foods.

One traditional new year dish is Jai. What does Jai mean? I don't know. However, the symbolism of Jai, which is a vegetarian dish, is that the first meal of the day should not involve killing. Depending upon the region or family, the first few days are vegetarian, the first day is vegetarian, the first meal is vegetarian or the dish is on the table for breakfast. Also, jai is chockful of good luck, prosperity and longevity symbolic foods.

This is my version of Jai, plucked from my memory. Also, there is no real set recipe for Jai. If I'm wrong, my parents will probably let me know. :-)

The fixins (staring 9 o'clock and going clockwise)

Lily buds (Golden needles - wealth) - soak to rehydrate
Cloud Ears (Longevity) - soak to rehydrate
Dried Mushrooms - soak to rehydrate
Arrowhead (Benovolence) - peel but keep the stem attached
Bamboo Shoots
Carrots - cut into disk
Fried Tofu Puffs
Mung Bean Vermicelli (Longevity) - soak to rehydrate
Soy Bean Sprouts
Snow Peas
Nappa Cabbage

Vegetable Stock (not shown)
Soy Sauce (not shown)

Simmer in vegetable broth the lily buds, cloud ears, mushrooms, arrowhead, bamboo shoots, carrots and tofu puffs about 15 minutes.

Add the vermicelli, soy bean sprouts, snow peas and nappa cabbage and continue simmering about 5 to 10 minutes.

Add soy sauce to taste.

Serve with rice.
While I was cooking the dish, I had a flash and remembered eating lettuce cups too. Lettuce is symbolic of good luck or something good. Doubly blessed by eating Jai wrapped in lettuce. lol!

I found the following link that has a better explanation for Jai:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Playing with my food

I remember seeing pictures of blood oranges when I was in grade school and was fascinated by the deep red color of he flesh and was curious about the taste of the strange looking orange.

A few days ago picked up a couple Moro blood oranges.

This skin has a reddish tinge like a regular orange that is sunburned from too much direct sunlight.

The flesh is deep red where the juice is slightly red like a diluted cranberry cocktail.

Close-up the flesh appears to be sushi-grade maguro tuna. Thank goodness we don't need soy sauce and wasabi to eat this orange.

The taste is sweet with an orange/tangerine taste. It's not as tart/acidic as a regular orange, but not as sweet as a tangerine. Overall, very nice.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Mardi Gras 2008

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the day before Lent where devout Catholics give up something for 40 days, as a symbol of devotion. They also start attending services. Fat Tuesday is the day were people splurge, pig out and get it all out of their system for Lent.

I didn't realize today was Mardi Gras until I went downstairs to the cafeteria at work. Of course, they made poor attempts at some Louisiana classics - seafood gumbo, hush puppies and fried okra.

While I was driving home for work, I decided to make a classic poor boy, also known as a po' boy, in celebration of Mardi Gras. However, when I lived in New Orleans, I heard that the locals call the sandwich a poor boy and that tourist called it po' boy. The same with the pronunciation of New Orleans. Tourist will call the city Nawlins' while locals never used 'nawlins.

A poor boy is a submarine sandwich that's typically on soft french bread. Typical fillings vary but of of the popular fillings is deep fried shrimp which is what I'm trying tonight.

The deep fried fillings usually has a corn meal coating, but I believe the corn meal is ground to a fine texture. This is what it looks like in the bag of Louisiana style fish fry. Of course what I have is just a box of regular cornmeal.

I tried pulsing the cornmeal in a coffee grinder. It's hard to tell if it worked or not. There were some fine particles, but not a big difference. I could have used a food processor, but didn't want to lug it out and wash it. Maybe I'll try it next time, but it will be awhile before I try again.

I made 3 batches of fry mix. Actually, I think it was 4.

The fixins
1 cup of corn meal, pulsed through a coffee grinder about 30 to 40 seconds.
Shrimp (31/35), peeled and deveined
1/2 cup of flour
1.5 teaspoons of Lousiana Cajun Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Batch 1 - all cornmeal
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon seasoning

Batch 2 - half cornmeal and half flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon seasoning

Batch 3 - half and half plus leavening. Based Paula Deen's Fried Chicken recipe on the Food Network. Her recipes calls for self rising flour. I've tried it and liked the results.

1/2 cup of batch 2
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Batch 4
Dump Batch 1, 2, and 3 into a bowl.

While the shrimp is still damp, dredge though the coating mixture and fry in 350F oil for about 1 minute. The shrimp is thin so it doesn't take a long time to cook.

The results:
Batch 1 is in the 9 o'clock position. Crunchy and kind of course from the corn meal.
Batch 2 is in the 12 o'clock position. Not as crunchy with a light coating.
Batch 3 at 3 o'clock. Coating seemed slightly puffier. My imagination since I'm expecting the leavening to do something?
Batch 4 at 6 o'clock. Not as heavy as batch 1, but can feel the texture of the corn.

A common deep frying techinique, you would use an egg wash before the coating, but I don't remember the poor boy shops using an egg wash. Also, I didn't have any eggs.

However, if I try this again I would try a more traditional deep frying method. Flour the ingredients, egg wash and a final dredge through the corn meal coating.

Oysters too!
Yes, I also bought some oysters and fried a few.

The finished product:
A shrimp and oyster poor boy dressed.
Dressed means that the sandwich includes toppings - mayo, tomatoes, lettuce and pickles.
Actually each poor boy shop had a different definition for dressed. Some would include pickles and others you have to request pickles.

I also like adding a few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce. I like the vinegary-ness of Louisiana hot sauce over Tobasco.

If deep frying wasn't a messy procedure, I'd try different coating recipes more often.
Overall, it was a good sandwich. You can't go wrong with deep frying... lol.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Veggies and Rice

After eating chicken for a few days, today was time for something different.
I still had tofu from the hot and sour soup so I wanted to use it before it sat in the fridge too long. Also, sauteed veggies is just away of using what's in the fridge.

For me the thing to do with tofu is to brown it a little before adding the other ingrdients. The browning gives the tofu a nutty flavor and a little texture.

The veggies I used were
Nappa Cabbage

Soy Sauce
Oyster Sauce

No specific amounts. It's all to taste.
You can finish it off with a little cornstarch slurry to make a little gravy, but I generally don't like adding cornstarch.

The veggie saute cooking away.

Okay... I had something else besides veggies and rice.
I went to the local chinese and ordered their Sesame Beef. This crispy beef dish covers all the flavor senses. Slightly sweet with a faint hint of peppers, garlic and ginger, plus the crunch and nutty taste of sesame seeds.

A nice change from chicken.

Want some? :-)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Shopping while hungry

I can attest to the axiom, "When you shop when you're hungry, you'll never know what ends up in the cart."

I went a local Asian market located in a little strip mall surrounded by various Asian restaurants. At the market, I stopped by the bakery and picked up a couple items.

A Baked BBQ Pork Bun with more bread than filling and an interesting neon red filling. In a pinch, it's okay, but have had much better.

A sweet cream filled bun with a light (very light) sprinkling of coconut.

It the same strip mall is a Vietnamese restaurant that advertises Vietnamese sandwiches, Bahn Mi.

My first exposure to Vietnamese sandwiches was in college with a Vietnamese classmate. When he would go home for the weekend, he'd end up bringing a sackful of sandwiches for his fellow Vietnamese classmates. I was offered a sandwich and was amazed at the different flavors in the sandwich and the textures. The bread has a light crunchy crust with a soft, faintly sweet interior. The filling usually started with a layer of butter, a few shakes of Maggi seasoning, a pate, Vietnamese cold cuts - chicken roll, ham and another slice that seemed to resemble headcheese. The sandwich was dressed with cilantro, vinegared carrots and cucumber and sliced jalapeno peppers.

I enjoyed every bite of that first sandwich. The great French bread, the tart veggies and heat from the peppers. It wasn't a meat loaded sandwich, but with was loaded with flavor. Also, the price was right, $1. I promptly added my name to the sandwich list for his trip home.

This sandwich was okay. No jalapenos and it had mayonaise which made the sandwich seem heavy. The meat filling consisted of pate and chicken loaf. Chicken loaf is just a finely pureed chicken meat that is steamed(?).

After all of the "junk" food, I bought fresh spring rolls to lighten up my meal. My salad course. lol.

Rice paper wrapped with lettuce, bean sprouts, rice noodles, shrip and chicken loaf.
The dipping sauce varies from place to place. Typically, it's a thick sauce consisting of hoisin sauce and peanuts.

This dipping sauce was a little more watery. Hoisin sauce, peanuts, vinegar, carrots and fish sauce?

Shopping when hungry = My dinner for today. :-)