Weekly Winner: Seriously Simple but Seemingly Sophisticated Stir-fry

pork asparagus stir fryNot sure I could have gotten any more “S’s” into that title!  Pork And Asparagus Stir-Fry definitely tastes more complex than its ingredient list would have you believe.  Nine ingredients, all of which are incredibly common, but the result is pure magic.

I made this recipe using white rice but now think that it could possibly be even more elegant using brown.  The secret, as is quite often the case, is the sauce.  The combination of soy sauce, sesame oil and sherry (I didn’t have Chinese rice wine) is fantastic.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and is perfect for this time of year when asparagus abundant and you might just be looking for something different to do with it.  Try this!  It couldn’t be easier or tastier!

Pork and Asparagus Stir-Fry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tsp peanut oil, divided

2 lbs asparagus, trimmed, cut on a diagonal into 1″-2″ pieces

8 oz ground pork

6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Cooked white rice for serving

Procedure:

  • Heat 1 tsp peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Once pan is hot (oil will be lightly smoking), add half of the asparagus and a couple of pinches of salt and cook, tossing only once or twice so the pieces have a chance to blister, until crisp-tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a plate.  Add 1 tsp peanut oil to skillet (no need to wipe out) and repeat process with remaining asparagus.
  • Reduce heat to medium-high; add remaining 1 tsp peanut oil to skillet, then add pork, spreading out into an even layer.  Season with a couple pinches of salt and cook, undisturbed, until meat begins to brown underneath, about 2 minutes. Break up meat with a wooden spoon and add scallions, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring until pork is crisp and mixture is very fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add sherry and soy sauce and return asparagus to skillet.  Cook, turning to coat with pork mixture, until heated through, about 1 minute.
  • Transfer stir-fry to a platter or large shallow bowl and drizzle with sesame oil.  Serve with rice.

 

 

Weekly Winner: Quarantine Cooking Continued – Snobs Need Not Apply

Spam Stir FryCall it fate, call it serendipity, call it the need for quarantine comfort food, but this week’s Weekly Winner has a strange coincidence to it.  Since this whole “stay at home” thing began, I have seriously tried to limit the shopping I do for us and my clients to once a week.  That one shopping trip is quite monumental.  I also try to at least have a vague idea of what I’m cooking for me and hubby so that I know what to get and avoid the last minute race to the store for one or two ingredients.

This week while planning out a rough outline of our meals, I new one thing was a definite. Spam Fried Rice.  Yeah, I know…. “Ew! Canned meat”.  Fine, judge me if you want but it’s awesome when prepared properly and I, for one, am not above canned meat.  I had planned to use up any leftover bits of veggies that collected during the week for said fried rice, but wanted to make sure it had broccoli in it.  So, broccoli was the only item I had to purchase for this dinner. Yes, I actually had the Spam in my pantry — that stuff keeps for years!

After the massive shopping trip and putting everything away after sanitizing, I sat down and checked my email.  In my inbox is my daily Epicurious recipe and what is it for? Broccoli and Spam Stir-Fry!!  I kid you not!!  It was meant to be!! The cooking gods were telling me that, while I was on the right track with my Spam fried rice…. perhaps I could up my game!  I had to try it.  I may never make plain, old Spam fried rice again!  The only change I made to the dish was the addition of those super-sweet baby peppers because I had planned to use them and didn’t want them to go to waste.

So, haters are gonna hate, but if you’re not a food snob and want a tasty, (dare I say somewhat exotic) bowl of comfort, then be brave and give this dish a whirl!

Broccoli and Spam Stir-Fry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, finely grated

3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

3 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar

1 Tbsp finely chopped mint

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the stir-fry:

1 large or 2 small heads of broccoli (about 1 lb), 1/2″ trimmed from stem

1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 Tbsp finely grated ginger

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 Tbsp peanut oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise, rings separated

Kosher salt

1 (12-oz) can Spam classic, sliced into 1/4″-thick planks, planks halved lengthwise

1-1/2 cups cooked farro or brown rice (I opted for brown rice)

Preparation:

  • For the vinaigrette: whisk garlic, oil, vinegar, and mint in a small bowl to combine; season with salt and pepper.  Set aside
  • Hold broccoli so crown is resting against the cutting board and stem is pointing up and slice through stem all the way down through the crown to create 1/4″-thick planks. Working one at a time, lay planks flat against the board and slice lengthwise through stems to create 1/4″-thick strips with florets attached on top.
  • Mix tamari, ginger, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp water in a bowl to combine. Set aside
  • Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and immediately season with salt.
  • Set skillet with oi back over medium-high and cook Spam in a single layer, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  • Cook broccoli in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Mix in rice or farro and reserved tamari sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Mix in Spam and transfer to a platter or bowls.  Drizzle reserved vinaigrette over and top with crispy shallots.

 

Weekly Winner: Solitary Stir-Fried Noodles

stir fry udonI’m flying solo this week which means I usually fall back on old favorites or make something that I know my hubby doesn’t care for.  But this past week I came across this super simple noodle dish, Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fried Udon, in Bon Appetit which has two of my favorite components:  Pork and big, fat chewy udon noodles. I had to try it.

I thought the cabbage was a strange add in this and honestly, I was very close to subbing in coleslaw mix rather than the big pieces of cabbage called for.  I’m really glad I didn’t.  Those big pieces were such a pleasant surprise.  The other surprise was how incredibly quickly this comes together since you use instant udon.  Leftovers, by the way… are fabulous the next day!

Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fired Udon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups very coarsely chopped green cabbage (from about ¼ medium head)
  • 2 7-ounce packages instant udon noodles, flavor packets discarded
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 5 scallions, white and pale-green parts coarsely chopped, dark-green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup mirin
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving

Procedure:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Cook cabbage, tossing often, until edges are browned, about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tossing often, until thickest parts of cabbage are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat, set aside.
  2. Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with 6 cups boiling water.  Let sit then drain.  Transfer noodles back to bowl and toss with sesame oil.  Add reserved cabbage and wipe out skillet.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high and add pork, breaking up and spreading across surface of pan with a spatula or tongs.  Cook pork, undisturbed, until underside is browned, about 3 minutes  Break up meat into smaller pieces and continue to cook, tossing, just until meat is cooked through and no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  4. Add chopped scallions (the white and pale green parts), ginger and red pepper flakes and cook, tossing often until scallions are softened and inside of skillet starts to brown, about 1 minute.
  5. Add noodle mixture, mirin, and soy sauce and cook, tossing constantly and scraping up browned bits, until noodles are coated in sauce, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and mix in sliced scallions (the dark green parts) and 1 Tbsp sesame seeds.
  6. Divide noodles among bowls and top with more sesame seeds.

Weekly Winner: Stir(fry)ing up a Life-Changing Discovery

udon stir fryYou guys…. this is HUGE!  I recently discovered that frozen Asian noodles are … a thing!  I mean they exist!  And they’re awesome!!  Furthermore, a full-service Asian supermarket, H Mart, opened up in Chicago … right next door to a very good friend of mine.  Mind.  Blown.  This, friends… changes everything!!

I adore of any kind noodles (I’ve said it before and I’ll say in again), but if we’re talking about Asian noodles, without a doubt udon are my favorite.  I’ve noticed whenever I go to an Asian restaurant and order udon, they are absolutely divine. Chewy, thick, really something you can sink your teeth into.  However, when I try to recreate recipes at home with dried udon, I am always somewhat disappointed.  Frozen udon is the answer to my prayers!  Having stocked up on a ridiculously large quantity of them (they’re frozen!  they’ll keep forever!! they’re cheap!) I set out to find something to do with them.  Then I quickly remembered having pulled a recipe from Food Network Magazine for Stir-Fried Udon with Chicken and Vegetables, and off to work I went.

This is, perhaps, the most subtle dish I’ve ever made.  And by subtle, I definitely do not mean boring. There really are no standout flavors.  You can taste each ingredient and they are all bathed in a luscious, light, mushroom-broth-based sauce.  But winding its way through it all are those big, chewy, fabulous noodles.  Because the noodles cook up in minutes, this is a very quick, satisfying and tasty meal.  And while I suspect I’ll make this dish often, I now have a stash of amazing frozen noodles to experiment with.  I think it’s going to be a very “noodley” spring!

Stir-Fried Udon with Chicken and Vegetables

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 18 to 20 ounces fresh or frozen udon noodles
  • 1/4 cup mushroom broth
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 small head napa cabbage, chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced on an angle
  • 3 scallions (white and green parts separated), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced

Procedure:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, stirring the noodles with your hands. Set aside.

Mix the mushroom broth, sake, soy sauce, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large liquid measuring cup; set aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper; add to the skillet and cook until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet, then add the cabbage, carrot and scallion whites. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and the carrot is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the snow peas and garlic and stir-fry until the garlic is golden, 1 to 2 more minutes. Add the noodles and stir-fry until dry and evenly combined, about 30 seconds.

Add the mushroom broth mixture and chicken to the skillet and cook, tossing, until the liquid is reduced and the noodles are coated, 1 to 2 more minutes; season with salt and pepper. Divide the noodles and vegetables among bowls and top with the scallion greens.

Weekly Winner:  Marvelously Mellow, Magical Miso

I find that I’m quickly becoming a huge fan of miso.  I realize this is in no way a new ingredient.  On the contrary it’s been around for almost as long as Japanese cuisine has existed.  And while I’ve certainly had miso in quite a few Asian dishes, it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve started making it a central part of sauces, marinades and toppings.  It’s unctuous, salty, earthy and incredibly mellow.  It just seems to disappear into whatever you put it in, while making everything else in the dish taste more cohesive. It’s magic!  It’s like the perfect party mixer – everything that’s around miso just seems brighter, more savory and, well, yummier.

Which brings me to this week’s winner:  Edamame and Salmon Stir-Fry with Miso Butter. The recipe comes from Eating Well Magazine and is incredibly easy and ridiculously healthy.  The result is one of those dishes that you just keep going back for one more bite of.  And why not?  With all this good stuff in it go ahead and gorge!

Edamame and Salmon Stir-Fry with Miso Butter

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp white miso

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 lb salmon, skinned and cut into one inch pieces

1 cup sliced shallots (about 3 medium)

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced

8 oz frozen edamame (about 1-1/2 cups), thawed

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Procedure:

  1. Whisk miso, butter and water in a small bowl.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 14 inch skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking.  Add salmon and cook, stirring gently, until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate
  3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil, shallots, zucchini and edamame to the pan; cook, stirring until the vegetables are almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir in the miso sauce until well coated. Gently stir in the salmon and basil

Serve over rice noodles or rice.

Weekly Winner – A Simple Stir-Fried Supper

Beef Brussels Stir FrySometimes I forget that simple can be delicious.  A Weekly Winner recipe doesn’t have to take all day to make.  A few ingredients, simply treated and prepared correctly can turn into an amazing meal.  Case in point: Brussels Sprouts and Steak Stir Fry.

I have had mixed emotions and results with my past forays into the world of stir frys.  Most of the time the results don’t seem as good as if I had just prepared the ingredients separately.  The flavors were muddled and some part always seems either under or over cooked.  But this recipe went perfectly.  The combination of flavors and textures epitomized what stir fry can, and should be.  The recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine.   It’s not just a winner, it’s a Weekly Winner.

Brussels Sprouts and Steak Stir Fry

Ingredients

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 pound brussels sprouts, halved

8 ounces flank or skirt steak, thinly sliced against the grain

Kosher salt

4 scallions, whites chopped, greens sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger

2 medium carrots, peeled, thinly sliced on a diagonal

1 Fresno chile or jalapeño, sliced into rings

Steamed rice (for serving)

Preparation

Whisk oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl; set sauce aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add brussels sprouts and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate; wipe out skillet.

Season steak with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add steak in a single layer; cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until nearly cooked through, about 30 seconds. Add to brussels sprouts.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet. Add scallion whites, garlic, and ginger and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute, adjusting heat as needed. Add carrots and chile and cook, tossing occasionally, until carrots are slightly softened, about 2 minutes.

Return brussels sprouts and steak to skillet and add reserved sauce. Cook, tossing occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with scallion greens.