Sho Nuff Noodles

Sho Nuff Noodles1

Am I the meanest? Sho’nuff! 

Am I the prettiest?  Sho’nuff!

Am I the baddest mofo low down around this town? Sho’nuff!

Well who am I? Sho’nuff!

Who am I? Sho’nuff!

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Oh, hi guys. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy or full of myself. The above is a movie quote. I decided to open up this post with the direct inspiration/reference for this recipe. Kudos/gold stars/props to anybody out there that knows it on their own. You and I would probably be best buddies if we knew each other outside of the blogosphere.

In 1985, record label executive and legend Berry Gordy and the folks at Motown produced a martial arts/musical movie called “The Last Dragon”. Although it wasn’t exactly a critical success at the time of it being made, it is now considered to be a cult classic of Black cinema. And rightly so; it’s one of my favorite films,especially when you’re watching with a crowd of friends who can quote the movie with you.

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As it turns out, the film is also well-loved by one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Marcus Samuelsson. I follow him on Pinterest/Twitter and one day I saw a recipe pop up in my feed. It wasn’t just the picture that caught my attention, although that was mouth-watering enough to draw me in. It was also the name that he gave the dish that made me immediately want to look into what I would need to make it. Any “Last Dragon” fan worth their salt knows the name of the antagonist of the plot: Sho Nuff.  He’s the kung-fu neighborhood bully who is constantly challenging the protagonist, Leroy Green to a winner-take-all fight. He also travels around with an entourage of people, where he constantly makes them say his name like some kind of a pep rally cheer- hence, the quote.

Once I saw the dish, I knew I had to try it out just to see how Chef Marcus would translate the bold and bodacious personality of the character, into food. It’s not the first dish of his that I’ve tried to interpret and like all the others, this one did not disappoint either.

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I will admit however, the one “draw-back” to this recipe is that in order to make it, you will probably need to purchase the majority of the sauce ingredients from an Asian market. If you don’t have one of those, then online ordering is gonna have to be the way to go. To be honest, I’d never heard of some of them before seeing this ingredient list– but I will say that when combined all together, they make a sauce that is friggin DELICIOUS.

So yes, it is worth it.

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Another awesome thing about this recipe is that it’s versatile enough for those who are watching their carb-intake to still be able to enjoy it. So to adapt this recipe with my own personal spin, I took the liberty of making this dish with both regular lo mein noodles AND Shiritaki noodles. Both turned out fabulously and I’ve included the preparation directions for both in the recie. Also, because I’m also a carnivore you guys know I had to throw some meat in there for the added protein to make this more of a filling meal and less as an appetizer. Also, I threw in some sesame seeds because…why not?

Should you go the extra mile and make this dish? Sho Nuff.

Happy Fiesta Friday #119 and thanks to our co-hosts  Ahila @ A Taste of Sri Lankan Cuisine and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Sho Nuff Noodles

Recipe Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp black bean sauce
  • 1 tbsp kecap manis
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp yuzu kosho
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1⁄4 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 oz shredded cabbage
  • 1 baby bok choy, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, 3⁄4 cut into 2″ pieces
  • 8 oz cooked lo mein noodles (OR 8 oz. Shiritaki noodles, drained; see directions below on how to prepare for this recipe)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced (or any other protein you prefer)
  • sesame seeds, optional

Directions

Mix black bean sauce, kecap manis, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, yuzu, ginger, and caraway in a bowl; set sauce aside.

Heat oil in a 12” wok or nonstick skillet over high; add cabbage, bok choy, and 2” scallions and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add noodles and chicken cook one minute more. Add reserved sauce cook 2 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

*If you’re using Shiritaki noodles: place noodles in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for about 65-70 seconds. The noodles will be ready when the scent of the fluid they’re  packaged in is gone. If it’s still there after the first minute, you can heat them for another 60 seconds, which should get the smell out. Use a knife to roughly chop until they’re loose and untangled. From here, they can be prepared in the same way as regular lo mein noodles for this recipe.

Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

Asian Marinated Baked Chicken1

Hi , guys. I know, it’s  been a little over two weeks since my last post.

I’m still alive.

I’m still cooking.

I’m still a food blogger.

I wish I had this really exciting, interesting and engrossing story to share with all of you as to why I’ve been a little quiet lately.

But the truth is, I really don’t.

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I’ll be perfectly honest with you guys, I’ve felt sad lately. Nothing major; I have a pretty thick skin, most of the time I just brush it off and carry on with my life. This is just a noticeable sadness that’s still somewhat lingering.

A lot of the inspiration and enthusiasm I normally find in cooking and keeping up this blog has been depleted by the majority of news headlines that we’ve seen in the United States over the past few weeks and months. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to sit down and talk to you guys about food or try to tell a witty story, be my normally sarcastic/humorous self, and then talk to you guys about food when the news is playing in the background and I’m seeing and hearing about things that are happening in my country right now that I’m not okay with.

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Don’t flip out. This blog isn’t going to be my political soapbox. I know that’s not what you’re all here for.

However, issues of politics, equality and social justice are a huge part of how my identity has been shaped and it continues to affect me to this day. I see no reason to hide that. I’m an African American female; it’s a fact and I’m proud of it. My Black heritage was crucial in shaping my cooking identity. It guides the character of my food. And that’s a marvelous thing.  Unfortunately, there is a darker, unfortunate side to having a Black heritage in this country; a blessing and a burden, as the saying goes.

I’ll keep it short and brief: inequality still exists in America. Racism still exists in America. In fact, if you turn on the TV and watch a major news network, you should be able to see that it’s alive and well. And it’s pretty damn serious. People are dying; whether at the hands of corrupt police officers, self-appointed ‘neighborhood watches’, or white supremacist teenagers that shoot up a church prayer meeting, people are dying.

Sadly, this is nothing new, not so far as I’m concerned. It’s apart of the reality that I’ve long had to adapt myself to as a Black person in this country. Most of the time, in spite of the madness that I see or hear happening on the news, I can still cook, take photos and write up a blog post for all of you that’s completely ‘normal’ and funny and carry on. It’s what most of us do.

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But sometimes…I can’t. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Depressing. Gut-wrenching.

So much so that there have been far too many times over the past few weeks when I literally couldn’t cook, have a photo shoot or write a post. My mind, heart and will just were not in it. As a result, we ate take-out around here for several days. Probably more than we should have.

Sometimes I just can’t pretend that things with my country are okay, because this is a “food blog” and I need to separate that from my daily reality. Things aren’t okay. They’re not.

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I’m not interested in getting into debates or even discussions about the whys and hows all of this chaos is happening. I’m just having an honest moment of raw honesty with you guys. If you were curious as to why I haven’t been around lately, there it is.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done. Hopefully my little spiel was cool with you. (And if it’s not, or you tend to disagree with any of what I just said, I reaaaaaally can’t say I’m too offended or bothered. It’s my blog. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. My feelings won’t be hurt. Promise.)

Fortunately, I’ve been working my way back into the kitchen and giving my blogging mojo more and more pushups every  day to get myself back into Blogging shape so to speak. I think this recipe is a good start.

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So about this chicken: it looks great, right? Guess what?

It’s probably one of the easiest dishes you could ever make. You literally just take some chicken breasts, throw them in an overnight marinade, then bake/broil them the next day. Steam some broccoli, make some brown Minute Rice.

BAM.

You have a delicious dinner.

Like most Asian-inspired dishes, my favorite part of this dish is the sauce on the chicken; the thick, syrupy, sticky sauce that I always drizzle extra spoonfuls of on top of my rice.

Badda bing, badda boom.

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Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Chow.com

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely minced ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

Directions

Place everything except the chicken in a 13-by-9-inch broiler-proof baking dish and whisk to combine.

Lay the chicken in a single layer in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinate at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours, turning the chicken at least once during the marinating time.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 475°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Bake until the chicken is starting to turn a dark brown color, about 40 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and broil until the chicken skin is crisped, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve with the sauce on the side.

Asian Turkey Meatballs

Asian Turkey Meatballs

You guys are all seeing the Internet hoopla about “The Dress” aren’t you?

For those that aren’t, you should so you can join in on the conversation. Here ya go: check it out.

See? Now, let’s say it all together. What colors is the dress?

BLUE AND BLACK.

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Wait, what?! I know some of you guys aren’t like Jas and ACTUALLY see white and gold? What’s the matter with you? The Dress is blue and black; blue and black, I tell you!

This actually sparked a debate in my house last night; me and Ashley stand by the assertion that the dress is blue and black. Jas and my mom are convinced it’s white and gold. We were split right down the middle. I just couldn’t see it. I didn’t understand. It was a mystery.

But apparently the whole thing boils down to the ability of the cones in our eye retinas to mix and process colors through out brains. The people that see blue and black have cones that are better able to do this; people that see white and gold have cones that are…different.

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(Ha ha Jas.)

But in all fairness, since last night I have taken another couple looks at the picture (this is all  over social media by now so it’s kind of impossible not to) and I will admit: if I try really, really, REALLY hard…then I can see the dress as white and gold. It’s like mentally flicking a light switch on in my brain and literally ‘forcing’ myself to see white and gold. It only lasts for a few seconds, but it does work. Honestly it reminds me of one of those optical illusion pictures where there are actually two drawings within one and depending on whether or not you’re left brained or right brained, you see one or the other.

My first instinct with this dress will always make me see blue and black, but if I try to, then I can see white and gold.

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I know what you’re thinking: “Jess. What does The Dress have to do with this post?”

I was getting to that. See, this post has been in my Posts folder on the WordPress dashboard for nearly a month. I’ve been purposely passing it over in favor of other recipes and at one point, considered deleting it altogether. It’s not that this is a bad recipe; it’s actually delicious.

The problem was I just didn’t like the way the pictures turned out. Or at least most times, I didn’t.

Photographing brown food is really hard, guys. If you have crap lighting, then forget about; it’s not gonna work. But even under the best lighting circumstances imaginable, there’s still the risk that the dish you’re shooting will turn out looking…not appetizing.

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I did what I could to prevent this from happening; including other colors,making sure my sauce was fresh and shiny and sticky, and creating texture with sesame seeds…but when it was all said and done I still wasn’t sure.

At one point, I would look at these pictures and think that the meatballs looked good. Then the next day I’d look at them and think they looked like….

Well, you get it.

But today I feel like they don’t look too shabby. And considering I DID put in the work in cooking and photographing them, I figure I’d make it worthwhile and just put the friggin post up regardless. You guys be the judge.

Just think of it like The Dress photo; give it a few tries and see if you can see things differently than my more negative/self-depreciating side. Let me know if it works. And if it doesn’t, then do me a favor: don’t feel obligated to point it out. Just don’t tell me. Deal?

Oh yeah and Happy Fiesta Friday #57 at The Novice Gardener.

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Asian Turkey Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/4 head)
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2 -inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha chile sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

Directions

1. Make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer the cabbage to a plate to cool.

2. Wipe out the pan, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and the mushrooms. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the plate with the cabbage to cool.

3. Lightly beat the eggs and egg white in a large bowl. Add the pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and cornstarch. Add the cabbage, mushrooms and a few grinds of pepper and mix with your hands until just combined (do not overmix). Dampen your hands and shape the meat mixture into 18 balls (about 2 inches each); arrange on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Make the sauce: Mix the hoisin sauce, Sriracha, vinegar, sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for serving. Brush the meatballs with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake until cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve in lettuce leaves with the reserved sauce.

Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

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You guys know when you go to a Chinese take-out joint, they’ll serve some dishes with creative names? I’ve always really liked that.

I’m looking at a menu from one of the nearby places here where we’ve gone for years at a list of items that they given those ‘special names’. The funny thing about it is that they don’t really describe what the food is; it’s as if they just expect you to know what it is beforehand. I don’t, but I can always speculate:

1) “Eight Parts Delicious”- I’ve never tried this one before. I’ve always been too scared. Why ‘eight parts’? Why not five, or six, or four? Does eight parts mean eight different spices? Eight different vegetables? Eight different meats? (Wait, that’s really probably not it, I can’t even think of eight meats right now).

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2) “Happy Family”- I’m assuming this is just a big assortment of meats and veggies stir-fried together to make one big “happy family” of a dish. It better be for what they’re charging for it. Sheesh.

3) “Phoenix and Dragon”- well, let me see. I couldn’t swear to what the protein in this would be, but I’m going to make a wild guess that whatever it is, it’s pretty spicy. The ‘phoenix’ part can obviously pass for chicken, but what’s the term used for reptiles? Do people even eat reptiles?

4) “Four Seasons”- This one I’m almost positive had four proteins in it. I mean it’s almost too easy: chicken, beef, pork, fish. The REAL question is which protein stands for which season. I’ll think about it and get back to you guys on that one.

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I got one of my mad, notorious cravings for some Asian stir-fry and rather than just pick up the phone and order in, I remembered that I’m a freakin food blogger and went into the kitchen to fire up my wok instead. That’s pretty impressive for me guys, so you should be giving me a pat on the back.

There really was no rhyme or reason for the ingredients I picked out when planning this recipe. I just used what I knew would be easy, and pretty accessible for most people to get. My protein of choice was chicken (which is par for the course for me), but if you’re more partial to using beef or pork, then feel free to swap it out.

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I was really very happy with how this dish turned out. There’s the perfect ratio of meat to the veggies, the sauce (although literally thrown together at the last minute) turned out really good, and what’s more the dish can feed a pretty good sized crowd. The only problem I could find with it was when I finished cooking and taking pictures and needed to come up with a good name for it to post on the blog.

See, I really, really REALLY wanted to give it one of those ‘creative’ names I’ve seen in Chinese take-out menus. Don’t ask why, I just wanted to.

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My ‘other’ hobby is writing, so at first I tried to get REALLY out there with this. My first idea was “Buddha’s Delight”, but I seemed to remember hearing of that somewhere else, so I binned it.  Then I thought maybe “Year of the Snake” would be kinda cool since according to the Chinese Calendar, that’s my animal/sign. But I just couldn’t marry the idea of a snake with a dish where the protein is chicken so that was out too. After looking at the pictures from the photo shoot the name “Rainbow Stir-Fry” occurred to me to illustrate all the pretty veggie colors. Then I said it out loud and realized that it sounded stupid.

As you guys can see, the winner didn’t turn out to be all that impressive or creative. My wok stayed pretty hot while I was cooking the dish, and the stir-fry part would also make it pretty obvious what it was to avoid any confusion.

So there you have it: Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry. I can promise you that it MORE than makes up for in taste what it lacks in name originality.

I’ll be bringing this over to the Fiesta Friday #56  party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tina @Mademoiselle Gourmandeand Juju @cookingwithauntjuju.

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Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly into strips
  • 3 tri-color bell peppers (red, yellow and orange), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets
  • 1-2 tbsp. of your favorite stir-fry seasoning
  • Asian stir fry oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • Dried Chow Mein Noodles, optional
  • Egg or vermicelli rice noodles, optional

Directions

1. Heat 1-2 tsp. of Asian stir-fry oil in the bottom of a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the peppers and carrots and sautee until softened and slightly limp, 7-10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add another 1-2 tsp. of stir-fry oil to pan and sautee mushrooms about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place with peppers and carrots.

3. Season chicken with stir-fry seasoning in a large bowl, stirring to make sure meat is evenly covered. Add additional stir-fry oil to pan and allow to heat. Add chicken to the pan (you may have to do this in multiple batches, don’t crowd it) and sautee until completely cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, agave nectar/honey, hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a measuring cup.

5. When all of the chicken is finished cooking, add the peppers, carrots and mushroom mixture back to the pan. Turn heat up to high. Drizzle the sauce into the mixture and stir to combine. (Note: you may not need to use it all depending on how you like your stir-fry seasoned, so taste and adjust accordingly) Continue to cook until all of the liquid in the pan has been absorbed. During the last minute or so of stir-frying add the broccoli to the pan.

6. When stir-fry is completed, sprinkle chow mein noodles on top and serve atop egg noodles or vermicelli rice noodles if desired. 

Chinese Chicken Salad

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I went to a popular restaurant in our city for breakfast with my mom and sisters one day a few years back. It was a pretty good day, I was in a pretty good mood, and ready to eat some food that was more than pretty good (actually it’s fantastic, so if you’re ever in the Lansing MI area then make sure you go to Sophia’s House of Pancakes).

When we were seated, I noticed that there was an elderly couple that had also been recently seated in the booth just behind ours. The woman was sitting with her back to me, while the man was sitting on the opposite side, facing me. As well sat down, he smiled at me. I thought it was a very nice, kind smile, and even though the strangers I’ve come across normally didn’t throw out smiles like that, I decided to go ahead and throw a great big smile back at him. I didn’t really think too much of it after that, focusing my attention on ordering m food and engaging in conversation with my family.

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I think it was a few minutes after the food we’d all ordered had come out- we were about mid way through, when suddenly our waitress comes over to our table. She bends down and starts murmuring to us quietly, “Excuse me: I know this is our of nowhere, but I’ve just been told to let you now that your meal’s been completely paid for.”

TimeoutwaitWHAT?!

That was about the collective response at our table. When we asked her if she was sure about that, she nodded and pointed across the restaurant, “Yes: it was that gentlemen over there. He said that he just wanted to cover your bill for you because of how nicely you,” She nodded at me, “Smiled at him when you came in.”

You guys, I’m not the type of person who gets embarrassed easily. I think I’ve blushed a grand total of three times in my entire life.

Well, that was one of them.

At hearing that, my face got all hot and pink, I started grinning like an idiot and I paused long enough to swallow my mouthful of pancakes to choke out a sheepish, “Oh my God, are you serious?!” I was in a state of mild shock.

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I looked up to find the elderly gentleman and his wife and saw that they were just then leaving the restaurant. He waved at all of us as we shouted out a collective, stunned “thank you!”. I still remember the way that he grinned at me and mouthed, “Keep smiling!” as they went out the doors.

It’s the year 2015. Everywhere I look, I see people posting about New Years resolutions to accomplish things that (if we’re being completely honest with ourselves) are almost entirely superficial. I’l be upfront with you all and even admit that I’ve made similar resolutions to myself in past years. It’s easy to focus on what’s ‘wrong’ with you as a person and resolve to change it. Heck, that’s not always a bad thing.

However, this year I’m hoping for more moment like that day in Sophia’s House of Pancakes where I come across people like that kind elderly man and his wife that aren’t too old, jaded or bitter to notice and value the important of seemingly little things like kind smiles and random acts of generosity to strangers. I’m also hoping that this year I can do more to take my focus off of myself and be like that elderly man was in noticing the beautiful things of life that are far too often taken for granted. I believe that days and moments like the one I just shared are a large part of why we’re here on this Earth in the first place. They make the world seem brighter and filled with hope. They’re what’s really important in life.

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I’m still keeping things light and healthy this week with a salad that’s become a new favorite of mine. Although the recipe is originally for chicken, we are just coming off of the holidays and if you still have some leftover turkey in your fridge (like I do) then you can definitely sub that in. The dressing is both tangy from the vinegar and ginger, and also earthy from the flavor of the peanut butter. The chipotle gives it a nice little kick of heat in the aftertaste. If you can’t find dry crunchy Chow Mein noodles where you are (they’re usually in the Foreign Cuisine aisle of the grocery store) then using peanuts would also give the same ‘crouton’ contrast of textures that you’re looking for in a salad.

I’m taking this salad to Fiesta Friday #49 this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Mr Fitz @CookingwithMrFitz and Kaila @GF Life 24/7. Happy New Year everyone!

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Chinese Chicken Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Bobby Flay

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper puree
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, julienned
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Handful of Chinese crunchy chow mein noodles

Directions

1. Whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, chipotle pepper puree, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and canola oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Combine cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro, and green onion in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

3. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the shredded chicken and chow mein noodles.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

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So, I have a confession to make.

I’m a really bad griller. It’s true. If you ask me to grill you something, I am probably, most likely, almost definitely going to mess it up.

I’m sure that the whole thing is probably easy enough to do if you’ve got a gas grill, but we only have a charcoal grill at my house and for the life of me, I cannot keep that thing hot enough to cook the food. Don’t get me started on using smokers and special types of wood and all those other fancy doohickies (did I spell that right? I don’t think I did.)

I remember one Memorial Day a couple of years back where I tried to help my Mom grill. When we couldn’t keep the coals hot enough, we finally got the idea in our heads that we needed something to feed the flames since the coals obviously weren’t cutting it.

Don’t ask why, but for some reason, we decided to go with old newspaper.

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Well, it got the coals hot enough, for sure. It all just started going south AFTER we put the meat on the grill…and the newspaper started flaking and flying up all over the place, sticking to the food.

Good times, Good times.

Long story short, we ended up rinsing off the meat and just finishing it all in the oven and slow cooker that day. But it still served to teach me a very valuable lesson: I’m NOT a griller. At least not now. Maybe one day I’ll just sit down and force myself to learn. I could also just find a guy to date who knows how to do it and just leave all that grilling business to him. Either one would work.

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I say all of this because it’s very frustrating for me when I see or find a recipe that I would reeeeeeeeeally like to try, but it’s supposed to be grilled. My culinary shoulders give a little slump every time I see that and I just think,

“What? It’s supposed to be grilled? But…but…I don’t know how to grill. I suck at grilling. How am I supposed to do make this if it’s supposed to be grilled? No fair!”

Most of the time, I just end up putting said recipes aside for the day that I do end up learning to grill. But not this time. This time, I just couldn’t put it aside. I wanted to make this recipe, darn it. And I didn’t want to let grilling get in the way of me and my food.

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Bon Appetit is such a dangerous website for me. I can browse it for 5 minutes, and suddenly I want to cook absolutely everything I see there. That’s what happened with this recipe. I saw it, and I just knew, people. I knew I had to make this, come hell or high water.

I may not know how to operate my charcoal grill…but my oven? She and I are on very good terms with each other.

I made this recipe work for me, people. And really, I’m so glad I did. Because grill or no grill, it’s really so friggin delicious. The marinade is what really makes the flavors pop. The rice wine vinegar gives a slight tang and acidity to the chicken that is somehow tempered by both the saltiness of the fish sauce and the sweetness of the ginger and brown sugar. The hot chili paste doesn’t bring as much heat as you would think it would- I would describe it more as more of a smoky flavor. The Sriracha is where the heat comes in, sneaking up on you in the back of your throat even after you’ve swallowed the chicken. I’ve eaten a lot of chicken breasts and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to inject them with much flavor. But this really does do the job.

Sambal Chicken5

I did make some modifications to this recipe for my own purposes: first, I obviously baked them in the oven rather than grilling them. But the original does call for them to be grilled, I can see how they would taste even better if they were. So if you’re good at grilling, then by all means, go for it. Second, rather than just putting the marinade on the meat the same day as cooking, I did let them it sit overnight in the fridge, just to make sure all the flavors would fully permeate. However, if you’re in a hurry this isn’t necessarily mandatory. Third, the original recipe called for you to take the used marinate, bring it to a boil over the stove, then brush it over the finished chicken.

Yeah…I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. I know that boiling the marinade is ‘supposed’ to take the bacteria out of it. But my paranoia and just the idea of eating something that raw, uncooked chicken sat in made me feel queasy. I just re-made the whole marinade and warmed it up over the stove. That way I don’t have to worry that I’ve poisoned myself and my family.

So, Grill. We managed to avoid each other once more. Perhaps we shall meet one day- but that day is not today.

Guys, I give you…Sambal Chicken.

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Sambal Chicken Skewers

Recipe Adapted from BonAppetit.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch–2-inch pieces
  • Sesame seeds, optional
  • 8 bamboo skewers soaked in water at least 1 hour

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.

3. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and place a wire rack over it. Spray rack with non-stick cooking spray. Lay chicken skewers on rack and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until chicken reaches inner temperature of  165 degrees.

4. While chicken is baking,make a second batch of the marinade and warm in a saucepan over the stove.

5. Brush sauce over finished chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Yangzhou Fried Rice

Yangzhou Fried Rice1

So, I have this soft spot.

It’s pretty frequent that whenever I’m in a shopping center or a private small business or restaurant and I see that the workers/owners aren’t getting much business, I feel really bad and sympathetic towards them. Yes, even if they’re those people that set up the stands in the mall and try to accost you while you’re walking just to test/buy their product. I know that the retail/food industry business is cutthroat and very competitive. I know that it’s not my fault if they have slow business. I know that I’m not obligated to buy anything- and to be honest, I usually don’t. But it doesn’t keep me from empathizing with them either. They have to make a living like everyone else, and their ability to do so or not depends on whether or not they can convince complete strangers to open their wallets. It’s a real sticky, precarious situation when you think about it.

Yangzhou Fried Rice2

Why am I even talking about this? Well, when I was putting together this dish and this post, it made me think of this Asian restaurant that used to be in the food court of the local mall when I was still in grade school, years ago. I won’t say the name of the place, but it was independently owned by this couple that looked like they were in their mid-to upper 50’s. Every time I went to the mall, it just never seemed like anyone was buying anything from this place. The man and his wife would come in and out of the kitchen in the back, filling and emptying the dishes they had available, all the while looking at the passing shoppers as if wishing just a few of them to stop and buy something- anything- from their restaurant. If I can be completely honest, I’ll just go ahead and admit that there was a good reason that this place didn’t get much business. All of the ‘standard fare’ that you’d see in an American Chinese restaurant was on their menu, but the sad reality was that it wasn’t really well seasoned. Like, at all. Their recipes needed serious work.

I can still remember how sorry I felt for them, even as a little girl. And I wished I could’ve been able to tell that I really felt like they would’ve gotten more business if they changed up how they made their fried rice.

Yangzhou Fried Rice3

It’s just my personal opinion, but I do think that a good Chinese restaurant starts with how they make their fried rice. In my experience, if they make excellent fried rice, then chances are the rest of the menu is pretty spot on too. Because let me just say up front one thing that I’ve learned: all fried rice is NOT created equal. I’ve had some really good fried rice over the years, and then I’ve had some that was frankly, pretty terrible. It wasn’t until I decided to make some for myself that I realized how easy it is for fried rice to go wrong. And to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of Chinese restaurants I’ve been to that make fried rice that taste even better than this recipe. But nobody’s perfect, and I do have to say that I’m pleased with how it came out for my first time….er, maybe my second. Technically.

Yangzhou Fried Rice4

See, technically my first attempt didn’t turn out so well. I maaaaaaay have ruined the first batch of Jasmine rice that I made. The rice is supposed to be one day old, so I made the Jasmine rice the night before I wanted to make the fried rice. It was really late at night and I was in a hurry to get to bed, so long story short, I don’t think I let it cook long enough. There was too much moisture still in the rice by the next day so the grains stuck together. Have you ever tried to ‘stir-fry’ gummy rice? It doesn’t work very well. And turns out, it tastes pretty bad too.

As rotten luck would have it, that was all the fresh Jasmine rice I had. All that was left in my pantry was Minute rice that you steam in water in the microwave. So I was forced to call in the cavalry on this one, folks. It’s still rice, it just didn’t need that long to cook. You won’t hold it against me, will you? I mean, it turned out into a pretty yummy dish. And now, you guys know that this dish can me made with Minute Rice and still turn out pretty awesome. It’s all apart of Cooking is My Sport Quality Control, I swear.

I’ll be bringing this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #39, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @Birgerbird, See you there!

 

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Yangzhou Fried Rice

Recipe Courtesy of Ching-He Hunag

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 ounces cooked Chinese pork (char siu) or ham, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups cooked jasmine rice, a day old
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal, for garnish

Directions

1. For the fried rice: Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Add the eggs and scramble, then set aside on a plate.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry for less than 1 minute. Then add the carrots and stir-fry for 1 minute more.

3. Add the pork, and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the peas and cooked rice and toss together. Add the cooked egg back into the wok.

4. Season the mixture with the light soy sauce, salt and pepper. At the very end add the sesame oil, if using. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.