Stir-Fried Cucumber and Pork with Golden Garlic

Two home runs in a row! This dish (p. 73) came out superb.

I was a little wary of this one what with the deep-frying of the chopped garlic as a first step. Both the garlic-infused oil and fried garlic are used in the dish, so the step could be considered necessary. I decided I would use my wok to do the frying. Apparently frying foods is a good way to help the patina develop which is something I greatly desire.

Pork loin, English cucumber, garlic, and ginger.

So, I broke out the trusty thermometer, put some oil in the wok and fired up the burner. I wasn’t sure whether to put the oil in before or after the wok had heated, but I guess it didn’t much matter. The oil became hot very quickly, shooting well beyond the 280º mark in a what seemed like the blink of an eye. I tried to let it cool off a bit and lower the heat, but eventually became impatient and dropped the garlic in anyway.

I let it cook for about 45 seconds, which ended up being too long. After letting it cool, I had a little taste of a bigger piece of garlic and it had formed a very bitter taste. Definitely overcooked. Rather than despair, I just chopped up more garlic and decided I would stir-fry it in with the ginger slices at the very beginning of the dish. This turned out very well and I don’t think I missed out on too much garlic flavor due to my error.

Caution: Deliciousness at work.

After that, it’s on to cooking the pork. Here I made another deviation by using pork loin rather than pork shoulder. This made trimming fat and cutting a bit easier. It turned out to be a fine choice, as the meat was tender and flavorful.

Once the meat is mostly browned, it was in with all that cucumber. I’d never used English cucumber before, so this was something I had looked forward to tasting. It wilted down beautifully, almost taking on a translucent quality while still holding it’s form. I also made little stripes on the skin with a vegetable peeler, as I had seen in the cookbook. It made for a very pretty end result.

When all was said and done, this dish turned out excellent! A definite candidate for a repeat meal.

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What I Would Do Differently

  • Keep a much closer eye on the deep frying temperature and really nail that 280º mark. I’d also only cook the garlic for about 30 seconds so as not to burn it.
  • I would peel the ginger before slicing. When I prepared it, I left the skin on figuring they’d be easy to pick out of the dish. The reality is that they blend right in after cooking and it’s easy to get a chunk of skinned ginger in a mouthful. I rather enjoy eating ginger, but not so much the skin.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Garlic Eggplant with Pork

Stir-Fried Curried Beef

This one is going to be tough. I don’t think I have a sufficient vocabulary to describe how awesome this dish (p.86) was. It was good, mkay?

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The supporting cast. Conspicuously absent is curry powder, the real star of the show.

When I took the above photo, I figured those items were the primary ingredients. My mistake. The aromas coming off this dish as it was cooking were pretty epic, especially after adding the healthy dose of curry powder. Man, did that kick things up. The beef and onions turned a glorious bright yellow hue and I knew this was gonna be a good one.

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Red onion and garlic.

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Beef marinated with ginger, soy, rice wine, cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

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Curry explosion!

After the onions and beef fully incorporate with the curry, it was in with the tomatoes and peas.

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After a brief stir-fry, we stir in our mixture of chicken broth, dark soy, and rice wine to finish the dish.  Upon tasting the finished product, I was blown away. The flavor was immense. The beef was tender. The curry sauce sublime. Easily one of my favorite recipes so far. Will definitely make again for family or friends.

What I Would Do Differently

  • Cut the beef slices a bit smaller. They were a little long in the end, which made some bites a bit unwieldy.
  • Allow less time in the wok for the tomato portion to maintain their structure. Some of them just disintegrated.
  • I’d have some friends over to share in the deliciousness… wait. On second thought, leftovers!

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Cucumber and Pork with Golden Garlic

Spicy Orange Chicken

Another game night. Another adventure. Tonights entertainment: Settlers of Catan.

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Settlers of Catan is a crazy popular and fun strategy board game of territory and resources. You build roads and settlements, which eventually become cities, all the while collecting resources to spend on expansion or development cards that gain you Victory Points. The first to 10 points wins the game (which I epically failed to do tonight). It’s a great game. Family friendly and good for ages 10+. You should check it out, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This game night was again held at my friend Sara and Darren’s place. If you read the last game night entry, you’ll remember that it was bit of an adventure cooking at their place.  Tonight, a different adventure awaits us as we cook Spicy Orange Chicken (p. 119)! The exclamation mark is deserved. This was very, very good.

Not the best ingredients picture, I know. Orange zest, marinated chicken, cornstarch slurry, chili garlic sauce. Not pictured: scallions, tomato

Not the best ingredients picture, I know. I was having an off day. Orange zest, marinated chicken, cornstarch slurry, chili garlic sauce. Not pictured: scallions, tomato

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As for the adventure… well… I sort of, um… forgot my wok. Ugh. But all was not lost! I had remembered the rice maker! Eh. Not that helpful.

Fortunately, our hosts had a large skillet that, although far from perfect, was serviceable for our current situation.

Sear, baby, sear!

So this recipe calls for a brief marinade of the chicken in a mixture of ginger, rice wine, soy, sugar, and some pepper (including Sichuan peppercorn). You could really taste the marinade in the final dish. The first step is briefly stir-frying some ginger and then carefully add the chicken, allowing it to achieve a nice sear. In with the zest and bean sauce (chili sauce) and stir-fry another minute. Add tomatoes and combine. In with the slurry and finally finish with scallions.

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Even with the absence of the wok, we all thought this turned out really well. We accompanied it with rice and roasted brussel sprouts, which were excellent.

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And there you have it. Spicy Orange Chicken! The flavor was very nice and the ginger and chicken really come through. I would definitely try this again.

Mmm, mmm, good.

What I Would Do Differently

  • Hmm, nope. Can’t think of anything. I definitely didn’t forget anything important. No, no, nothing at all.
  • On a serious note, I would definitely try this with the chili bean sauce next time around to see how that might add to the already bold flavors of this dish.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Curried Beef

Stir-fried Eggs with Tomatoes

I really like the idea of this dish (p. 138). I love tomatoes. I love scrambled eggs. I love shallots and garlic. Pretty much all ingredients in this dish. But somehow, the reality of it just didn’t deliver.

Egg and basil, tomato, garlic, shallot, rice wine.

Egg and basil, tomato, garlic, shallot, rice wine.

From the outset, I was concerned whether this would have too much liquid involved. As such, I carefully deseeded the tomatoes and removed as much juice as I could by hand. The only other deviation from the recipe was using basil instead of cilantro, since I had it on hand and it goes well with eggs and tomatoes in general.

Basic procedure is to briefly stir-fry the garlic and shallot, add tomatoes and rice wine. After a minute or so, in with the egg and cilantro mixture (or basil, in this case). Cook just until the eggs are done.

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Cook, damn you!

Unfortunately, even with my tomato cleaning, this still ended up being a runny mess. I did my best to salvage it by spooning it over some toast, but any real flavor remained trapped by the liquid in the bowl.

I’m pretty proficient with eggs and breakfast in general, so this was a disappointment. I could perhaps do a couple things differently, but I think that overall this is probably not something I’d try again.

Le sigh.

Le sigh.

What I Would Do Differently

  • I would let the tomatoes sit in a colander to really drain every ounce of liquid then dry them with a paper towel. The liquid here really was excessive and killed the dish.
  • Maybe use less tomato in general.
  • Pray.

Next on the Menu: Spicy Orange Chicken