scallions

Chinese Spicy Peanut Chicken

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Also known as Sichuan Chicken, Szechwan Chicken, Kung Pao, or Kung Po)

As Lily Perilla, from Guilin, China, (Guang Xi Province) and her friend, Peng Qiao, from Chong Qiang, China, (Sichuan Province) taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. 

Note: The layers of different kinds of spice make this dish really fun to eat. You have an overall warming feeling from the Sichuan peppercorns, zippy slices of ginger, and the fried dried chili peppers, all working their magic. People love the texture of the dish, studded with crunchy fried peanuts. Find the Chinese cooking wine, rice vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, dried peppers, red-skinned peanuts, and Chinese chili-bean paste at an Asian market or online. Pictures of the ingredients she used are above.
Cooking time: 1 hour active plus marinating time (2-12 hours)
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups short or medium grain white rice

For marinating:

  • 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp Chinese white rice wine, called Mishiu
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For stir frying:

  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup red-skinned peanuts
  • 2 Tbsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup 2-inch long dried red chili peppers, broken and deseeded
  • 1/2 inch ginger, peeled and sliced into thin cross sections
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese or Taiwanese chili-bean paste 
  • marinated chicken (see above)
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1-inch segments

For finishing sauce:

  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp Chinese white rice wine, called Mishiu
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp corn starch
  • 5 tsp Chinese black vinegar (for gluten free, substitute cider or balsamic vinegar)
  • 5 tsp soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if desired)

Equipment

  • rice cooker or medium pot with lid
  • small pot
  • large wok or skillet at least 12 inches in diameter
  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • small strainer basket (for submerging Sichuan pepper corns in oil in wok then removing them)
  • slotted metal spoon
  • paper towels
  • strainer or plate
  • medium bowl
  • small bowl

Instructions

1. Prep the chicken. Slice chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and mix in 2 Tbps Chinese cooking wine (Mishiu). Then mix in the rest of the marinating ingredients: 1/4 cup corn starch, 1 egg white, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and 1/2 tsp salt. Wash the counter and utensils that touched the raw chicken. Let the chicken marinate 2-12 hours if you can.

2. Prep the rice. Rinse the rice in a strainer so that the water runs clear. Cook rice in a rice cooker or medium pot with 4 cups water. Bring water and rice to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cook with the lid on for twenty minutes. 

3. Prep the stir-fry ingredients. Peel and roughly chop the garlic; wash and slice the scallions into 1 inch segments; halve the dried chilis (shake out and discard the seeds or leave 1 tsp of the seeds in if you like really spicy food); peel and slice the ginger into thin cross sections. 

4. Prep the finishing sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the finishing sauce.

5. Fry the peanuts. Fill a small pot with 1 cup oil and turn heat on high to get it shimmering. While oil is heating, line a strainer or plate with paper towels and keep it near the stove. When the oil is shimmering, add the red skinned peanuts and turn the heat to medium. Stir the peanuts so they fry evenly in the oil. Do not take your eyes off them - they can quite quickly transition from golden to burned. When the peanuts are golden, turn off the heat. Remove the peanuts from the oil with a slotted spoon, placing them on the paper-towel-lined strainer or plate to dry. Pour some of the oil into a jar for some other use, keeping about 1/2 cup in the pot. 

6. Prepare to stir fry. Put the Sichuan peppercorns in a small strainer basket near the stove. Bring the garlic, ginger, chili peppers, ginger-garlic paste, marinated chicken, green pepper, scallions, and finishing sauce next to the stove.

7. Flavor the stir-fry oil with Sichuan peppercorns. Heat the oil in the pot until shimmers and then turn the heat to medium low. Dip the strainer filled with pepper corns under the oil. Let the peppercorns sizzle and flavor the oil for as long as you can without letting them burn, about a couple minutes. Remove and discard the peppercorns.

8. Perform the stir fry in the correct sequence. Transfer the Sichuan pepper-flavored oil into a wok or skillet. Turn the heat to high. Once the pan and oil are hot, add the dried chili peppers, tossing in the oil until they turn a shade darker in color, about 20 seconds. Once they do, with about ten seconds between each item, stirring constantly, add the following: ginger slices, garlic, chili-black-bean paste, and then the marinated chicken. Keep stirring and cooking the chicken until all the pieces are cooked through (opaque through the middle of each piece). Once chicken is cooked, add the chopped green peppers, scallions, and fried peanuts, stirring for two minutes. 

9. Add the finishing sauce. Add the finishing sauce and continue heating and stirring until it thickens. Serve with white rice.

 

 

Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Pho

As Hieu Nguyen from Dalat, Vietnam, taught Lindsay Sterling, in Falmouth, ME July 2013

Note: Hieu gets the fresh herbs, bean sprouts, fresh ginger, fish sauce, spices, chilis, limes, rice noodles, packets of pre-mixed pho seasonings, and even Pho serving dishes (super large bowls) at Veranda Asian Market in Portland, Maine, 695 Forest Avenue, Portland, ME, 207-874-8001, (open daily 9am-9pm). Look for an Asian market near you and go - it's a great experience. 

Makes: 8 servings
Cooking Time: 3-4 hours, with a lot of inactive time

Ingredients

 For the marinade:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2" ginger
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2" ginger (okay to leave skin on)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2-4 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (3" inches each)
  • 10 whole cardamon pods
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/3rds
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled
  • 16 oz. chicken broth

For the soup:

  • 24 oz. rice noodles (1/4" wide)
  • 1 bag (about 4 cups) fresh mung bean sprouts*
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • 1 bunch culantro
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6-12 red Thai chilis
  • 1 lime
  • 4 scallions
  • Hoisin sauce (if you are gluten free, please check the label or avoid)
  • Sriracha sauce

Equipment:

  • stainless steal spice ball (for infusing herbs in broth) or cheese cloth and string*
  • sharp boning knife
  • large cutting board
  • 2 medium bowls
  • 1 large soup pot or stock pot
  • small handheld mesh strainer and small bowl
  • large colander for noodles
  • 8 larger-than-normal, pho-style bowls with base plates*
  • 8 large, flat-bottomed spoons*
  • 8 pairs chopsticks*

Instructions

1. Marinate the meat.

Rough chop garlic and 2" of the ginger. Put in a medium bowl. Take skin off whole chicken using a boning knife. Carve meat off the bones (breasts, legs, thighs and back muscles), trimming all fat off as you see it, and place meat in the bowl with the ginger and garlic, and the bones in a stock pot. Mix 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 Tbsp salt, and 1 Tbsp fish sauce into chicken meat with hands. Wash hands. Discard all chicken fat and skin. Wash cutting board and anything that touched the raw chicken. Cover chicken and let marinate.

2. Make the stock.

Place bones in a large soup pot or stock pot.  Cover chicken bones with cold water by 2-3 inches and turn on medium. Add 16 oz. chicken stock, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 Tbsp salt, and 4 Tbsp fish sauce. Enclose black pepper, cumin, clove, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon in a cheese cloth or a stainless steel spice ball. Roast whole onion and ginger over bare stove flame until ginger skin is black and onion is steaming and put both broth. Once broth begins to steam, turn heat to low. Don't let the broth boil or simmer at all. Once the broth has been steaming for about 20 minutes, swipe a handheld mesh strainer through the top three inches of broth, removing particulate matter and any oil. Discard the contents of the strainer and run it upside down under water as necessary to clean. The goal in the end is to have a clear broth, which is achieved by getting rid of floating particles and oil, and never boiling the broth. Repeat this process about every ten minutes over the course of an hour and a half to achieve clear broth. If you have oil on the top, skim off with large flat spoon.

3. Prep the fresh toppings.

Wash the bean sprouts, all the fresh herbs, lime and chilis. Dry with paper towels and place each on separate plates. Slice the lime into 8 wedges and then slice the wedges across into half wedges so you have 16 pieces.

4. Cook the chicken.

After the stock has been cooking for about an hour and a half, remove the ginger, onion, carrot, spices and bones. Slowly submerge the marinating chicken into the hot broth. Cook for 13 minutes, remove chicken and place in a clean bowl to drain and cool. Send the hand held strainer through the broth 4 or 5 times to get the ginger and garlic chunks out. Slice the chicken into 1/4 inch slices and put on serving plate(s).

5. Make the noodles. 

Bring a full large pot of water to a boil (for cooking rice noodles). Add rice noodles to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes. Strain and run cold water over them so they don't stick together as much when they're cool.

6. Assemble the bowls. First put rice noodles in the bowl, then 4-5 pieces of chicken, sprinkle on sliced scallions. Ladle on broth so the noodles and chicken are surrounded. Pick leaves off Thai basil and cilantro leaves from stems. Add about 4 of each to each bowl. Break culantro leaf into 1 inch long pieces, and add to soup. Add a mountain of bean sprouts on top. Squeeze lime over top. Serve with fresh whole Thai chili on the side.

7. Finish each bowl at the table. Diners squirt generous squiggles of Sriracha and Hoisin sauces on top of his or her bowl of pho. Before eating, toss the contents of the bowl with the chopsticks in one hand and flat-bottomed spoon in the other as you would a salad. Use chopsticks to help load up the flat-bottomed spoon, and go ahead and slurp the contents of the spoon and juice into your mouth. Take a nibble of the Thai chili (one of the hotter chilis in the world). When all you have is broth left, it's okay to lift your bowl to your mouth to sip the rest.

Bosnian-Serb Meat Pie

Burek

As Sanja Bukarac, from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine. Illustration by Margaret Owen. Photos by Matt Boutet.

Serves: 9
Cooking Time: 1:15

Ingredients

  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds ground meat (she used beef, veal and pork)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 bunches scallions, sliced into rounds
  • salt
  • pepper
  • bottle of plain kefir
  • sour cream (optional)

Instructions

1. One day before cooking transfer phyllo from the freezer to the fridge. One hour before cooking, transfer phyllo box to the counter. Leave it all wrapped up; you don't want the filo to dry out.

2. In a large saute pan with a little oil, saute ground meat with scallions until the meat loses all raw pink spots and is evenly brown. I didn't see her drain the meat of liquified fat, but I had a lot so I drained it off. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate container whisk together the eggs and yogurt. Grease a rectangular baking dish with spray cooking oil. Preheat oven to 385.

3. On a large cutting board or tray, lay out 2 sheets of filo on top of one another with the long side of the rectangle facing you. Spoon ground beef onto the phyllo dough in the shape of a line about an inch thick parallel to the long edge closest to you, leaving an inch of phyllo on each end meatless. Use about 1/2 cup ground beef mixture to make the line. Drizzle yogurt mixture over the top. Roll the phyllo over the meat and keep rolling so you have a long cylander of meat rolled in phyllo. Be quick and confident when working with phyllo, and use as few touches as possible to do what you need to do. For example, just leave the roll you just did where it finished rolling as opposed to moving it somewhere. The more you touch phyllo, the more it falls apart. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel if you need to step away for a minute - otherwise it dries and breaks easily. Make 2 more of meat-in-phyllo rolls.

4. Now put another two sheets of phyllo down, this time off-setting them by 3 inches vertically to give you a little more surface area to roll the three meat rolls you just made inside these sheets of phyllo. Before you roll them up, spoon yogurt mixture in a zig zag pattern across all three rolls. Once they're bundled in the phyllo, transfer this "roll of rolls" into the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat this step two more times, fitting rolls flush against each other in the baking dish.

5. Spray the top of the meat pie with cooking oil and bake until golden and crispy, about 45 minutes. Cover with a clean kitchen towel for ten minutes to help the interior be soft.

Slice cross sections and serve with forks, and glasses of plain kefir with spoons. Instruct your guests to alternate bites of meat pie and spoonfuls of kefir. Also, some like a little sour cream with their meat pie.

Thai Noodle Stir Fry

Pad Thai

As Panee Muncharoen, from Panomsarakham villiage (3 hours east of Bangkok) in Chacheongsao province, Thailand, taught Lindsay Sterling, in Brunswick, ME. My photo didn't come out. This one is from a street food stall in Thailand taken by Takeaway.

Notes: Pad Thai is stir-fried rice-noodles with various ingredients in a sauce that's equal parts sour, sweet, and salty. There are so many variations of this dish. You can feature tofu, shrimp, or chicken; use Thai basil instead of cilantro, add pea shoots -- or not. Please beware, the mung bean sprouts I see in supermarkets are not the same as the super-fresh, crunchy, bright ones you find in Asian markets. Either get the fresh ones from the Asian market or skip that ingredient. 

Serves: 8-10
Cooking Time: 1 hr

Ingredients

  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 6 scallions, sliced into rounds (keep green and white parts separate)
  • 1 cup sliced cabbage (pieces about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 6 raw eggs, scrambled with a fork in a bowl
  • 1 lb. rice sticks (wide, translucent fettucini-sized noodles made out of rice)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce (She used Oyster brand)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity recommended)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or more as you wish
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed to 1/8th inch by rolling over them with a rolling pin
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked from stems
  • large bag fresh mung bean sprouts, washed and drained twice
  • 1 lime, cut into 8-10 wedges

Equipment

  • 7 small prep bowls
  • 5 cereal bowls for prep
  • strainer
  • lettuce spinner (handy but not necessary)
  • medium bowl
  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • rolling pin
  • cooking tongs or stirring utensil
  • 12 inch iron skillet or wok or two smaller saute pans

Instructions

1. Gather and prepare all the ingredients in the list and put them each in individual bowls near your stove. You’ll need these items ready for the stir frying part (you're timing will be off if you're hunting for things). You can do all this prep the day before and store the bowls covered in the fridge for really easy cooking the next day.

2. Boil rice sticks just as you would spaghetti, only cook them for just one minute before straining and running cold water over them. You want the noodles to still have some stiffness at this stage. They will finish cooking in the liquids we add to the dish later.

Panee Muncharoen teaches her favorite dish from Thailand. 

3. Now do the stir fry. Heat ½ c. canola oil in large iron skillet on medium high. When the pan is hot, add garlic, yellow onion, and the whites of the scallion. After a minute, add the cabbage. After another minute, add the chicken and cook and stir until chicken is opaque all the way through the pieces. Then add the eggs and scramble them right in with everything in the pan. When the eggs are cooked (opaque light yellow), add the noodles and stir in one after the next½ c. fish sauce, ½ c. distilled white vinegar, and ½ c. sugar. Sprinkle entire top surface lightly with cayenne, scallion greens, peanuts and fresh mung bean sprouts and stir. When noodles are cooked, but not soggy or mushy, take off heat.

4. Top pad thai with a handful of fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with lime wedges, and condiment dishes of more crushed peanuts, extra cilantro, and cayenne for individuals to increase heat.