Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.
First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.
February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.
I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.
One of humanity’s most varied edibles. After a decade or more of experimenting and constantly trying different things, I have settled on a flavor arrangement closer to americanized asian restaurant versions of this classic home-style favorite. The sweet soy sauce, or alternately kecap manis, combined with rice vinegar and soy sauce is the winning formula at a great many asian restaurants here in North America. For Me, Simply add eggs, sweet peas and bacon, everything else is optional. The following recipe is my dressed up version which is very much a stand alone meal. Adding chili powder for increased depth to the rice it’s self, while also including carrots and onions, along with savory marinated pork. By cooking these things separately and mixing them together only at the end, You get a wonderful burst of the different ingredient’s flavors in every bite. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6+ as a side dish.
Supplies Needed: Large Wok or Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board
2 cups of White Rice, steamed or boiled(slightly undercooked, or day old rice is best)
1 pound or so of Pork, Your choice of cut, chopped into half inch pieces(or smaller)
One third of a pound of Bacon, sliced into pieces a quarter inch wide
3 medium sized Carrots, sliced thinly
1 large Onion, chopped as well..
Half of a bag of Frozen Sweet Peas
4 tbsp of Soy Sauce
4 tbsp of Sweet Soy Sauce or Honey, or 1+ tbsp of Sugar)
3 tbsp of Rice Vinegar
1 or 2 fresh Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp of Chili Powder Blend
1 packet of Chinese Barbeque(Char Siu, Red Pork) Seasoning
Cooking Oil as needed
Prep and Cooking:
You will need to marinate the pork in the chinese seasoning for 30 minutes or more before cooking, over night in the fridge is best. Once it has soaked in the flavors, remove from the marinade and stir fry on high heat until fully cooked. I preffer a bit of charring on My red pork. Remove from the pan and set it aside for now. Rinse out the pan before continuing.
Over medium heat, scramble the eggs. Once cooked, remove, wipe any extra residue from the pan, then stir fry the bacon to Your liking and remove from the pan. There should be plenty of bacon grease now. You can poor off the excess, or just leave it all in. Stir fry the carrots until they start to soften, then add the onion and cook until the desired texture is reached. Remove from pan. Next, put the cooked rice into the pan, adding all of the remaining seasonings. Stir until everything is evenly mixed in, add the frozen peas and stir until they have thawed. Turn off the burner mix everything You have cooked together in the pan and serve.
Things go much faster using a skillet and a wok at the same time. Cooking the bacon, then veggies, followed by the rice in the wok and the eggs and then meat in another pan. Mixing it all into the wok at the end.
I’ve been told, several times, that this is the best thing I have ever cooked.. . A couple of weeks ago, I had some friends over for some bbq chicken and fried rice. One of which hit Me up the next day, thanking Me for serving some “yummy stuff,” which inspired Her to want to make “some bomb @$# food, like that bacon, shrimp, spinach thing You use to do.” So here We are, one of an endless stream of recipes that I had completely forgotten. Having made something like it twice in the time since this conversation, I find Myself wondering how such a recipe could have fallen out of the regular rotation. Why am I not eating this all the time!?
This is in fact, pretty much the same flavor arrangement as ‘Manated Pork with Peas,’ which can be found by scrolling down through this blog. Less the pork and onion, adding bacon, spinach and shrimp! I told You it’s versatile! Although, many ingredient changes, also require a change in cooking method.. I must also point out, that I never measure when seasoning things. To Me, cooking something slightly different, every time You cook it, is a huge part of the joy and fun in that which We call food. Thus, all quantities listed in My recipes are guesstimations, but should provide a solid starting point.. Please do leave some commentary should You give this one a try.
Supplies Needed: A wok or large fry pan, cutting board and knife/you can get by with just a mincer, also a small sauce pan, like You would boil a single pack of ramen in…
1 pound of shrimps, steamed or boiled lightly
one third of a pound of bacon, sliced or chopped however You like
a bag of spinach, at least enough to make salad for 4 people
Half a bag of frozen sugar snap peas, thawed
4 tbsp of fresh ginger root, minced
2 tbsp of garlic, minced
6 inches or so of fresh lemongrass, at least half an inch thick, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
1/4 cup of cooking sherry
1-2 tbsp of soy sauce
2-3 tbsp of ketcup(optional, but it adds a lot)
1 or so tbsp of sugar, just enough to take the edge off the sour/bitter ingrdients
1 tsp mild chili pepper powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Prep and Cooking:
Over low to medium heat, mix all but the peas, bacon, spinach and shrimp in the small sauce pot, stirring as often as possible, until it has thickened into a nice sauce. Remove from heat, toss the chunks of lemongrass and keep stirring until You are ready to add it to the rest of the ingredients. At the same time You begin cooking the sauce, fry the bacon on medium heat in a wok or sizable skillet, remove from the pan once cooked to Your liking. Then, toss the sugar snap peas and a fist-full of spinach into the bacon grease, stirring constantly, adding the spinach one fist-full at a time. Keep it up until You’ve used about three quarters of the spinach and remove from the pan. This should only take 30 seconds to a minute. Turn the burner to high heat and toss the shrimps into the remaining bacon grease, fry for 20 to 30 seconds, depending on size. Remove from the pan and turn off the burner, add the bacon and cooked veggies back into the pan, mixing vigorously. Now You can also add the sauce and remaining spinach, or plate the food and distribute them between each serving. Time to eat!
The key to this dish is to privide spinach, in three textures, fully cooked, partially cooked and raw. Hence the process of adding it a bit at a time. Hoisin sauce was not part of the origianl recipe, srirachi works quite well as a replacement. I almost always make this with a nice spicy kick!
You can also mince the lemongrass, but it MUST be broken down very finely. You can also buy lemongrass in frozen, pre-minced form as well as puree’d in a tube. I would use 2 or so tablespons of such options instead of a fresh stalk.
To cook this all in one pan, start by frying the bacon and shrimp, as described above. Remove them and start making the sauce. Once it’s almost thickened up, add the peas and commense the spinach application process. Mix everything back into the pan and You are done.. You’ll have to have thawed the peas for this method, or the sauce will be runny, which is fine by Me. This is the lazy method, the flavors become more of a blur, but it’s still damn good.
July 9, 2013 ***UPDATE ***
Last night I made a variation of this recipe with bak choi instead of peas and spinach. It was delicious. I made the sauce in one pan and stir fried everything else in another, while the sauce thickened. The bak choi stems were a really nice texture and the light flavor helped temper the powerful chunky sauce. I simply fried them in the bacon grease and added the green, leafy parts and some green onions once the stems were just starting to soften. A truely great dinner.
I use to cook this a ton, but it’s been a while. Since Ryan moved to California I’ve had no requests for it! It’s not a traditional Pad Thai since I don’t use Tamarind and such. My cooking methods may or may not vary from traditional versions. Any Meat works, I tend to use Chicken, or Shrimp when I can afford it. I tried to list alternate items that I use as well. Serves 4 to 6.
A wok or high sided frying pan, a cereal bowl for mixing and a large bowl to soak the noodles. Knife and cutting board.
1 package or 1.5 to 2.5 lbs – of Meat finely chopped to 1/4th of an inch thick or less
1 – 14 or 16oz package of Rice Noodles
1 cup – Sprouts OR a large Onion(chopped to sprout size)
1/3rd lb. – Bacon(sliced into 1/3rd to 1/2 inch pieces)
3 – Eggs
1/4 cup – crushed Peanuts
1/4 cup – Fish Sauce
1/4 cup – Sugar
2 tblsp – Rice Vinegar
1 tblsp – Soy Sauce
Half a Lemon
4 – large cloves of Garlic, diced
1 tblsp – Chili Pepper Powder for flavor not heat(chili powder blends work ok too)
1 tblsp – crushed Cayenne or Spicy Pepper
Black Pepper to taste.
Prep and Cooking:
First, soak the noodles in warm water. I use HOT water from the kitchen sink. It should take 20-30 minutes of soaking to get the noodles to the right texture. You don’t want them fully cooked, just a bit under done, since they’ll get finished in the frying pan. If You’ve never prepared Rice Noodles before, I’d suggest You ask someone who has about the right texture, or You can be like Me and simply use trial and error! It’s EXTREMELY EASY to overdo these noodles. Then they get soggy and turn to a ricey paste…
While that’s soaking, Mix the Fish Sauce, Rice Vinegar and Sugar in a bowl. If You are NOT using fresh lemon/lime, add 2 tblsp of the bottled juice to the mixture and don’t add more when it’s mentioned later in the recipe. Let the mixture sit for now, You’ll have to stir it again before You use it…
Next, fry the Bacon over medium heat til it’s almost done. If You hate bacon grease, drain the extra out of the pan at this time, I tend to leave it. Turn the burner to medium high or high heat. Add Meat, Soy Sauce, 1 spoonful of the Fish Sauce mixture and 1/4th of the Garlic. If using regular Onions, add them once the Meat is half cooked. Cook til the Meat is done and remove it all from the pan. Throw the rest of the Garlic and the Under Cooked Rice Noodles in the pan with the Fish Sauce Mixture and everything else but the Eggs. Stir fry until the liquid is soaked into the noodles. Reduce heat to medium or medium high. Push off to one side of the pan, scramble the Eggs, add Sprouts, put Meat and Bacon back in, squeeze in the Lemon for all the juice it’ll give You. Mix it all up and You’re done!
Hope You Enjoy!
Notes: If You opt not to use bacon, You should use 2-3 tblsp of cooking oil instead. — If the noodles don’t get fully cooked and there’s no liquid left in the bottom of the pan, add water while it’s still frying. One spoonful at a time or You may turn it into mush! – Medium heat is for those who move slow or don’t keep the things in the pan moving. High heat is only for those who can keep whatever is in the pan in nearly constant motion! The heat will affect the taste a bit, since the Sugar will caramelize differently.
Things I’ve also used in this dish: Shredded or finely chopped Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, Snow Peas, and Green Onions. Obviously You should experiment with Your own favorite things! Please let Me know if something You try works wonderfully!!