Stir Fry: Harvest Special
I didn’t grow a ton of veggies in the garden this year. I did have a substantial carrot patch, a mix of Touchon and Purple Dragons. I also had a pair of Fairy Tale eggplants, some Pablano peppers and a good amount of Tatsoi bak choi. Needless to say, all of these things came to meet one another in My wok. With a few additions, a very nice meal was spawned. There is just nothing better than garden fresh food! Here is what I did for the first meal after harvest. Paired with rice, noodles, or bread, this recipe serves two ravenous teenagers, or four average appetites.
Supplies Needed: Knife and cutting board. Wok, or large, high sided fry pan. Large bowl, or zip-lock bag for marinating.
1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
3-4 large carrots, chopped into pieces no more than a quarter inch thick
4 small eggplants, sliced about a quarter inch thick(Kamo eggplants are best for frying)
1 large onion, chopped to Your liking
2 pablano peppers, diced
1 head of bak choi, stems removed(about 30, 3-4 inch leaves)
a quarter cup of dry sherry
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
salt and pepper to taste
bacon grease(I love bacon grease!), or Your choice of cooking oil.
Prep and Cooking:
Mix the sherry, lemon juice, hoisin and pablano peppers in a large bowl, or zip-lock bag. Add the pork and let marinate for at least 30 minutes(over night is best). Over medium-high heat, stir fry the carrots until they reach Your desired texture and remove from pan. Then stir fry the eggplants with black pepper and a pinch of salt and set aside as well. Now start cooking the onions, when they start to turn translucent, turn the heat to high and add the pork and liquid mixture. Stir fry on high until the meat is done cooking, then reduce heat to medium and stir in the bak choi. Then, turn off the burner and mix everything together. Plate and serve!
Obviously, nearly any meat will work with this recipe.
Pablano peppers are really mild, this is not a spicy dish…
If using mock duck, marinate for no more than 5 minutes. Add the liquid marinade to the onions and let it thicken a little, before adding the mock duck to the fry pan.
Running short on time? Skip the marinating part, simply put the liquids and peppers in the pan when You go to cook the meat. It will still taste great, but the meat won’t be quite as flavorful.
Most varieties of eggplant will cook VERY fast and fall apart, becoming mush. Which is why I suggest Kamo eggplants, which hold their texture very well compared to every other variety. If using another kind of eggplant, You must pay close attention to the texture, once You can dent it with Your finger, remove from the pan immediately. Some eggplants are very moist inside, laying them on a dry towel or napkin after slicing(before cooking) can dry them a bit and thus help keep them from disintegrating as You cook.
You can use the bak choi stems if You like. Chop them up like onions and fry until tender after You cook the eggplant.
Cooking each ingredient separately helps mix up the flavors that hit Your tongue. You can indeed cook the carrots and onions together, then add the eggplant and meat. Stir frying till everything is done, but You end up with a more uniform flavor, which is good, but lacks the depth of each ingredient. You also have more control over the texture of each thing when cooking them solo…
I admit to using too much bacon fat in making this one. You may have noticed by the glossy nature in the photo… It was delicious though!
Pulled Pork Sandwich, Assemble!
This was just My second attempt to make pulled pork. As You can see, I went in to geek mode with My camera. Just a little bit anyways. The lighting in My kitchen is pretty poor, even by the windows, so I will likely try this animation again sometime with a better lighting arrangment. Using whole wheat hot dog buns, bak choi picked fresh from the garden, diced onions and barbeque sauce, these sandwiches came together quite well.
The hours I work have My schedule a bit off from most peoples. I go to bed around five in the morning and wake up around noon. So I started the pork in My Instapot when I went to bed and it was done when I woke up the next day. The first time, I started it before I went to work and it was ready and waiting for Me when I got home. I do love the set it and forget it style of cooking involved with making this tasty, meaty, dish.
To make the pulled pork, You will need a slow cooker, such as a crock pot, adjustable rice cooker, or sommething of that nature. A three to four pound pork shoulder, or butt. Sprinkle 2+ tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt, 4 tbsp cajun spice blend and a third of a cup of tightly packed brown suger all over the out sides of the meat. Put an onion or two, peeled and halved into the bottom of You crock pot, along with a third of a cup of dry sherry, 2 long sprigs of thyme and two large cloves of garlic. Then place the pork on top, cover and slow cook for 6 to 8 hours. Once the meat is super tender and falling apart, remove it from the cooker and use a pair of forks to pull, or shred the pork, removing and fatty chunks and bones as You go. Serve it with Your favorite side dishes, or make sandwiches, wraps, or even eat it all by it’s self. There should be plenty of juices in the bottom of the pot, add some to the pulled meat to keep it moist and flavorful, especially if You are refridgerating some of it for later.
Cooking in the Twilight Hours
I often find Myself cooking between two and four in the morning. Not sure why, but this is when the proliferation of stir-fried creations tends to happen. In this case, a very simple set of ingredients lead to yet another delicious meal. Chicken in a salty caramel sauce, lightly fried veggies, caramelized onions and peppercorn rice. The chicken is a bit of a rip on a Vietnamese style Ga Kho, or as most of us call it, hot and spicy chicken. I simply omitted the fish sauce, lemongrass and ginger instead using seasoned salt. The rice was quite nice. It’s subtle, like sushi rice, until You bite on a peppercorn. If You use white pepper, it will be quite spicy. Other varieties emit a mild peppery flavor, but most of the bite dissipates while cooking. The onions took Me three hours to get to that amazingly sweet, gooey texture. If You skip that part however, this meal can be prepared and cooked in thirty to fourty-five minutes. Even faster if You make the chicken in one pan and the veggies in another.
For starters, chop up 2 medium to large onions and cook over low heat until caramalized and set aside. Don’t worry if it looks like a lot when You start, they will be dramatically reduced as You cook. This can take hours, but it is so worth it.
In Your rice cooker, or pot, add 1 cup of rice and 1 tbsp whole peppercorns, mix until the pepper is evenly dispersed. Then add 1.5 cups of water and 1 tsp of rice vinegar. Mix thoroughly and cook until the rice has reached Your desired texture.
While the rice is cooking, thinly slice a medium sized carrot and fry over medium heat to Your liking and remove from the pan. Then, stir fry 1 cup of brocolli with 1 cloves worth of minced garlic and a splash of soy sauce. Once finished, remove from the pan and wipe it clean.
Now, over high heat, stir fry 2 chopped up chicken thighs with 1 tsp rice vinegar, half a tbsp of lowry’s seasoned salt and 2 tbsp(or more!) of brown sugar. Cook until You have a thick brown caramel glaze and You are done. Enjoy!
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.
Double Pork Fried Rice
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.
Cajun Spiced Chicken Stir-Fry
Many people tend to think stir-frying is just an asian thing. This, however, is simply not true. This particular recipe is My most recent stir-fry developement! A very basic flavor combination that goes well with most vegetables, pictured here with carrots, onions and broccoli, served on toasted whole grain bread. Albeit untried, I do beleive this would go well with pork or beef, amongst other things. Paired with rice, bread, or noodles, this recipe serves 2 ravenous teenagers, or 4 people.
Supplies Needed: A Wok or large, high sided Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board, Large Bowl, or Sealing Bag for marinating.
1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, sliced a quarter inch thick or thinner
2 Large Carrots, chopped into thin pieces
1 Onion, Chopped up too..
Half of a Bag of Frozen Chopped Broccoli, thawed
4 Tbsp – Cooking Sherry
2 Tbsp – Worcestershire Sauce
2 or 3 Tbsp – Cajun Spice Blend
1 Tbsp – Minced Garlic(2 large cloves)
2 or 3 Tbsp – Pure Honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bacon Grease or Cookig Oil as needed
Prep and Cooking:
Mix the sherry, worcestershire, half the cajun spice and half a tablespoon or so of salt into a large zip-lock bag and drop the chopped up Chicken into it. Mix that up and let it marinate for 20+ minutes. Now is a good time to chop Your vegetables! Heat Your wok at medium-high heat, grease the pan and start stir-fying the chopped carrots with half the garlic, after the carrots start to soften a little, add the onion and broccoli, continue frying until the ingredients are cooked to Your liking. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken and all the contents of the marinade to the fry pan, also adding the rest of the garlic and any additional salt and pepper You want. Turn Your burner to high heat and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the liquids start thickening, then add the last tablespoon of the cajun spice, pour the veggies back into the pan, drizzle the honey over the top, turn off Your burner and mix it all together. Plate and serve!
Note: The amount of sherry listed is for the lower end stuff found in most big box grocery stores here in North America. If using a quality sherry from a winery or liquor store, try using half the amount stated.