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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.

Garden Fresh Stir Fry © Andor

Supplies Needed: Knife and cutting board. Wok, or large, high sided fry pan. Large bowl, or zip-lock bag for marinating.

Ingredients:

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!

Notes:

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!

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Cooking in the Twilight Hours

Cooking in the Twilight Hours © Andor

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!

 


Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (1)

I am in love with this soup! Layers of porky flavor make it a delight to devour. I originally intended to make a bacon and bak choi soup, but instead I used what was in My freezer. Thus stumbling upon this lovely combination. Baby lima beans add a great texture and are perfect for reducing the spicy impact on Your taste buds. Obviously, bacon adds to almost any meal, but by cooking it in different ways, bacon can take things to the next level. I have been playing with different methods of cooking it for quite some time. Treating a pack of standard, sliced bacon as a single piece of meat is the key to this dish.

Soup takes time to make. It is very easy, since You can ignore it most of the time, but it’s a long process. 3 hours of simmering on the stove seems to be the minimum for getting all of the flavor and nutrients out of the ingredients. Simmering for 4 to 6 hours before reducing has yielded the best soup stock for Me. Be sure not to reduce too far, the general rule is that You want to cook it down by half. You don’t want to end up with soup concentrate. Making this soup is a two part recipe. First, one must make the stock that provides the base flavors. Then, You fry Your bacon and finish the soup with spices. I tend to make stock half, to three quarters of a gallon at a time, since the largest pot in My kitchen is 8 quarts. Storing any that is not being used right away in the freezer for later. It will last about a month in the freezer, so You can save time and make the stock well before the day You intend actually to serve the soup.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (2)

Supplies Needed: TWO 8 quart stock pots(the second is for straining), a decent sized strainer and a skillet for frying.

~For the Stock~

Ingredients:

2lbs Ham Shanks, or the bone of a mostly eaten ham

3 large Carrots, cut in half, or thirds

2 large Onions, halved

half a bushel of Celery

half a bulb of Garlic

2 Bay Leaves

1.5 to 2 gallons of Water(as much as can be fit into the pot with the other ingredients)

Andor's Porky Soup Stock © Andor

To Cook:

Put all the above ingredients in a stock pot, adding as much water as possible(1.5 to 2 inches from the top of the pot). You don’t want to boil it, set the burner to whatever setting You need to keep it simmering. Continue simmering for 4 or more hours. Then, strain the ingredients from the liquid, pressing as much of the broth out of them as possible. Discard the solids(eat the meat, if there is any) and return the liquid to the stove. Now You want to bring it to a boil and continue until the soup has been reduced to about half of the post-straining quantity. You don’t want a full rolling boil, with a foamy top. A ‘low boiling’ is ideal, constant large bubbling is what You want to see. Once reduced, let cool and place in the fridge over night. When it’s nice and cold, remove the fat that has solidified on the top. Now proceed to the next part of the recipe, or put it in containers and freeze.

~Finishing the Soup~

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Cajun Spice blend

A 1.5 to 2 inch wide slice of the Bacon slab and half a cup or more of Baby Lima Beans per person

1 tsp freshly ground Peppercorns(multi-color medley is best for this)

Salt to taste

Slow Cooking Sliced Bacon © Andor

To Cook:

Over medium-low, or even low heat, start frying the bacon, spreading the pepper evenly on the top and bottom. It is best to slow cook, flipping every 5 to 10 minutes. You want to keep the temperature low, so You don’t burn the outsides before the center has been cooked. This should take 45 minutes to an hour. You may also have a hard time keeping the bacon from splitting apart, I suggest using a tongs for flipping, so You can hold each piece together as You maneuver them around. Once the bacon is ALMOST cooked through, heat Your soup stock on high. Once the soup starts to boil, add the baby lima beans, cajun spice and salt and reduce to medium heat, stirring occasionally. At the same time, turn the burner for the bacon to medium-high and fry until the outer edges are nice and crispy(burnt is ok too), then remove from the pan, placing on a towel to pull out the excess grease. Make sure the beans are cooked to Your liking and turn off the burner. Ladle the soup and beans into bowls and place a chunk of bacon on top. Serve hot!

Notes:

I have only served this when also making other dishes. I’ve never tried it as a stand alone meal, it’s a great fit for multi-course dinners.

Cooking sliced bacon in this manor provides a unique texture, similar to tender un-sliced meat. Half pound slabs cook up quite well, but are hard to slice afterwords without breaking it all apart. I prefer Corn King brand bacon. You may laugh, or turn Your nose to the sky, but the brine and smoking process they use produces a superior tasting grease. I use bacon grease instead of cooking oil in most of My cooking, so such things matter to Me. Yes, I am telling You that a mass produced product of Iowan factory-made bacon is better than bacon from a quality butcher shop!

Baby lima beans are really tender inside. If You are substituting regular lima beans, You will want to boil/steam them with water and add to the soup when plating. Otherwise they will be tough and meaty in texture.

This soup is very barbecue friendly. I saved 15 bones from pork spare ribs that I had smoked, added them, burnt edges, sauce and all, instead of the ham. It was delicious! I was unsure about how the charred ends and the messy, sweet remnants of bbq sauce would affect the flavor, but it came out really good. The only burnt parts were maybe half an inch at the tip of each bone.  The soup lacked the hammy flavor and aroma, but was instead smelling like a barbequed bowl of goodness. I admit to also using one head of bak choi in place of the carrots that time too. The spice blend really helps this soup fit in to a barbecue menu as well. The spiciness just invites one to eat more sweet, savory, saucy ribs.

I have also found the broth, which is the soup after straining, but before reducing, is very good for sauces. 1 cup of broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger, some garlic and a splash of chili powder made for a delicious thick sauced stir-fry.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (3)