Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shrimp Pot Stickers with Chinese Flowering Cabbage Greens


(for the pot stickers--best served with a small side of gyoza dipping sauce)

20 gyoza wrappers
1/2 pound of raw shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and finely minced
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
2 inches of ginger, minced
2 scallions, chopped, white parts separate from green
1/2 lb. Chinese flowering cabbage greens, very finely chopped with stems
1/2 tsp. white pepper
Salt and fresh black pepper
1 tsp. agave nectar or other sweetener to taste
1/2 cup water

1) Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil until shimmering; add red pepper flake, ginger, garlic, and the white parts of the scallion. Saute until garlic and ginger are golden, about 1 minute on high heat.
2) Add flowering cabbage to your skillet along with salt and white pepper, cooking until greens have reduced and wilted, about 3 minutes longer. Place the cooked greens in a bowl with the uncooked green part of the scallions.
3) When greens are no longer hot, stir in your sweetener and adjust seasoning if necessary. Incorporate the minced raw shrimp thoroughly.
4) Lay out 1 gyoza wrapper and place approx. 1-1 1/2 tsps. of filling in the middle. Moisten the edge of the wrapper with water and fold the dry edge over into a closed half-moon. Seal by pressing small pleats into the unmoistened edge of the wrapper with your thumb and forefinger, setting the pot stickers aside one by one until all are filled.
5) Heat remaining two tbsp. oil, preferably in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Your pan must have a close-fitting lid. When oil is hot, place pot stickers with seam-side up very closely together in a circle (they should be touching) and saute until bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes.
6) Add the water, tilting the pan so it's evenly distributed, and cover tightly, reducing heat to med-low. Cook the pot stickers until liquid is gone, 7-10 minutes. Remove lid and allow steam to escape, shaking the pot stickers free.

(for the Chinese flowering cabbage greens)

2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. Chinese flowering cabbage greens, chopped into 2-inch segments with stems separate from leaves
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
Salt and fresh black pepper

(for the beer)

1 12oz. bottle Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA

1) Heat the oil until shimmering. Add the stems and cook for 3 minutes.
2) Add the leaves, white pepper, oyster sauce, salt, and black pepper. Saute until greens are wilted and stems are tender, about 2 minutes more.
3) Adjust seasoning and plate, along with the pot stickers.
4) Open Big Daddy IPA.
5) Enjoy together.

A reviewer from Las Vegas on Beer Advocate had this to say about Big Daddy: "IPAs are a snob beer, but if you want friends to enjoy the flavors you're having then this is surely the gateway drug to the addiction." I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to call a beer type that was popularized by the East India Company tradesmen and sailors in the late 1700s snobbish--it seems to have been around for a while, and after all, it's beer--but the accessibility praise is accurate. Not only is this one of my favorite beers of all time, brought to us by the splendid Speakeasy Ales & Lagers of San Francisco, California (let it be known they are consistently outstanding), but it's drinkable even if you aren't accustomed to the IPA style. You're going to get a strong hop presence, along with some tropical citrus like pineapple, but this beer's elegance lies in its profoundly smooth finish. Great with almost any well-spiced, strongly flavored food, hardcore awesome with pot stickers.

Three cheers for Chinatown! All the more because half the s&*! I don't understand! Seriously, I put things in my mouth when I was in Hong Kong that I couldn't identify if asked, "Animal, vegetable, or mineral?" My professional chef friend Jordan says whenever you simply cannot fathom what it is, it's taro root. I only wish he were right.

(Also, for the record, I would like to hereby state that whatever the gelatinous panna cotta-esque substance was that I ate at the dim sum place--the opaque brown-orange jello that tasted vaguely of hot dog--I pray to sweet baby Jesus we will never be reacquainted.)

Anyway, being in Chinatown makes me very happy because it reminds me of our trip to Hong Kong and Thailand--the picture above is actually a Bangkok market. New York's Chinatown is also one hell of a fine way to battle the economic downturn; they'll sell you massive fresh shrimp for $6.49/pound, and a one-pound bags of greens for a dollar, and Malaysian shrimp-and-pork jerky that tastes like meat candy. Mmm. Meat candy.

By the way, you aren't going to find Chinese flowering cabbage greens unless you're lucky enough to have a Chinatown or live in China. Or grow them yourself, of course. They're faintly mustardy but much milder than actual mustard greens--sort of like a spinach with really thick, tender stems. If you can't find them, I'd use spinach in this recipe, or cabbage, or a nice leafy bok choy.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chicken Pepper Soup with Sweet Potato and Coconut

INGREDIENTS (serves 6):

2 medium chicken breasts, cubed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 inch of ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 large (mild) jalapeno peppers, minced
1 dry bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, cubed
1 large green bell pepper, cubed
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 carrot, sliced bite-size
4 cups hearty vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut cream (not coconut milk--the sweet sticky stuff you use for pina coladas)
3 chives, diced
Salt and fresh black pepper

1) In a heavy soup pot, heat the oil until shimmering and add the ginger, garlic, onion, and jalapenos. Sweat for two minutes.
2) Add the sweet potato, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, cinnamon, and vegetable stock, season well, and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 7 minutes.
3) Stir in the green pepper and chicken and simmer for another 6-8 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
4) Remove bay leaf. Add coconut cream and taste, adjusting salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with chives and serve, by itself for lunch or over rice for a heartier meal.

It's too cold in my apartment for me to even think about beer. What you need when you're freezing your nuts off is spicy coconut soup. Hence the abbreviated posting--I'm wearing (apart from a dress and two sweaters) tights with socks over them and fingerless gloves a la Bob Cratchit. Those of you who know me might well argue, "But Lyndsay, you dress like Bob Cratchit every day. You always look like you just barely survived an encounter with a serial knitter. I mean, your daily appearance is...whimsical would be a diplomatic way of putting it." Yes, well, the effort at the moment is in the direction of comfort, not style, and it turns out that feeding lumps of coal to one's radiator has negligible effect on the temperature of the room.

See, the trouble is that the temperature outside is above the legal limit at which the building must turn the heat on. Meanwhile, it's March. In New York. The cat has been trying to burrow under things for hibernation purposes all day. T. S. Eliot was mistaken about which month is cruelest. Spring needs to get itself sprung, and fast.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pappardelle with Artichokes and Rabbit Sausage Ragu

1 package D'Artagnan Rabbit & Ginger Sausage (8.5 oz), casings removed
1 package fresh or dry pappardelle noodles (we used fresh mushroom-infused pappardelle)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 large shallots, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 carrot, minced
1 celery rib, minced
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained and chopped, with juice reserved
2/3 cup dry red wine
5 large deli artichoke hearts (or use marinated), quartered
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp. honey
2 fresh chives, green parts only, chopped
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, finely grated
Salt and fresh black pepper
1 22-oz bottle Pennichuck Shouboushi Ginger Pilsner

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add all the rabbit sausage (without the casings) and fry until well browned, using a wooden spoon or heavy spatula to break meat into small pieces.
2) Add garlic, ginger, and shallots and sweat for 2 minutes.
3) Add carrot and celery, sauteing for approx. 5 minutes.
4) Stir in the dried thyme, red wine and the reserved tomato liquid and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced to about 1 cup.
5) Add diced tomatoes, artichoke quarters, honey, salt and pepper, and cook another 10 minutes (covered, on a low simmer) until sauce is slightly thickened and well infused with all the flavors.
6) Meanwhile, cook pappardelle according to package instructions until al dente in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain the pasta.
7) Taste your ragu to adjust its seasonings. Return pasta to the pot and add sauce along with the grated pecorino romano. Garnish with chives, additional cheese and black pepper if desired.
8) Open Shouboushi Ginger Pilsner
9) Enjoy together.

This was an interesting idea put forth by Pennichuck, a southern New Hampshire brewing company. Its execution was odd in that the pilsner doesn't really taste gingery--it's crisp and refreshing, but we expected such a dominant flavor additive to come through considerably more, without wanting it to be overpowering. When all's said and done, if you eat a ginger-based food with this beer, you may not be able to taste the ginger at all in the Shouboushi--however, the malts are nice and subtle in this particular pilsner and the overall profile is very drinkable. They certainly erred on the side of caution with this one, but there's probably something to be said for that; it's difficult to finish more than two sips of Rogue's Chipotle Ale without trying to dip a corn chip in it.

I'm not a stickler at all for the recommended pasta shape being an exact match, since there are so many variations to consider when deciding on a tasty tasty noodle, but there is one good basic rule to follow. Here we go...are you ready?

RULE: Serve thick, hearty sauces with thick, hearty noodles. Serve thin, delicate noodles with light, delicate sauces. Break this rule whenever and however you please.

Any questions about specific shapes and what in blazes to do with them? Find an excellent guide here.

In general, a ragu is best with a hearty shape, but that doesn't mean you have to run out and buy pappardelle* if you're staring into the pantry and it's causing you angst. Pasta is not about angst. Grab your dried package of lasagne noodles and break them into glorious uneven pieces. Yes, they do this in Italy when they feel like it and no one from the Sopranos is going to arrive at your house and break your kneecaps for Pasta Sacrilege.

*If you have time and/or are bored, run out and buy fresh pappardelle by all means. It's my favorite noodle. If you were to get me noodles for my birthday, I'd want fresh pappardelle noodles. My birthday is July 26th, and the best pappardelle noodles in the world are the mint-flavored ones with lamb ragu from my old workplace Osteria Laguna, pictured above.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Chicken and Root Vegetable Stew with Leeks

INGREDIENTS (serves 6 easily):

4 chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and chopped into pieces
4 leeks, cut into large chunks
3 parsnips, cubed
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 large Yukon gold potato, cubed
2 tbsp. bacon fat
2 tbsp. flour
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken, duck, or goose stock (we used leftover goose stock, but that might not be just lying around--we know we're crazy)
1 15-oz. can unseasoned pureed butternut squash
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. honey or agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat the bacon fat over medium-high and add the flour, stirring to form a nutty brown roux.
2) Add the stock, chili powder, dried garlic, squash puree, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a brisk simmer.
3) Add the parsnips and cook about 5 minutes.
4) Add the potato and sweet potato. Cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
5) Add the leeks and simmer 8-10 minutes until the large leek chunks are tender and the root vegetables are cooked. Season the broth with salt and fresh black pepper--it should have a fairly thick consistency, and lots of flavor.
6) Add the chicken thighs and simmer until tender and cooked through, about 5 minutes more depending on the size of the pieces.
7) Remove the bay leaves and the thyme stems--the leaves from the thyme should have all fallen off into the stew. Make sure it's seasoned to your taste.
8) Open Lagunitas Hop Stoopid.
9) Enjoy together.

This is the sort of beer-drinking experience we love: someone (the brilliant lads at Lagunitas) has used so much hops, and have done it so deftly, that all you're confronted with initially is the taste of a tropical beach--pineapple, grapefruit, kiwi, apricot--until after you've savored it. Then you're left with perfectly balanced spruce and a touch of warmth. Stunning beer. Very strong. Good with stew.

These are my Christmas shoes. Don't you just love my new Christmas shoes? Do you like them? Huh? Huh? Do you? Are they your favorite? Doesn't my mother-in-law pick stellar shoes? They're my favorite.

On the subject of cute shoes, my editor Kerri and I were talking about the dangers of wearing them (in the city, in the snow, skidding from hazard to hazard), and I realized that I'm much more cautious about the very present threat of falling on my face these days. Why, you may ask? Well, interestingly, this caution seems to have been engendered after I fell on my face last year, and the fact that I bit through my lower lip at the time really drove the message home. How did I slip and fall and bite through my lower lip, you might ask?

Four words: Amateur Female Jello Wrestling.

No, seriously. I'm not making that up.

So I'm wondering now whether for the rest of my life I'm going to be actively wondering whether it's a good idea to be walking with my hands in my pockets, etc., so as to avoid further damage to my face. I could wear flat shoes, I suppose, but--no, what am I thinking? No. So there I go, just a-walkin' down the street, and all the while my inner monologue is:

"My hands shouldn't be in my pockets. Should my hands be in my pockets? If I fall, what will hit the snow patch first? My nose? That would break my nose, yes? Should my hands be in my pockets?"

I can just see myself wearing these bad boys, hitting an ice patch in mid-March when I thought they were all melted, falling toward the pavement as I yell "Not the FACE!" Boom.