5 Spice Broccoli, Baby Bok Choy and Chicken Stir Fry

The refrigerator is full of delicious organic vegetables from this last weeks D2D delivery and it is about time they get put to use.  I decided to throw together a stir-fry featuring the baby bok choy and broccoli.  Whenever I make stir-fry it is always just thrown together with ingredients on hand.  For this dish, I will write out what I used and how I cooked it.

Ingredients:
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced (2 thighs also works, and I think it tastes better, but that’s another story)
2 heads of broccoli, cut into larger bite-size pieces
4 heads of baby bok choy, bottom thick stem parts removed
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 zucchini squash (I used sunburst squash this time), chopped into bite-sized pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno (or any hot pepper), finely chopped
~2 TBSP peanut oil
Salt
Pepper
1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 Tbsp Sriracha Hot Sauce

Step 1:  Stir-fry Round 1
Spread the 5-spice over the thinly sliced chicken and toss with your hands to evenly spread.  Heat Wok on HIGH until water droplet vaporizes when dropped in the middle of the pan.  Add 1/2 TBSP peanut oil (or whatever you like to use), and add thinly sliced chicken.  Cook until just starting to brown (about 2 minutes), moving constantly.  Remove and keep warm.  Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and quickly deglaze, then quickly wipe out to remove any browned bits so you can continue to use the wok for the upcoming steps.

Step 2:  Prepare the garlic.
In a separate small pan, quickly saute the garlic in a small amount of oil until fragrant.  Scrape garlic into a bowl and save for later.

Step 3:  Stir-fry Round 2
Heat wok on HIGH until water vaporizes.  Add 1 TBSP peanut oil and quickly add onion, squash, and jalapeno/hot pepper.  Moving the food constantly, cook until the onion is just opaque, about 4 minutes.  Add sauteed garlic and cook for another minute.  Remove from heat and place in a bowl.  Deglaze pan if needed, or at the very least wipe the wok clean of any debris.

Step 4:   Stir-fry Round 3
Heat wok on HIGH again.  Add 1/2 TBSP peanut oil and then add the broccoli and the bok choy, stirring constantly until the bok choy starts to wilt.  At this point I added a few tablespoons of water to help steam the veggies, covering for a minute, tossing again, and then covering.  Be careful so it doesn’t burn.  Once the broccoli just starts to be tender, reduce the heat to medium, add the onion mix, chicken, Sriracha.  Stir to blend.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice or noodles.  Easy and delicious!

–Broccoli and Bok Choy–

–The Final Product–

01/29/10 – Recent Wine and Champagne Experiences

Astor Wines and Spirits is an oasis in a city filled with overpriced alcohol.  Not only is their selection unrivaled, but their prices simply can’t be beat.  The also tend to purchase wine from a great number of small importers.  This allows us to experience some very small vintners that you can get nowhere else in the U.S.  And finally, the icing on the cake:  Top 10 under $10.  They choose 10 different bottles (a mix of white and red), of which 2 are doubled, for a unique case of 12 wines that always comes in at around $80 a month.  It simply cannot be beat for the wine drinker who is searching for incredible value at a great price.  Now that I am done with my unpaid testimonial for Astor W&S, I will move on to some of the recent wine and champagne we have had over the past week or two.

This Sangiovese Toscana from Le Chiantigiane came in at a whopping $5.99 and tasted like it cost much more than that.  I love Sangiovese.  In fact, it is probably my favorite varietal from Italy.  This bottle, although incredibly cheap, was delicious!  The tasting notes from Astor mentioned “soft cherries”, which couldn’t be more accurate.   This Sangiovese went down very easily and had the qualities I like in an every day drinking wine (cheap, delicious, and not over the top with tannins).

This week was all about the cheap wine.  Usually when you get to the under $7 mark, your options become extremely limited.  What a surprise then when I find this Colli Vincentini Cabernet Sauvignon for a whole $3.99 a bottle.  That’s entering Mad Dog 20/20 territory, people!  The best thing about a $3.99 bottle of wine is if it is absolutely rank, you can pour it down the drain without much guilt.  We were so happy when it turned out to be a completely drinkable bottle of red wine.  Like the Sangiovese above, it was very mellow/soft, making it a perfect wine to have without food.  I also used a bottle of this to make the Beef Burgundy last week (scroll down for details).

What can I say about the widow Clicquot?  She’s a foxy ol’ girl, but how I love her.  Veuve Clicquot is one of the premier Champagne producers in France and the orange-yellow labeled bottle is probably one of the most easily recognized labels on the market.  Usually a bottle runs around $40-$50, but when I lived in Colorado they were on sale for $24.99 so I had to buy a case.

Proof that Wisdom Comes with Age: My Journey from McCormick Vodka to Johnnie Walker Blue Label

I have trouble recalling the exact moment I fell in love with Scotch Whisky, but I believe it was sometime in the winter of 2003.  I don’t know if my taste buds were evolving, or if they were simply damaged from my college years of drinking cheap rum and vodka, but all of a sudden Scotch was a new obsession.  I started off with Johnnie Walker Red and slowly moved to the more complex single-malts as money became less of a concern.  The first single malt I ever purchased was Oban, and I still have the box today (modified as a piggy bank).  Over the years I sampled more and more whisky and began developing a discerning palate.  I can usually tell which region of Scotland the Scotch is from and have put together a long list of likes and dislikes.  For a Christmas present this year Brie purchased a lovely bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label (pictured) for me to enjoy.  This follows last year’s bottle of Gold Label.  She definitely knows what I love!

I will post more Scotch tastings in the future and will also write something about my other love: Irish Whiskey

01/26/10 – Door to Door Organics Delivery

This week’s box is absolutely gorgeous.  It has the following goodies in it:

1 bunch Red Beets
1 bunch Kale
1 head Romaine Lettuce
4 – Roma Tomatoes
6 – Gala Apples
2 lbs Bananas
1.5 lbs Purple Potatoes
1 bunch – Broccoli
1 lb Carrots
4 heads of Baby Bok Choy
6 – Bosc Pears
4 – Sunburst Squash
2 – Avocados
6 – Valencia Oranges

The bok choy and broccoli is destined for stir-fry sometime this week, and let us see how creative I can get with the remaining ingredients.

Beef Burgundy – Slow Cooker Style

I’ve never owned a slow cooker in my 33 years until approximately one week ago.  I usually find meals that come from ‘slow cooking’ to have a monotonous flavor, be overly herbed, and lack any real texture (unless you calll “mushy” a texture).  On a recent trip to my parent’s house they served an Irish stew from a cookbook called ‘The Gourmet Slow Cooker‘.  It was surprisingly delicious (surprising due to the fact it was slow cooked, not the fact that my parents made something delicious).  A few days later I ordered a 6 quart slow cooker with my Visa Rewards points in hopes of making some similar stews and soups when there wasn’t enough time for active cooking.

This leads to the first recipe that I made: Beef Burgundy/Bœuf Bourguignon

I had to tinker with the recipe, of course, but am very satisfied with the results.  Granted, whenever you stew anything in wine it will almost certainly be delicious.  In this instance I used a bottle of 2008 Colli Vicentini Cabernet, a table wine from Italia.

Recipe:

1.5 lbs bottom round roast, trimmed.  Cut into 1-2 inch pieces.
1 bottle dry red wine
4 carrots – chopped into large pieces
1 lb crimini mushrooms – cut in quarters
1 lb boiler onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive Oil
Thyme (Fresh)
Bay Leaf
Salt
Pepper
Flour

Dredge the meat with a mix of flour, salt and pepper.  Shake off excess flour.  Cook the meat over medium-high heat until browned on all sides in a large pan with a touch of olive oil.  At the same time, sauté the minced garlic with a bit of olive oil in a small pan until fragrant, about 60 seconds, and remove from heat.  Remove the browned meat from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Deglaze the pan with 3/4 bottle of red wine, scraping up the delicious browned bits.  Feel free to drink the remaining quarter bottle at this time.  Add the garlic from the other pan to the wine mixture.  Cook for a few minutes over medium-high heat to thicken and reduce.  Place the meat along the bottom of the slow cooker and then pour the wine mixture over the top.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Set to low and begin cooking for 6-8 hours (until the meat is tender).  About an hour before it is done peel the boiler onions and quickly sauté in a pan until browned.  Add these to the pot along with the carrots (if you like your carrots more on the mushy side, add them an hour earlier).  About 15 minutes before the meal is complete, add the quartered mushrooms.  Finally, remove the thyme and bay leaf and serve.

DISCLAIMER:  By no means does this post imply that I am now a slow-cooker fanatic.  I added the slow cooker to the arsenal so it can be used when there is not enough time for active cooking or I am feeling lazy.

2006 – Barbera D’Alba Sori’ Del Drago

This wine is an amazing find.  It had some lovely full-fruit flavor (I was getting cherry) and had a great texture and smell.  Very drinkable!  I always like it when I get to the end of the bottle and find some unexpected sediment.  It’s like my own little bonus!

The worst part??  I can’t even buy the 2006 anymore.  The 2007 is the now the only one available.  Sigh.

Weißwurst/Weisswurst – Homemade Sausage Attempt #1

The time has come to try my hand at making sausage from scratch.  Since this is my first attempt at sausage making I am not making any promises to family or friends about the shape, texture, taste, smell, and overall quality of said sausage.  As with most of my first attempts, this will most likely turn out to be less than perfect, but perhaps with some diligence and research I will be able to pull of a masterpiece.

So what do I want to make?  I know it needs to be German, it can’t be smoked, and must be a fairly simple recipe.  After pouring over dozens of recipes I decided I would try the southern German favorite, Weisßwurst (pronounced: vice-vurst).  A staple at Oktoberfest, Weißwurst is a mild sausage made with veal and pork and usually served with a sweet mustard and some bread.

I found the following recipe on a blog called recipesbycindy:

Ingredients:
5 lbs. veal(I used shoulder)
1 oz. ground mustard seed
5 lbs. lean pork butt
1 Tbsp. ground white pepper
3 1/2 ozs. non-fat dry milk
1 tsp. ground celery seeds
3 1/2 ozs. salt
1 tsp. mace
3 1/2 ozs. soy protein concentrate
1 oz. powdered dextrose
1 tsp. American Spice onion powder
1 qt. ice water
1 tsp. dry parsley

Step 1: Grind the meat.  I put the partially frozen chunks of veal and pork through the fine grinding plate.
Step 2: Mix in the herbs and seasonings.
Step 3: Emulsify in the food processor.
Step 4: Rinse the salt off the hog casings (hog intestines, boo-yeah!) and soak in water.  After a bit, rinse the inside of the casings and then soak in water again with a touch of white vinegar.
Step 5: Put back through the grinder with the sausage stuffer attachment.
Step 6: Load the casings on to the stuffer.
Step 7: Get your stuff on.
Step 8: Twist off links (my links varied in size)
Step 9: Cook in 160F water until internal temp of the meat reaches 150.
Step 10: Cool in ice bath.
Step 11: Look around the kitchen at the huge mess you just made and wish you had maid service.

Here are a few pictures:

By the end of the process I was not even in the mood to try them.  Go figure!  However, the next day I sampled a link and was happily surprised.  It actually tasted like bratwurst you could get in Germany!  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  With that said, it didn’t remind me of Weißwurst as much as it did the regular style of Bratwurst you would get at any local Imbiß.  I froze a few pounds and will take them out to the Poconos to grill sometime in February.

01/19/10 – Door to Door Organics Delivery

This week’s items include:

6 – zucchini squash
1 – bunch green chard
1 – head green leaf lettuce
1 lb carrots
2 lbs bananas
6 – navel oranges
1 – firm tofu
6 – golden delicious apples
1 – TINY melon
1 – bunch parsley
3 – lemons
1 – large yam
4 – Roma tomatoes
5 – purple potatoes

I think I will make a marinara sauce tonight and then maybe stir in sautéed spinach.  Perhaps a side of sautéed zucchini?

Lack of German Schnapps and Wurst in the United States

When we moved to New York City I was expecting to find some authentic German wurst and schnapps.  Unfortunately, the options have been surprisingly limited.  The only beacon of hope is Schaller & Weber on the Upper East Side, but their prices are prohibitive.  This has leads me down the dangerous path of: “Well if I can’t find it, let me try to make it myself!”  Unfortunately, this also means I start to obsess and become a bit of a Mr. Toad with my new found hobbies.

Example #1:

Schnapps.  Eau de Vie.  Fruit Brandy.  Do not confuse this with the sickly sweet US version of schnapps.  European fruit schnapps that is clear, lacks sweetness, is about 80 proof, and has a delicate smell/taste of fruit.  My favorites would have to include Williams Birne (Pear), Mirabelle (a type of plum), Himbeergeist (raspberry), and Obst (mixed fruit).  Of all the places to buy liquor in NYC, I have only found a few spots that carry this type of alcohol and what they do have is over $50 a bottle.  How does this happen?  In Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium, these 750mL bottles usually run between 6€ and 15€ a bottle.  So what did this road block make me do?  “Well if I can’t find it, let me try to make it myself!”  I found some lovely hand-made copper stills from Portugal and had looked up some recipes and tips on making this type of liquor at home.  My dream quickly shattered when I found out that distilling your own alcohol in the United States is still very illegal.  Damn.  With that said, I have looked up the laws in a few European countries and if you are distilling for your own personal consumption, it is completely legal and easy to get set up.  *reason #50 to move back to Europe*

Example #2:

Wurst: Leoner, Schinkenwurst, Bierwurst, Leberwurst.
Bratwurst: Thuringer, Nurnberger, Weißwurst, Knackwurst, Knoblauchwurst.

These things just don’t exist here in the U.S., and when you do find something that shares the same name, the quality is not even close to what you find in Deutschland.  What does this make me do?  “Well if I can’t find it, let me try to make it myself!”  And away I go…

The first thing I do is go out and buy a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  I get books on how to make sausage at home, I search for recipes in German, and I do research on the various steps involved in the sausage-making process.    The hardest part was finding the natural casings I wanted to use, but I ultimately get a batch sent to me and I now possess nearly 60 feet of hog intestine.  I’m so proud.

My first attempt at making Weißwurst will be my next post, so stay tuned.

Pork Chops with Leeks and Mustard Sauce

After a long week, the thought of staying in and having a nice meal and a bottle of wine is quite possibly my version of nirvana.  Brie made pork chops in a lovely leek, mustard, bacon (oh thank you!) and yoghurt sauce featured in the May, 2009 Bon Appetit magazine. The Chobani brand of yoghurt that she used is so thick it easily replaced the sour cream/crème fraîche that the recipe called for.  Along side the entrée was a side of steamed broccoli and roasted butternut squash from the Door to Door organics delivery that arrived earlier in the week.  With the stronger flavors of mustard and bacon I decided to go with a lighter red and chose a 2006 Saint Joseph Domaine Faury Rhone Syrah.

It was a great meal and a decent bottle of wine, although I don’t think I would buy another bottle again: it was fair, but it didn’t deserve the price tag.  To top it all off, Brie is pulling out a loaf of banana bread from the oven.  Happy place, happy place, happy place!