Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Em can cook part 2

Let me just say that Martin Yan's idea of "Quick & Easy" is a little different than the average Emily's idea of it. This recipe for Savory Jade Chicken was fairly quick... but easy crept out of the kitchen with its tail between its legs when the hot oil began exploding out of my skillet as I tried to make the "fried mint leaf garnish." Easy also decided to steer clear of the kitchen entirely when it was time to clean up. I had to wipe down every surface within a 3 foot radius of my skillet because it was all coated in minty oil. Fortunately, Joe was late enough coming home from work that I had time to make Jade Chicken, a stir fry of snap peas, onions and garlic, and my version of Yan's Simple Steamed Tofu (which was even simpler because I skipped the steaming step.) And start cleaning the kitchen.
Despite our divergent definitions of easy, I'm really enjoying my Martin Yan Quick & Easy cookbook. The book has a lot of recipes that remind me of Taiwan or Chinatown in Chicago or the downstairs kitchen at Dennis and Vicki Poland's house. I recommend it to anyone who likes Asian food but abhors the ubiquitous sludgy brown sauce slathered over whatever finds its way into the chaffing dishes at Chinese buffets in Kentucky. Seriously. Does anyone really like brown sauce?
Cold tofu with sauce and crunchy stuff is the kind of dish you wouldn't find in a Chinese buffet in the states. But it's served as a refreshing side in Taiwanese homes and some restaurants. I also recall eating it for breakfast at the airport hotel buffet in Japan. Here's the recipes:

Savory Jade Chicken with Mint Garnish
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil (yeah, you know where that's going!)
3/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves(I used half mint, half basil from the garden)
1 red jalapeno chili, sliced (We have some kind of chili from the garden, so I used one chili and 1/3 of a red bell pepper for extra color)
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine
1 Tbs chili garlic sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Combine soy and starch in a bowl and mix well, then add the chicken and coat evening. Let it marinade for 10 minutes (or however long it takes you to do this next step.)

Place a stir fry pan over high heat and add oil. Heat until almost smoking, then add 1/2 cup leaves and cook for 30 seconds or til leaves are crisp (or until the mini volcano has stopped erupting) Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside for garnish.

Remove all but 1 Tbs of oil from the pan (again, this shouldn't been difficult as most of the oil is already outside the pan anyway) Turn on the head (to medium, I guess?) and cook chicken until it is no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and chili sauce and cook 30 seconds. Add sesame oil and remaining mint, then remove from heat. Toss to coat, then transfer to serving dish and garnish with fried mint. Despite the trouble the garnish caused, I love the lingering toasted mint smell that has filled my apartment.

Simple Steamed (or not) Tofu
Sauce (yes. It's brown. But it's not brown sauce)
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tsp sugar

1 16-ounce package soft tofu (I confess I used firm because Kroger had a 'manager's special' on it for a $1.10-- which would still be highway robbery in Taipei)
1 green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tsp mixture of toasted nori strips and sesame seeds

Cut tofu block into slabs or cubes. Yan says to place the tofu into a heatproof bowl, then to place the bowl in a stir fry pan, cover an steam for 3 minutes. I say it tastes good cold, so skip that step. Pour sauce over the top, then add onions, sesame seeds and seaweed shreds.

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