Well, last week, we were pummeled by a storm; wet freezing-rain, snow, and all-around terrible weather all day long. Cati had the Sunday blues. She felt like this song all day.
Inside though, it was warm and nice. We spent the day with our vicious, ever-vigilant, guard-dog. Prowlers be warned:
It was the perfect day to do a little cooking. And since we had time on our hands, why not undertake a cooking chore of sorts; Chinese food. Cooking Chinese is a real pain in the neck. It’s a total hassle from both a time and work perspective. With the right recipe though, it can be worth it. I understand how Chinese food places make their money. To cook Chinese you have to do a lot of chopping, which isn’t fun, and you have to work over a really hot stove all the while. And I mean hot; olive oil is sort of impossible in Chinese food, as it burns at the temperatures one need to stir-fry. Add in preparing sauces, and having to stir-fry items separately, and you have one hectic kitchen on your hands (maybe that’s why it always seems like they are yelling at each other at our favorite take-out place ).
I make a pork and eggplant stir-fry that justifies all the work. Make 1 cup brown rice in advance (you don’t want to wait for the rice after you’ve finished all your stir-frying). We use the texmatti brown rice and a rice cooker. The rice-cooker makes it easy (3:1 water to rice), and the brown rice is much healthier than white rice (aka: starch-bomb)
What you’ll need:
1 bottle of canola oil (don’t worry, you won’t use it all)
1 large eggplant
1 large onion (red or white, I used red in my most recent attempt)
3 large pork chops
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Make sauce in small sauce pan:
1 cup chicken stock (or half a bouillon cube in 1 cup water)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 TBSP fish sauce (easy with this stuff; it’s potent)
1/4 brown sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
Add the chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar to the sauce pan and gently heat until the brown sugar dissolves (no need to let it get hotter than a mild boil). Sprinkle in the cornstarch by shaking/jiggling the a tablespoon over the sauce pan while mixing it in with another spoon all the while (you don’t want lumps). The sauce should look like a brown glaze. Set it aside.
Put on some tunes, and start chopping. The eggplant should be cubed into 1/2″ cubes. The garlic should be minced or squeezed through a press right before adding to the oil. The pork should be cut into fajita-type strips. The onion should be first sliced in half from end to end, and then cut into nice 1/2″ crescent pieces like so:
The key to good stir-fry is to get the oil nice and hot so you don’t wind up stewing the meat and vegetables into a mushy mess. Heat 1 TBSP oil on high to med-high heat in a large skillet or wok and add the garlic and onion. You should get a nice sizzle when you first add the stuff. Keep moving or mixing until the onion starts to soften, but don’t turn it into mush. Set the garlic and onion aside (or into the serving dish). Try not to transfer too much oil into the serving dish. Add more oil if needed, and allow it to get hot.
Add a handful of pork at a time so you don’t cool the oil too much. The pork should make a nice sizzle and should become a bit brown from the searing. If it’s not browning, the oil is not hot enough. Remove the pork strips into the serving dish when done, and do another handful. If you add oil, give it aq little while to heat up before adding more pork. When all the pork has been fried, make sure there is about 1TBSP oil in the wok/skillet and then add the eggplant. The eggplant will soak up the oil initially, but don’e worry, it will release it as it softens. When the eggplant has reached the desired softness, add everything back to the skillet along with the sauce. Mix well. Stir in some fresh sliced cilantro, or add it to the top of the dish as a garnish. The flavor of this dish is fantastic. I saw the recipe for this on PBS about a year ago, y’know, on one of those lazy Sundays when that’s all they play. I think it was this show.
Anyway, it’s a great dish, and once you “get” stir-fry, there is plenty of room to play with the ingredients. Enjoy. (Phew, even posting about cooking Chinese food is laborious.)