Posts tagged stir fry

Velveted sweet and sour pork

Have you tried velveting your chicken yet? Huh…somehow that sounds like you’re dressing up your poultry in an Elvis get-up. Not quite. Velveting is Chinese stir-fry technique where you marinate the meat in egg white and then let it simmer in water before adding it to your wok. The chicken/pork (I’ve yet to try it on beef or tofu but I’m planning on it) turn out tender and perfectly coated with sauce.

I don’t velvet (can that be a verb?) all the time, because it adds extra cooking steps and dishes. But I’m always glad when I do because the dish turns out restaurant quality. This time I used pork and again, the velveting didn’t disappoint.

Here you go. This recipe is based off one I found at BellaOnline. I found that I wanted to up the spice and take down the sweetness (I like more sour than sweet), but it’s easy to tweak the sauce as you put it together to suit your family’s tastes.

Recipe

Prep time: 40-60 minutes (including cooking)

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb. pork

1 peppers (green, red, yellow)

1 bunch green onions

1/4 cup peanuts

(I also like to add bok choy)

1 tbsp. oil

Velvet marinade

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sherry (or chicken broth)
1 egg white
1 ½ tbsp cornstarch
½ tbsp peanut oil

Sauce

1/3 cup  vinegar (I like red wine)
3 tbsp white sugar (you may want to add more)
¼ tsp ginger
1 tsp soy sauce (I use dark here)
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp. Asian red chili sauce (or 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper)

Directions

  1. Cut the pork into bite-size pieces. (In the BellaOnline version of this recipe there is a specific order for adding the marinade ingredients. I’ve tried it both ways–being meticulous and throwing it in. I haven’t found any real differences in the flavor or the texture. So I tend to toss them altogether:) Add the marinate ingredients and gently stir making sure each piece gets coated.
  2. Let the pork marinate for about 20 minutes.
  3. Chop the peppers into strips and the green onions into 1-inch pieces. (You can also use other vegetables too. Bok choy is my favorite stir-fry addition).
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients. Adjust the sourness/sweetness by adding more vinegar or sugar (or even more chili for heat). On the stovetop, heat the sauce until it starts to boil and then thicken (about 2-3 minutes), then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In another pan on the stovetop, bring a large pot of water to a simmer (NOT a boil). Add the pork to the water and let it cook just until it turns white (around 1 minute). Remove immediately with a slotted spoon.
  6. Add 1 tbsp. oil to a wok (or large saute pan). Bring the oil to medium-high heat. Place the veggies into the oil and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Push the veggies to the sides of the pan and add the pork. Cook for about 2-3 minutes more.
  7. Pour the sauce ingredients into the center of the wok and stir until the meat and veggies are coated. Toss in the peanuts and remove from the heat.
  8. Serve over rice or noodles.
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Velveted Chinese Chicken Stir-fry

I’ve always wondered what makes the meat at Chinese restaurants taste so much better than when I do stir-fries at home. Do you know what I mean? The chicken is always soft all the way through without being overly chewy. And the sauce just seems to stick to it without becoming too heavy.

I’m about to let you in on the secret: velveting.

Haven’t heard of it? I hadn’t either until I was thumbing through a book a few years back at the library while I was waiting for one of my kids to finish up at story time. The book, Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks, talked about how you marinate and prep the meat before you stir-fry it by putting it into an egg white wash.

Huh? I wasn’t quite sure what to make of an egg white marinade but I was willing to give it a try. My stir-fries have been better ever since. Now, this definitely ups the time to make a stir-fry, which usually is a go-to dish when you’re in a hurry and you want something healthy for your crew. I won’t sugarcoat—it does take more planning (and a couple extra bowls to clean), but your stir-fry will taste so much better. The egg white marinade also includes a dose of cornstarch. So your chicken is already coated with cornstarch before you add the sauce to the dish. Meaning: the sauce sticks to the chicken. Yeah!

I don’t always have time to velvet the chicken/pork (haven’t tried beef yet but it’s on my list) in my stir-fries but when I do there’s a big difference in the flavor. And my kids notice too—I don’t think it’s just my imagination that they eat more (and reheat it on day #2) when I take the time for velveting.

This is just one idea about how to mix-up some of your regular dishes at home. I’ve been thinking about this as I thumbed through tips on Sunday Dinners Done Right. Of all the nights of the week, Sunday dinner is the one where we’re not rushed, we have time to enjoy the meal and talk to each other (and not just about scheduling for the next day). I especially like the idea of making conversation the main course. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team.

Recipe

Ingredients

Marinade:

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon white wine (or chicken broth)

1 egg white

1 pound chicken cut into small pieces

Sauce:

½ teaspoon cornstarch

¼ cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 ½ Tablespoons white wine (or more broth)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Other ingredients

2 Tablespoons oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bell pepper (red or green)

1 bunch green onions

(I also use bok choy)

1 teaspoon grated ginger(or 1/2 teaspoon ground)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup peanuts


Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, add all of the marinade ingredients (except the chicken) and whisk until smooth. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for at least 10 minutes or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (But you should bring the meat up to room temperature before cooking.)
  2. Prepare the sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.
  3. Prepare the chicken by filling a cooking pot with water and bringing it just to a simmer (not to a boil).
  4. Place the chicken into the simmering water. The egg whites will leave strands (that’s fine).
  5. As soon as the chicken turns white, around one minute, remove with a slotted spoon. I usually place my chicken in the water in two batches. (Note: the chicken is not yet cooked through.)
  6. For the stir-fry, place the oil into a wok or large skillet. Once it’s at a medium-high heat add the red pepper flakes, then the garlic.
  7. Cook for about 30 seconds then add the vegetables. Cook the veggies for about 2-3 minutes or until just barely soft.
  8. Add in the chicken. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes or until the chicken is heated through and no longer pink in the center.
  9. Pour the sauce into the center of the wok and cook for about a minute or until thickened. Turn off heat and toss in the peanuts.
  10. Serve over rice or Chinese noodles.

Now it’s your turn, do you have something that makes your Sunday night dinners just a little more special?

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Rice Gets Reinvented–Sesame Cakes

Rice rules at my house—we like short grain, long grain, brown, white, sticky, Basmati, Jasmine, you name it. But I have to admit that even with all those options, rice can get, well, kinda boring. Sauce only does so much to spruce up another day of rice.

So when I ran across a recipe for rice cakes, I knew my kids would be eager to give it a try. The first time I served these cakes alongside a traditional stir-fry loaded with marinated chicken and fresh veggies. My kids went for the cakes and I ended up with a week’s worth of stir-fry leftovers. Now, I plan on the rice cakes taking center stage (or at least being a feature instead of a side) when I make them. I plan on about three cakes per person—they’re packed with rice so they fill you up fast!

Now that rice cakes have become a regular on our dinner menu, we’ve started to tweak the recipe. Often I’ll add fruit zest to perk up the flavor of the cakes and help them to compliment whatever main dish I’m serving—after all, these don’t just have to be served with stir fry. With pork, I add a little orange zest, Thai dishes meld well with a little lemon; I’ve even made Mexican rice cakes by adding lime zest, a little Chili powder and a splash of Tabasco sauce for a kick.

To add even more fun to the meal, stick a cooked bean in the middle of one of the cakes and let your kids know that whoever gets the bean gets a prize—maybe she gets to chose a special dessert after dinner or maybe he has to help cleanup all the dishes (hey, doing dishes can be a reward, right?).

I always make a big batch of the rice cakes—here’s why: First, my kids eat them at dinner, for snacks, I even freeze them to reheat later. Second, sad to say, but not all of your rice cakes will turn out perfectly. Usually, I have about three that don’t survive the flip from the top, sesame-seed coated side to the bottom. It’s just how it goes—no amount of careful prep prevents a few rice cake fall aparts. My kids are more than happy to eat up my mishaps.

Ready to reinvent your rice? This recipe takes a little work to put together, but the cakes are fun to eat for dinner or you can even eat them cold for an unusual picnic treat.

Recipe for Sesame Rice Cakes
Inspired by a recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine.
Prep time: 30 minutes (+rice cooking time)
Servings: 5 people (20 cakes)

Ingredients
6 cups cooked rice (2 cups uncooked Basmati rice)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon lemon, lime or orange zest, optional
4-6 teaspoons sesame seeds
4-6 Tablespoons cooking oil

Cook rice according to package directions. With my rice cooker, the ratio is two-to-one, two cups water to one cup rice. Let the rice cool to room temperature (you can also use leftover rice from a previous meal).

In a large bowl, combine the rice, sugar, vinegar, cornstarch and salt (and zest, if you’re using it). Stir with a wooden spoon or heavy spatula.

Spray a ¼-cup measuring cup with cooking spray. Press rice mixture firmly into the measuring cup and then gently release the molded cake onto a baking sheet that has been lined with wax paper. Repeat until you’ve used up all the rice—there should be around 20 cakes. Gently press a small amount (about ½ a teaspoon) sesame seeds onto each rice cake.

Heat up a large, flat-bottomed skillet or griddle. Add 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil. Cook the rice cakes with the sesame seed side down for around 7 minutes. Flip the rice cake carefully to the other side and cook for an additional 7 minutes (the cake should be golden brown). I use my fingers to flip the cakes. If you’re using a griddle you may be able to fit all of the cakes in one batch; if not, repeat with each batch of rice cakes. Add additional cooking oil when needed.

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