Today’s Recipes: Slow-Cooker Asian Short Ribs, Asian Chicken and Vegetable Salad, and Traditional Mandarin Fried Rice.
Traditional Asian seasonings are showing up everywhere these days. A lot of chefs are using them with less tradition ingredients. Changing the combination of seasonings is a great way to make some of your standard dinner choices new and exciting. Just by altering the seasonings, your chicken breasts can have the flavors of France, Greece, China, or Italy! For French, try some tarragon or thyme and wine. For Greek, add olives, oregano, and lemon juice. Chinese flavors include ginger, five-spice, and cilantro. And of course, add a little oregano, tomatoes, and garlic and you have Italian. Suddenly that boring chicken breast is open to a world of interpretations. Explore new herbs and spices – your family will thank you!
The first time I was exposed to this type of thinking was when with Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seasoned America cookbook. He traveled around the country, learning about the regional specialties. Then he went home to New Orleans and re-interpreted them with his seasonings and ingredients. It was like a light went on in my brain and I was changed forever. Up until that point I would make a recipe pretty much exactly as it was written and never question it. Once I read Chef Prudhomme’s book, I started thinking about how I could change recipes, make them better or more to my individual taste. Now I seldom make a recipe exactly as written, enjoying the freedom to change it. Recipes are meant to be a starting place for cooking – you should inject your own personality, tastes, and experiences into everything you cook. Then you can claim the title of home chef!
Short ribs show up in many different cuisines. A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for Red Wine Braised Short Ribs that is very “American.” If you change the seasonings, alter a few ingredients and add cabbage, you have today’s Asian version. Rich, savory, beefy, and amazing tasting, you’re going to love this recipe! When you make dishes from different cuisines, make a note of the seasonings you used. Then the next time you can’t figure out what to make for dinner, try putting a new spin on an old recipe.
The ubiquitous “Chinese” chicken salad shows up on many restaurant menus. I created my own version so I could get the same flavors at home. To get the flavorful chicken, the recipe calls for pan-frying them. If you keep the oil hot enough, it seals the outside of whatever you are cooking before it can absorb the oil. When you have oil French fries or fried chicken, it is usually because the oil wasn’t hot enough. Even if you are on a diet you can have some fried foods, just make sure your oil is hot before you add your ingredients.
But if you are trying to lower your fat intake, you can also roast the chicken in the oven. Preheat it to 425°F. Season the chicken and transfer to the hot oven. Roast until they are fairly firm to the touch and reach 160°F in the thickest part. Cooking chicken to 160°F kills any harmful bacteria and leaves the meat moist and tender.
The third recipe comes from Chef Ming Tsai. He grew up cooking alongside his parents in their family-owned restaurant. He went to Yale and got a degree in Mechanical Engineering before following his passion for food and working in kitchens around the world. Training under a wide variety of chefs gave him an appreciation for the blending of cuisines. His television show, “East Meets West” is an example of his fusion of Asian and American ingredients and cooking styles.
With his recipe for traditional fried rice, he shares a family favorite. It calls for a Chinese sausage called Lapchang. It is a dried, hard sausage usually made from pork, sold in links that are dark reddish in color, smoked, sweetened, and seasoned. You can readily find them in Asian markets, vacuum packed. I usually keep a package in the freezer for a quick dinner option. In addition to the fried rice, you can use them in place of meat in any stir-fry, add them to an Asian flavored meatloaf, wonton soup, spring rolls, or served as part of breakfast. They would be wonderful in an Asian flavored Jambalaya or Gumbo. I also like to slice them on the bias and serve “as is” with toothpicks at parties. They are an unusual item that people love!
I hope you enjoy today’s recipes and remember, you can make anything in an Asian-style by altering the seasonings!!
Kitchen Skill: Cutting on the Bias
This is just a fancy term for cutting pieces on the diagonal. It creates more surface area and makes attractive additions to salads and other dishes. For example, if you are making bruschetta, cutting the baguette on an angle instead of straight across gives you more room to add toppings. Plus they look better when you plate them.
- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, and smashed
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 8 beef short ribs (about 4 lb)
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and halved crosswise
- 1 smallgreen cabbage (about 1 lb), quartered
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
- In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper. Add the short ribs and carrots and arrange in a single layer. Lay the cabbage on top.
- Cook, covered, on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours, without lifting the lid, until the meat is tender and easily pulls away from the bone.
- Transfer the cabbage, short ribs, and carrots to plates. With a large spoon or ladle, skim the fat from the cooking liquid and discard.
- If the slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 1 tbsp of water until smooth. Whisk into the cooking liquid and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil. Spoon the sauce over the short ribs and vegetables and sprinkle with the scallions (if using).
- I like to remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Then I serve this over steamed rice, passing the sauce on the side.
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/4 tsp five-spice powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Canola oil, for frying
- About 10 wonton wrappers, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
- 2 oz (about 2 handfuls) bean sprouts, trimmed
- 2 stalks celery, sliced thinly on the bias or shredded
- 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
- 1/2 small head of Napa cabbage, trimmed and shredded (cut into bite-sized pieces)
- 1/2 small head of iceberg or romaine lettuce, trimmed and shredded (cut into bite-sized pieces)
- 2 green onions, tough tops removed, sliced very thinly on the bias
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, washed thoroughly, dried, leaves coarsely chopped (no stems)
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp Asian chili garlic sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp Mirin (sweetened rice wine)
- Prepare the Chicken and Wontons: Combine the cornstarch, flour, five-spice powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Dredge the chicken in this mixture, coating both pieces completely. Shake off any excess. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large straight-sided skillet, add about 1/2-inch of canola oil. Heat to 350°F. (Use an instant thermometer to monitor). Fry chicken until golden on both sides and cooked through but still moist, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Timing will vary depending on heat of oil. Remove from oil and drain on a paper-towel covered plate. Residual heat will finish cooking chicken. Let cool and shred with two forks. Sprinkle with a little more five-spice powder and toss to distribute evenly. Chicken may be cooked a day ahead. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving.
- In the same hot oil fry wonton strips in batches. Don’t crowd the pan or they will cool the oil too much and become greasy. Transfer to a paper-towel covered baking sheet to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt and a pinch of five-spice powder if desired. Wonton strips can be fried one day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Make Dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar. Shake well. Set aside. May be made up to three days in advance. Store in the refrigerator.
- Assemble Salad: In a very large bowl, toss together the bean sprouts, celery, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, onions, cilantro and almonds. Toss the chicken with a little of the dressing and add to the salad. Toss to evenly distribute. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of the dressing, add half the wonton strips, and toss again. Taste and add remaining dressing if desired. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and remaining wonton strips. Serve immediately.
- Yield: 3 to 4 servings
- You can shred the cabbage and lettuce and toss with the celery, carrots, and green onions a day ahead. Store in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Toss with remaining ingredients when ready to serve. Do not add dressing until just before serving.
- Canola oil
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp minced garlic (or use a garlic press)
- 2 tbsp minced ginger (or use a garlic press)
- 1 bunch chopped scallions, green and white separated
- 1 Lapchang (Chinese sausage) diced or 4 strips of cooked bacon
- 8 cups cooked, day-old long grain rice
- 3 tbsp thin soy sauce (also called “light” soy sauce)
- 1/2 tbsp white pepper
- Salt to taste
- It is recommended to use day old rice so that the drier rice can soak up the flavors.
- In a wok, add 2 tablespoons of oil and quickly soft-scramble the eggs. Remove the eggs.
- In the same wok, coat with oil and stir-fry garlic and ginger. Add white scallions and lapchang. Add rice and mix thoroughly. Add soy sauce, white pepper and scrambled eggs. Check for seasoning. Serve immediately.
- Fried rice is a great way to get children to eat vegetables. Feel free to add cooked carrots, peas, green beans, corn, bell peppers, or other veggies, chopped into small pieces. Also, if you want, you can substitute firm tofu cut into cubes for the Lapchang.