Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stir-Fried Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

As I've been tackling the art of stir-fry cooking, I've been consulting Grace Young's book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. The book has demystified many of the techniques and ingredients used in stir-fry cooking. I've only tried two recipes from the book, but both yielded great results and have bolstered my confidence.

Today I'm sharing a recipe that utilizes fermented black beans, an ingredient that isn't present in most Kansan's pantries.

Don't let the idea of fermented black beans scare you. It's merely soy beans with a mixture of soy sauce and spices. Think of it as a heartier, beefier, thicker soy sauce.

The original recipe called for a homemade black bean sauce, and since I couldn't track down any fermented black beans, I simply purchased a jar of sauce at my local Asian market. The recipe also called for salt to be added, but I thought that was overkill.

This dish isn't the most photogenic recipe, so I didn't include any photographs. However, it tastes great spooned over a bowl of noodles or rice.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons black bean sauce (or add to your taste)
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots cut into matchsticks
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, corn starch, 1 teaspoon of the sherry/wine, 1 teaspoon of oil and soy sauce. Stir.
  2. Heat wok or skillet over high heat until bead of water vaporize within 1 or 2 seconds of contact. Add remain oil, red onion, and red pepper flakes. Stir fry for 30 seconds. Push the onions to the side of the skillet and add chicken, evenly in one layer. Cook undisturbed for 1-2 minutes. Cook chicken until the chicken is lightly browned.
  3. Add the carrots and black bean sauce. Stir fry until everything is fragrant and cooked.
  4. Enjoy.
wax on,

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Greasy Five: Great "Session" Foods

Last week I sat for 30 minutes in my local Borders debating whether to buy a magazine about beer or one about cheese.

This is my goofy world.

I figured purchasing a magazine about cheese was a little weird and if I went down that rabbit hole, I would eventually end up with a herd of cows in my backyard, and cheese making in my future. Therefore, I opted for the beer magazine.

I've always had an appreciation for good beer, but I'm no expert on the brewing craft. The magazine has served as a good primer on the specifics of brewing, especially the terminology. In the issue of this magazine I was introduced to the term "session" beer, which is defined as follows:
  • "A session beer is anything that is meant to be consumed in quantity - lower alcohol, usually lightly hopped. It can be an ale or lager, it just has to be lighter drinking."
I like this term very much because now I have the terminology to organize my beers. In my reckless youth, all beers were session beers, but with age, I've started to divide my beers into session and non-session beers. In a later post, I might reveal my favorite session and non-session beers, but for now I want to get to point of my post.

I thought it would be interesting to apply the term "session" to food and tie it into this edition of The Greasy Five, so I brainstormed a list of foods that can be enjoyed in large quantities without causing extreme physical discomfort.

My Five Favorite Session Foods

  1. Crawfish: In 2003 I traveled to New Orleans to watch KU in the Final Four. One afternoon we ate at a cinder block restaurant that didn't have a name. I just remember there were like three mountains of oyster shells standing guard in the parking lot. Inside, they poured buckets of boiled crawfish on the table. We spent about two hours eating crawfish and washing it down with Abita beer.
  2. Sunflower seeds: I don't have a story to tell; I just like sunflower seeds.
  3. Chips and Salsa
  4. Popcorn
  5. Watermelon: I could eat a watermelon a day. Each time I take a bite of watermelon, I think of Mr. Mark Twain's words:
It is the chief of this world's luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented.

What's your favorite session food?

I apologize for the choppy post. I'm just trying to find my mojo. I'm shooting for a post a day this week.

never eat anything bigger than your head,

P.S. If I did have cows in my backyard, I'd name each one after my favorite female singers, Patsy, Billie, Loretta, and Nina.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Japanese Pan Noodles

(Picture of the stir fry, minus the sprouts and cilantro)

After visiting the Asian market, I''ve armed my pantry with fermented black beans, rice wine vinegar, and several varieties of soy sauce, and I've embarked on preparing a variety of stir-fry recipes.

Today I'm sharing a copycat recipe of Noodle and Company's Japanese Pan Noodles, which are describe on the menu as "satisfying and hearty, caramelized Japanese udon noodles in a sweet and spicy soy sauce."

I've tried this recipe twice, and I've been quite pleased with the results. It's a quick, tasty summer dish and seems to be similar to the version Noodles and Company serves.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare this recipe:
  • I found the udon noodles at my local Dillon's near the ramen noodles. I you can't find udon noodles, I would simply use linguine.
  • If you don't have access to rice wine vinegar, simply substitute apple cider vinegar with a pinch or two or sugar.
  • Don't leave out the cilantro! I love the way it rounds out the flavors in this recipe.
  • If you want, you can leave out the sprouts. They add some crunch, but overall I'm not too found of sprouts.
  • After I chopped my vegetables, I boiled some water and blanched the broccoli and carrots for about two minutes. I then placed them in a colander and rinsed them in cold water. Doing this will give your veggies more color, and gives you a jump start on cooking them before they hit the skillet. You could even blanch the veggies the day before you prepare the stir fry.
  • I had trouble caramelizing the noodles. I might need experiment more with this.
  • I don't know if it's worth it to add the black sesame seeds, unless you're into aesthetics. I'm all about the flavor.
  • Feel free to substitute and experiment with this recipe.

Japanese Pan Noodles

  • 3 cups hot cooked udon noodles (Japanese wheat noodles)
  • 12 ounces steak, thinly sliced (optional)
  • cornstarch
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3 drops, toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup Asian sprouts
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup (2-inch) julienne-cut carrot
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the beef strips and mix with a little cornstarch.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Flash fry the beef strips and remove quickly.
  3. To the wok, add the carrots, mushrooms, and then broccoli. Stir fry 2-3 minutes and then remove.
  4. Add a little oil, the saute the ginger & garlic. After a minute or so, add the well drained noodles and let caramelize.
  5. Add the red chili flakes. Add the sesame oil, teriyaki sauce and rice wine vinegar. Add all of the other ingredients and toss to coat well. Serve.
wax on,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Trampin' a Joyful Perpetual Journey

Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams,

Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light & of every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, & rise again & nod to me & shout, & laughingly dash with your hair.

—Whitman, Song of Myself

Last month my family embarked on the 5th Annual Father's Day Ice Cream Tour. Even though my heart was heavy with grief, I enjoyed the tour. It was good to have a ritual that reminded me of the joy that exists in this life.

The joyful possibilities were clear as I browsed the menu board at Sylas and Maddy's.

It was clear in the company I kept during the afternoon.

(Picture at stop #2 on the tour)

I pray that I'm always able to see the joy life has to offer.

I pray that I'm always able to bask in the "dazzle of the light and of every moment in this life."

What's one simple thing that brings you great joy?

trampin' the perpetual journey,

Friday, July 9, 2010


When I hear the word rhubarb, my imagination runs wild. I envision myself having an Aunt Rhubarb who I visit in the nursing home. When I visit, she insists that the kitchen staff make me a big glass of sweet tea, and even though I don't care for sweetened tea, I drink it anyway because it's the the polite thing to do, and she's my Aunt Rhubarb who I will do anything for.

During the visit, she shares jokes she learned from the latest issue of Reader's Digest. Then she'll tell me how she was born hungry and how the food at the home isn't fit to eat. Then she'll ask me if I can smuggle an electric skillet into the home. As I hug her goodbye, I tell her that I'll see what I can do about the skillet.

For the folks over at The Splendid Table, rhubarb inspired them to make a Rhubarbarita. I tried it, and I like it. On my second glass, I cut the simple syrup in half and replaced it with lime juice because I like a little pucker to my margaritas.

This afternoon, I'll try the rhubarb-infused simple syrup in a glass of iced tea, even though I don't care for sweet tea. Remember, the mind is like an umbrella; it works best when it's open.

catch a wave,