My, how fun

I was born with what I believe is a legitimate congenital defect.

The technical, Latin nomenclature for this is (or should be), Lingua Infans, or “Baby Tongue”.

Regardless of appetites or desires, the ingestion of fiery, spicy foods results in pain and distress.  As a result, I can eat almost no Indian food, and Jamaican food scares the pants off me.  Even a heavy-handed use of black pepper can overwhelm.

Many people make fun of this flaw, and inform me that it’s a matter of will; that if I want to be a grown-up and eat spicy foods, I should just put on my big girl panties, and do it.  Not true.  I’d love to be able to tuck into a plate of tikka masala, or some spicy nachos, but I am physically unable to do it.

But what I also don’t do is make a big deal out of it.  It’s my habañero-covered cross to bear, no one else’s.  So when eating out I’ve become very good at avoiding suspect menu items.

I think that’s one reason why I love Chinese food so much.  While there are dishes with enough heat to really hurt me, they don’t comprise the bulk of the menu.  Other Asian cuisine; most notably Thai, are not so safe.

This week’s recipe is my home version of Chicken Mei Fun (pronounced, “my fun”).  It’s very similar to fried rice, but instead of rice grains, angel hair pasta made from rice is used (Find it in Asian markets and some grocery stores).

Chicken Mei Fun

8 ounces rice vermicelli

Lay into a pot of very hot water, and soak for 20 minutes.  After soaking, pour into a colander in which you’ve placed the spinach.  This will wilt the spinach and get it ready to toss into the stir fry.

Protein:

protien

3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

3 eggs, well beaten

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Make an omelet with the eggs and chives.  Cut into 1/2-inch strips and set aside for assembly.

Vegetables:

veggies

2 carrots, julienned

1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly

8 ounces mushrooms

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 Aromatics:

aro

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons grated ginger

1 large shallot, diced

 Sauce:

sauce

Whisk together

3/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Sherry

 Finishing:

finish

2 cups raw spinach

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

 *Stir frying goes crazy fast once it gets started, so get all of your prep done before turning on the burner.

To cook:

If you don’t have a wok, get a very large, very heavy pot almost smoking hot.  Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan.  Put in the carrots and mushrooms.  Cook for a couple of minutes, and when all the liquid has released and cooked out, add onions.  Cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in aromatics then immediately add the proteins.  Pour in sauce and toss.

When coated, pour in noodles, spinach, and thawed peas.  Gently mix to coat.

mei fun

Serves 6-8.

I’ve eaten this from a few Chinese restaurants.  But the more popular recipe is called Singapore Mei Fun.  It’s a reflection of the Indian population living in Singapore, and this version has curry.  As you can guess, because of my affliction, I do not have a good relationship with curry.

But if you would like, you are welcome to Singapore up this recipe with the addition of 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder and 3 dried bird’s eye chilis.

Bon Appetite, intrepid soul.

Thanks for your time.

Meat popcorn

Better than French fries?Yup.

Better than beer-battered onion rings?

Uh huh.

Better than fresh, hot, homemade hushpuppies?You know it, dude.

It sounds crazy, and hard to believe, but last night I made something that took no time at all, and was crispy, salty, a little fatty, and completely, unrepentantly addictive.

It was deep fried steak.

I know, what the what?  But hear me out. The beef was flap meat.  It comes from a bottom sirloin butt cut.  It’s very, very thin.  Normally you sear or grill it in literally seconds; then slice it against the grain.  It’s delicious, and can be eaten as is or used for sandwiches, tacos, fajitas or salads.

Not much to look at in this state; but what a personality.

I’ve written about it before.  It’s an unsung carnivore’s hero, and the Matthews family could eat it every night (or breakfast) of the week.

 

I decided to use it in Asian-style rice noodles and vegetables.  But I’d never made authentic Chinese food from scratch.  This would be a complete first.

Fortunately, The Kid practically minored in Asian at culinary school, so I had a very handy resource.

At Whole Foods, I picked up rice noodles (I used half a 12 ounce box), broccoli (one large crown), shitake mushrooms (about four ounces), a small piece of ginger, and went home to experiment.

rice noodlesAs tasty as the flap steak is, it’s better when grilling or cooking the meat in a skillet that it is cooked no more than medium-rare.

But stir-fry cooking, which is how I planned to do the meal, is not really conducive to crusty, well-seared, medium-rare beef.  So cooking it, keeping it separate from the rest of the dish, and plating it on top of the noodles, almost like a garnish, was the plan.

Since the meal was Asian-inspired, I decided to try a technique that was new to me.  I sliced the meat into thin strips.  I didn’t pre-season it because there was soy in the sauce, which is quite salty.I took a small, straight-sided skillet and poured in about 1 ½ inches of vegetable oil.  I turned on the burner to get it up to 350 degrees.While it was heating, I put ½ cup or so of cornstarch on top of the meat (about 1 pound), covered the bowl, and shook it vigorously to coat all the meat evenly.  You want to do this right before cooking, so that it doesn’t absorb too much cornstarch, which will make it gummy.

I took a small, straight-sided skillet and poured in about 1 ½ inches of vegetable oil.  I turned on the burner to get it up to 350 degrees.  While it was heating, I put ½ cup or so of cornstarch on top of the meat (about 1 pound), covered the bowl, and shook it vigorously to coat all the meat evenly.  You want to do this right before cooking, so that it doesn’t absorb too much cornstarch, which will make it gummy.

When the oil came up to temp, I dropped in one third of the meat and gave it a very gentle stir.  In 20-30 seconds, I removed it with a slotted spoon onto a paper-towel covered plate.  At this point, I gave it a little sprinkle of kosher salt, like you would French fries.This stuff was amazing.  It was crispy on the outside, tender inside, and supernaturally amazing.  I could truly eat this stuff by the handful.  But I set it aside and finished dinner.

When stir frying, everything must be ready to go when you start cooking.  Once it starts, it moves very fast, and you must be prepared.  The rice noodles get pre-cooked, the broccoli blanched, and all the veggies need to be prepped.  My aromatics were three cloves of garlic, ½ teaspoon grated ginger and one large shallot, diced.

I turned on my Dutch oven medium-high, and added about a tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Then I put in the aromatics and cooked them, stirring constantly.  When they were hot and fragrant, I added the mushrooms and cooked them until they were softened.  The broccoli came next and cooked until hot, and finally the noodles.  I then poured in my sauce.

Stir fry sauce

stir fry sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 tablespoon rice wine or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sherry

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

I tossed, and when everything was well coated, I plated, adding the flap steak on top.

It turned out really well.  As usual, I made too much for just Petey and me, so we have leftovers.  But they are vegetarian, ‘cause that meat is profoundly gone.

Thanks for your time.