Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sweet and Sour Pork, Chinese Noodles, and Pear Custard Tart

Claire's been hankering for my Chinese noodles, so this week is an Asian post.  I take the rhythm and proportions of stir-fry somewhat for granted, but trying to write down these recipes has really forced me to think about it.  The order in which you do things is important.  Despite the implications of the term "stir-fry," you really cannot just throw everything into the pot and stir it all around.  Your veggies will be mush, and the meat won't be properly browned.  First, brown the meat. Don't be afraid to use oil, and don't stir it around for the first few minutes- it's got to brown! Next take the meat out, and set it aside. Heat oil, add garlic. Don't burn the garlic or it will ruin the flavor of your whole dish. Next add onions, and the firmer vegetables, like carrots or broccoli stems. When these are nearing tender, make a clearing in the center of the pan and add the meat.  NOW you can stir it all together. Add some chicken stock or water that's been mixed with a little cornstarch. (Or else you won't get a nice sauce to mix with your rice. Kids love this sauce!) At the very end, fold in the green onions. And spinach if you're obsessed with spinach like I am.

Homestyle Sweet and Sour Chicken or Pork
This sweet and sour recipe is not your thickly breaded sickly sweet sauce that you get at the grocery store or in bad Chinese restaurants. If that's your favorite, forget it and move on.  This is my mom's recipe.  You don't need to buy a jar of sauce with HFCS and who knows what else in it.  You just need ketchup. If you want to save some calories, you can skip the cornstarch and frying and just saute the pork (or chicken!) chunks first. But it won't taste as good.  Claire's oldest boy ate 4 helpings of this.  For lunch. 

1 1/2 lbs of pork or chicken, cut into 1" chunks
1/2  20 oz can pineapple chunks, 3/4 c juice reserved (I don't like to use the whole can- it's too much pineapple for my tastes.)
1 green pepper, cut into 1" chunks
1 carrot sliced diagonally into bite-sized pieces
1/2 onion, cut into 1" chunks
1 large clove of garlic, minced (about 2 tsp)
1/2 to 1 c cornstarch for dredging
1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c ketchup
2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1-2 green onions, diced
canola or vegetable oil for frying
Dredge the pork or chicken chunks in the cornstarch until they are coated and squeaky-feeling.  Heat the oil in a pan; use enough so that the meat can float a little.  It's hot enough when you flick a drop of water in it and it sizzles.  (Too cold and the meat will be greasy. Too hot and the meat will burn and be raw in the middle.)  Fry the meat chunks in batches, and as they finish, put them on a plate lined with a paper towel.

In a clean large saute pan or wok, heat 1 T of oil and add 1 tsp minced garlic. Add ketchup and whisk in 3/4 c reserved pineapple juice.  Add in soy sauce, sugar and a pinch of salt, taste. Adjust the seasonings to your liking.  BRing the sauce to a boil; it will thicken a little. Set aside.  Heat an additional 1 T of oil and add the rest of the minced garlic. Add the onion then the carrots. Stir until tender, adding a little liquid if necessary, then add green peppers and the meat.  Stir 1-2 tsp of cornstarch into the chicken stock, and add to the pot and saute until the sauce has thickened a little more. Fold in the scallions at the last minute and serve with your favorite rice.  (I like short grain sticky white rice.)

Chinese Stir-Fried Noodles
This is a go-to dish for us that uses up old veggies that can serve as a one-dish meal or as a side.  You can add chicken or beef or shrimp, but just cook that first, separately, and add at the end. I like to use Chinese noodles that are square and about the thickness of regular uncooked spaghetti.  Here, we can get them at the grocery store.  If you can't find them, you can substitute regular spaghetti noodles.  This is very popular with Claire's boys, although it took a backseat to the sweet and sour pork when we served it.
The noodles, if you look very closely, are square.
They cook very quickly.

1 carrot sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 heaping c total broccoli, zucchini, or sugar snap peas (or other vegetable except celery)
1 large handful chopped baby spinach leaves
1/2 onion, sliced into 1 inch pieces
2 tsp sesame oil
2-3 scallions, diced
2 T soy sauce
1 T cornstarch
1  c chicken stock or water
Chinese noodles, 1 package, cooked (about 12 oz uncooked)
salt to taste
dash white pepper (skip if you don't have it)

Boil the noodles al dente, about 3 1/2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat oil in a large wok or saute pan. Add the garlic. Add onions, then carrots.  Add a little liquid if it's too dry. Add the broccoli or sugar snap peas, then make a clearing in the center and add the noodles. (You can add cooked meat at this point if you are using meat.) Drizzle in the soy sauce and toss.  Add the cornstarch to the cup of chicken stock or water and stir, then add to the noodles. Add sesame oil and salt. Toss in the spinach and the green onions. Add a dash of white pepper, toss and serve.
It's tempting to add a lot of vegetables,
but you want the final proportions to work.

Purple flower courtesy of my daughter.

Pear Custard Tart with Macadamia Nuts
This was unbelievably good, and leaves you wanting another piece. It's a great dish for company, yet it doesn't take very long to prepare.  The macadamia nuts are a splurge, but worth it.

1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
3/4 c flour

1 package 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (reduced fat is fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 can 15 oz pear halves in heavy syrup
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in flour & vanilla until combined.  Stir in nuts.  Press into greased 8 inch square baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Increase oven heat to 375 degrees.

Beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar, egg & vanilla.  Pour over crust.  Cut pears into 1/8" slices and arrange over filling.  Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over pears.  Bake at 375 degrees for 26 to 28 minutes.  Cool on wire rack for 45 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting.  (This is the most difficult part.

1 comment:

  1. Never knew you made SS pork for the family. I've never made this for Dominic, I bet he would LOVE it! Would be a good use of ketchup you buy at Costco. Soooo much ketchup.