Thursday, March 31, 2011
Seasonal Kitchen Transitions
If only I could honestly say that 365 days a year I have a passion and eagerness to contentedly stir together sauces and pull together endless interesting and delicious dishes. If only...
Unfortunately for our taste buds, the end of Winter regularly gets the best of me. The cold wet weather has certainly inspired a number of large batches of soups, hot sandwiches, and roasted meats of various kinds. But, what once were exciting new cold-weather dishes now seem to be old hat and are entirely uninteresting. Thankfully, the gusto of a new season is exactly what's needed to liven up my deflated cooking sails.
It's officially Spring (see the photo of the Cherry Blossoms!), and I am happy to report that my daily www.weatherchannel.com inquires seem to indicate the warmer weather is around the corner. As the mercury ever-so-slowly begins defying gravity, so do my spirits. With renewed giddiness, I'm back to watching and re-watching episodes of Avec Eric on Hulu, reading The Art of Simple Cooking, and purchasing spices I've only dreamed of using on my latest trip to Penzey's with EM.
While a month ago it was still just too cold to venture to the open-air weekend fish market by the Waterfront, I think April may just be the right time to pull on my wellies and search out some nicer quality fish than I find at our other-wise reliable grocery store. If it turns out to be a good resource, you can be sure I'll let you in on the secret.
In the meantime, I'm resorting to some tried and true favorite dishes we haven't had in a while, such as a chicken and brown rice with a home-made kung pao sauce, and fillet of salmon cooked in emulsified lemon juice and olive oil with thyme and rosemary accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts and green beans.
Kung Pao Sauce
*note: this is not a sweet Kung Pao sauce. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, use brown sugar instead of molasses, and add it slowly to the sauce until you find the right flavor balance.
2 Tablespoons white cooking wine (I keep a bottle of inexpensive white wine in the fridge for this purpose rather than using the bottled "cooking" wines. All alcohol cooks out before serving.)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1.5 Tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tablespoons in water (this causes the sauce to stick to the cubed chicken once it is served)
1-2 ounces hot chili paste (available in the ethnic food aisle at most grocery stores)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
.5 - 1 teaspoon molasses
2 Tablespoons very finely diced fresh garlic
4 green onions diced to garnish before serving
Optional: lightly roasted peanuts
Whisk together all the ingredients, save the green onions and peanuts. Pour the sauce in a medium sauce pan at low-medium heat for a few minutes to unify all the flavors. The sauce will thicken quickly because of the cornstarch, so wisk continually. In a hot pan, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add 4 cubed raw chicken breasts (or thighs if preferred), and sprinkle the raw chicken with a mixture of red and black peppers. Cover pan and allow chicken to cook fully. Add the sauce to the cubed chicken once the chicken is no longer pink. If the sauce is too thick, slowly add small amounts of soy sauce to the pan until obtaining your preferred texture. Before serving the dish, top with sliced green onions and even toasted salty peanuts if desired.
What go-to dishes are you rediscovering as your Winter repertoire transitions to Spring?
-Domestic in the District