Wingin’ it Wednesday: Standard Stirfry

Me: What do you want for dinner?

Pie: I dunno. What do YOU want for dinner?

Me: I dunno. Stir fry?

And that, ladies and gents, is how 85% of our weekday meal conversations go. Usually we end up making a stir fry – it’s an easy, relatively easy, and healthier alternative to a whole bunch of the pre-made meals you get at the grocery store.

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First, cube up some chicken. Or beef. Or tofu. Whatever floats your boat.

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Then brown it in a pan with a dash of olive oil, some minced ginger, and minced garlic.

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While that’s going on, chop up some vegetables – any kind you like. Slice them thin so they will cook quickly. We used carrots, sugar snap peas, red peppers, onions, and broccoli here. If you want, you can also cook some rice or noodles to serve as a base for the stir fry.

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When the chicken is cooked, haul it out of the pan and put it aside in a bowl.

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Tip your onions into the pan to soften first.

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Then add in the rest of the veggies.

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Whip up a quick sauce of about 2 tablespoons plum sauce, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, and 1 teaspoon peanut oil. Feel free to experiment with proportions and different sauces – we’ve experimented for a few years and this is the combo we like the best.

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Pour the sauce over the vegetables, stir it in, and pop a lid on the pan so the vegetables have a chance to steam a bit. How long this takes obviously depends on the amount of vegetables you have. You want them tender but not soggy.

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Toss your chicken back in to re-heat, then serve immediately over your rice or noodles.

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Yum!

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Pork-Stuffed Belgian Sandwiches

Pork-Stuffed Belgian

I originally had the title written as “pork-stuffed Belgians” but that didn’t seem right somehow.  I had a vision of a bunch of people walking around in Bruges with sausages coming out of all their pockets.

For the record, the Belgian is the name of the loaf I picked up from the Georgestown Bakery the other day.  Not to be confused with the sweetened tea bread served in Belgium, this is more of a sourdough French bread baked in a shape not unlike a gridiron football.  The thing is, I picked up two, because they were hot from the oven and the guy at the counter was very persuasive.  The other thing is, they’re not so good the next day — a little stale.  We consumed one for lunch that day, and then I had to think up what to do with the second one for dinner.  That’s a lotta bread.  So I kind of made this up on the fly.  I’m sure there are other variations out there, and if there’s one with a nifty name, please let me know.  Also it could use some tweaking so I welcome suggestions.

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Preheat your oven to 450°F and spray a baking dish.  Peel the membrane off one small tenderloin (enough meat for three people), just like we learned.

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I lightly basted the tenderloin with a few drops of Lee & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, malt vinegar, and hoisin sauce.  Pop that sucker in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of at least 135°F (for rare).

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Meanwhile, use a mandolin to thinly slice about four small new potatoes.  I sliced them into a bowl of water, to rinse the starch off.

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Drain the water and pat the potatoes dry.

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Thinly slice as well three small carrots.  We’re working with small today.

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Chop a few broccoli florets up and steam them.

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Toss the potatoes and carrots into a large frying pan with a bit of olive oil and sauté on medium-high heat for a few minutes.  Add in some sea salt to taste.

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Add in about three tablespoons malt vinegar and three tablespoons water and reduce the heat to medium-low until the vegetables are tender.

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Plop in your steamed broccoli bits.

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Plop in a few spoonfuls of plum sauce and teriyaki sauce.  Don’t forget another splash of the wooster sauce as well.

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Now cut your loaf (I used a Belgian, but you might want to try something with a little less bread in it) in half vertically. Slice a hole in each half, being careful not to puncture the sides of the loaf.  We want a little pocket.

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Butter that pocket.

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I thought we needed a bit more sweet in this salty meal so I spread the inside of the pocket with some lovely mango chutney as well.

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At this point your tenderloin should be cooked.  Plop it on a board and cut it up without allowing the meat to rest.  We want the juices to run so they run straight into the bread.

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Stuff pieces of the tenderloin into the pocket.

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Stuff your warm vegetables in as well.

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I had plenty of vegetables left over, and some meat, and that made a good lunch the next day.  I never want to see bread again.

Stir-Fry at Cait and iPM’s

Hang in there, those of you facing Hurricane Igor!

The main trick in food photography, I have learned, is to always, always, always use natural light in your photographs.

The problem with living in Canada is that half the year, the sun sets really early and your good afternoon light turns blue.  Unless you want to start cooking your dinner at two in the afternoon, you have to put up with a lot of noise in your now blue-tinged shots.  I apologize in advance.

A downside to cooking in other people’s kitchens is that friends my age often live in quirky apartment buildings and so don’t have the enormous picture window with which I have been blessed in my own kitchen back in St. John’s.  The light quality in these places, therefore, isn’t all that great.  I should really start using my low ISO feature.  Some kitchens don’t even HAVE windows, which is a real shame, both for the sake of my pictures, and for the cooks themselves.  How can you enjoy cooking if you don’t like being in the room where cooking takes place? 

Anyway, tonight I went over to visit Cait and iPM.  You may remember them from their visit to St. John’s in June. Cait is a computer guru and she is in the process of making my laptop able to survive the extra two or three years of service I need it to give me before I can afford to replace it.  Their kitchen is fortunately roomy enough for my purposes, but as it was late in the evening, the light’s not all that great.

In the middle of the produce section of Loblaws, Cait and I decided on a stir-fry, so I picked up some broccoli, mushrooms, green onions, snow peas, and fresh garlic.  Cait already had chicken, carrots, soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, so it was a simple matter of adding hoisin, black bean, and teriyaki to the basket and off we went.

At home, Cait set to haranguing my computer and making it do her bidding and I set to chopping.  Cait owns neither a cutting board nor a non-serrated knife so it was an adventure trying to julienne the carrots and broccoli stalks.  But I did it.

I also sliced up three boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well.  Nice and thin.

Ruby, who is only a puppy, tried to convince me that chicken was the best thing for her and that what we thought was her proper dog food was actually poison.  She failed.  But she’s cute.

In a small bowl, mix together about two tablespoons each of brown sugar, vinegar (I prefer rice vinegar but Cait only had balsamic), hoisin, teriyaki, black bean, and soy sauce.

Slice up about three cloves of garlic and plop them in a pan with olive oil.  Heat that sucker up.

Add the chicken, and stir until just cooked through, between 5 and 10 minutes.

Add the sauce mixture and stir to coat all the chicken.

Plop in your vegetables and stir to get them all coated, too.I ran out of room in the pan and therefore had to transfer half my cooking to a nearby pot.

Let the vegetables cook a little bit, but not too much.  You want them still crisp, but brightly coloured.  Probably you want to cook them for about seven minutes or so.

Serve over rice, and if you have lovely Fiestaware to do it on, all the better. 

iPM went back for seconds so I know it was good.

Broccomeat/Broccofu

Did I mention that we are broke students who live in Newfoundland, a rock in the middle of the north Pacific Atlantic Ocean?

This recipe arose out of necessity, when the only vegetable we could get in the winter that was half decent was broccoli, and the only protein we could afford was a block of tofu or a thin frying steak that cost two dollars.

Fortunately, we take after our respective parents, and do not lack for condiments.

This is a Pie recipe, and until the night he let me photograph it, I never knew the secret.  Of course, as he says, improvisation is quintessential, and the recipe is not exactly the same every night.  Accordingly, I have provided you with alternative ingredient options: the tofu option (“broccofu”), the steak option (“broccomeat”), the teriyaki version (sweeter), and the black bean version (more sour).

Separate two small heads of broccoli into individual florets, and slice up the tender part of the stem, while you’re at it.

Cube a block of firm tofu — the firmer the better, because it will disintegrate on you.  I love cutting tofu.  It’s like extra hard Jello.

Alternatively, slice a thin uncooked steak into strips.

In a large pan or wok, heat up two tablespoons of peanut or other frying oil with a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger from a jar.  If you are doing the teriyaki version, omit the ginger.

When your oil is sizzling with your minced herbs, add your tofu or your steak and allow to brown for a few minutes.  While it’s doing its thing, mix together, in a small bowl, a tablespoon of each of the following (2 if you’re feeling saucy):

black bean sauce (it’s more of a paste) / alternatively / teriyaki sauce

garlic black bean sauce (it’s more of a liquid) / alternatively / sweet and sour sauce

peanut oil

soy sauce

hoi sin sauce

garlic chili sauce

plum sauce

I know.  Everything seems to have garlic in it.  Trust me.  It works out.  Don’t be afraid to improvise with what you have and experiment to cater to your own tastes.  Stir fries are meant to be made up.

Pour the sauce into the pan and stir the tofu/steak until coated.  The Pie wishes to point out that the reason he adds the sauce before the broccoli is because he finds that the florets act like sponges and suck all the sauce away unless it has a chance to coat the other ingredients first.

After mixing in the sauce, drop in your broccoli florets and stems, and heat until the broccoli is bright green.

Serves 2 over rice.  With the rice, the whole thing costs you less than $4.  My cheap brother Kristopf would be proud.