Last Friday was M and I’s 7th anniversary. We have a tradition that dates back to our first anniversary of a feast of chinese take-out. Back then we had just moved into our very first apartment and we had next to nothing plus new nothing of the area. To celebrate we made a picnic on the floor (no furniture either!) and ate chinese take out. I think back then it cost a total of $18 and for us that was about as far as our new budget could stretch. Ever since it has been the tradition to do that every year. This year for some reason was special to me. 7 years is a long time, at least for me and the whole 7 year itch people always talk about. So I decided at trying my hand at making a Chinese feast myself.
I made our appetizers just like we would order, pan-fried dumplings or pot-stickers, scallion pancakes, and a napa and cilantro salad we had tried at A Single Pebble and loved.
I have made dumplings before but M really likes gyozas and I had gyoza wrappers on hand. So I made a traditional pork dumpling mixture and filled the wrappers. I had never folded in this style before so I You Tubed a video on the technique of folding gyozas. Very helpful! Over all for my first try I think I did well. M even jumped in and folded a couple. He was actually better right of the gate then I was. I jump right in and pick it up as I go and am speedy, M on the other hand studies it then meticulously proceeds; its the perfectionist in him!
Here is the quick recipe of the filling:
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 cup scallions
1/2 tsp. minced ginger
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. rice wine
Mix everything well and refridgerate for 30 minutes. Then fill dumplings. You don’t have to do anything special, you can pleat them if you like or make little beggers purses, or even just a good seal will work fine. I followed this video for a tutorial and It was very good. I made a simple dressing out of Chinese balck vinegar and soy sauce with a tad of minced ginger. It was nice combination. To cook I fried them in very little oil then added a spoonful of water to the very hot pan and quickly covered. You can do that or steam entirely, deep fry or even boil.
For the pancakes I had never made them before at all and I took a little help for a fellow blogger. What is weird is that I had planned this out, googled and ended up on a site I have been to many times. Then later while surfing Tastespotting this exact post from Appetite for China was featured, how serendipitous! I took her exact recipe but I tried to short cut the pancakes by using a method I had read on a Ming Tsai recipe. Next time I will follow her instructions exactly! They came out good but in trying to make it easier I ended up making it harder I think.
The napa salad was an after thought but a good one. We have had this a few times out and I thought with all the heavy food a nice light salad would be a good idea. It is simply sliced napa cabbage and torn cilantro in a dressing consisting of 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 T. sugar, 1 T. light oil (I used coconut), a pinch of salt and about 5 drops of sesame oil. I nuke it for 30 seconds to dissolve the sugar/salt and when cool and ready to eat I dress the salad. Its that easy and very tasty; I can eats bowls of this stuff!
We took a brief intermission from eating to clean up, relax and prepare for the next course, Chinese Red Cooked Beef (Chinese Braised Beef) with noodles. Basically its Chinese pot roast. It takes all day to braise and makes the house smell wonderful! It’s a perfect fall dish.
1 1/2 lbs chuck roast or any cheap cut of meat, cut in to bite size chunks
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms – I used a combination of dried and fresh, the dried I soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and squeezed out the excess water (save the liquid!)
2 carrots sliced on the diagonal
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 inch (or so) nob of fresh ginger, minced
1 onion chopped
2-3 cups stock, I used a cup of the mushroom water and 1 1/2 cups of beef stock
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry if you can’t find rice wine
2 T. brown sugar
2-4 red chilies
2-3 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks broken in 1/2
1 T. 5 spice
salt and pepper (minimal)
oil for browning, I used coconut
Start out by prepping all your vege and set aside. Now prep your meat by cutting into chunks and seasoning with salt, pepper, and 5 spice. Set aside. In a large dutch oven heat the oil and stir fry the garlic and ginger for a few seconds until you can smell it. In batches add your meat. You want the meat evenally on 1 layer without crowding the pan. This should take about 2- 3 batches once done remove all meat. In the same pan add more oil if needed, but you shouldn’t, you should have more than enough fat from the beef. To the pan add your onions and mushrooms and saute until you see some color, about a minute or 2. Now add the beef and the remaining ingredients. Make sure the liquid just covers everything. Turn the heat to medium low and bring to a boil then turn the heat all the way low and cook uncovered for about 3 hours or until the liquid has almost completely reduced and the meat is tender. When almost done, about 30 minutes out, add your carrots. What I did here was since I knew I was going to serve it later, when it was done I turned off the heat and added the carrots gave it a good stir then covered until ready to serve. This cooked the carrots just perfectly.
You can serve this over steamed rice but really it is a noodle type of meal. Traditionally you would serve it with thick wonton noodles which are chinese egg noodles. Living in the mountains of Vermont I could not find them so I used fresh parpadelle which worked perfect! I also served this with seared bok choy seasoned with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce and to top everything off a seasonal hard cider that is produced for fall and had a hint of cinnamon in it; it was Woodchuck Draft Fall Cider. It was a perfect pairing.
It was a very nice dinner and definitely a step up from take out, though I did kind of miss it in a nostalgic kind of way.