May 29, 2010
Chance and circumstance worked together back in 2004, and I found myself cooking in a Chinese restaurant for a year. It was an unintended blip in my French training, but the things I learned during that year really improved my cooking: the Chinese chefs taught me the details of texture, the difference between steamed and boiled, between fried-moist and fried dry. I also learned that a good stir-fry is nothing but a jumble of shrewd, quickly-made decisions—and if you’re me and non-native to stir-frying, a bit of luck, too.
First of all, all of the pieces of a stir-fry must be equal in size. If Wei-Chan--the Chinese chef of the wok line--was stir-frying vegetables, they were all cut into more or less equal pieces, usually no larger than the size of a quarter.
Secondly, the wok must be hot and the work conducted in it fast. If you’re going for an authentic stir-fry, the wok must be so hot that a drop of water dances on its surface. If you can’t reach this temperature in your wok, switch to your widest bottomed pan and crank the heat as high as it goes.
I am always puzzled by the recipes I see for stir-fries with meat, because they’re nothing like the method I learned from the Chinese chefs. First of all, they cut the meat into very small or very thin pieces (usually when it is half-frozen, which makes it easier) and then marinated the meat with a combination of soy sauce, sugar, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, bean paste, ginger or garlic, whatever is appropriate to the dish.
Then, they cook the meat first, by dipping it briefly in a wok full of either hot oil or boiling water for about a minute. Either way, this initial cooking sets the meat--which is essential. If not for the initial cooking, the meat would ooze juice when cooked again, and oozing juice will dilute and muddy the sauce, and you will have gravy.
May 28, 2010
I found some, in my yard! More than one! For years now I've been developing recipes for one morel: asparagus with one-morel vinaigrette, a small morel compote to daub on soup . . and now maybe I can make a batch of creamed morels that will cover more than a few pieces of grilled bread.
In my mania, I began to see mushrooms everywhere. Funny, but it's usually in the fall that I see these white fungus mushrooms . . . .
Ha! That's because it's a piece of rained-on kleenex! Must turn down the mushroom-goggles now.