The trials and tribulations of a scatter-brained kitchen junkie.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Week 2 (Cooking) - Fried Rice, Sesame Chicken, & Coconut Ice Cream

We're now onto week two of the 52 weeks of cooking challenge and our theme, inspired by the Chinese New Year, is Chinese cuisine. Hey-ho something else I have no expertise in. I always thought I was a decently well rounded cook but the challenges are making me second guess myself. Hrmmm...

My apologies if my recipes (or dishes themselves for that matter) are less than authentic. I tried to do my research and stick with recipes that were Chinese in origin and not inadvertently veer off into another ethnicity which is apparently easier than I had realized. Anyone who is more knowledgeable on the subject can feel free to lecture me on my shortcomings.

My original idea was to keep it simple and go with chicken fried rice, but gradually over the course of a few days I realized that simple just wasn't me; I started searching for more recipe and realized I already had everything in the house to make sesame chicken. It was decided, a mini Chinese  feast was to be had. All though I'm sure this is somewhat Americanized Chinese I was still excited to take this on.

The menu consisted of two main dishes and a yummy dessert of questionable orient origins. Vegetable fried rice, sesame chicken, and coconut ice cream.

Sesame Chicken
The recipe I started from came from I have my suspicions that this recipe had a heavy American hand, but is sounded delicious and most importantly, doable. This recipe needed a fair bit of altering to reach a flavor level that was appealing though. The sauce was kind of bland in the beginning and needed more spices to bring in to life; I added extra red pepper flakes and ginger, and cloves of garlic to bring in some flavor.

At the suggestion of the creator of the recipe I went ahead and doubled the sauce needed because the original recipe apparently made just enough to toss the chicken in and I am a sauce girl. I love dipping things in sauce, doesn't matter what it is, if I can dip it, I do. It turns out the sauce level was pretty good for the chicken, but it was still nice to have a little extra to drizzle over my rice.
  • 2-3 tbsp. sesame oil 
  • Boneless skinless chicken tenders approx. 2 lbs. cut into 1 in pieces
  • 1 c honey
  • 1 c reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 c water
  • 4 tbsp corn starch
  • 4 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 5 tsp red pepper flakes - they claim these are optional, not in my house
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  1. Combine the honey, soy sauce, and water. 
  2. Whisk in cornstarch until completely dispersed.
  3. Add ginger, red pepper flakes, and garlic.
  4. Stir to combine. 
  5. Set aside.
  1. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat.
  2. Stir fry the chicken.
  3. When chicken is no longer pink and starting to brown on the outside add in about half the sauce.
  4. Cook until sauce begins to thicken.
  5. In a separate pan add the remainder of the sauce over medium high heat as well and cook, stirring often until it begins to thicken as well.
  6. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve portions with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
Save some for leftovers, trust me, on day two this went from yum delicious warm food to OMG give me a shovel to eat with.

**Note - do not pay extra for toasted sesame seeds (or coconut for that matter, but I'll get to that) just buy regular sesame seeds and toast them in the oven at about 200° for 5-10 minutes shaking every few minutes to assure even toasting. It's that simple.

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Vegetable Fried Rice
The fried rice recipe I decided upon came from and was originally slated to be chicken fried rice. I removed the chicken since there would be a chicken main course. I also excluded the celery (because I hate celery) and the red bell pepper in exchange for a whole green pepper, it was cheaper this way. It turns out fried rice is stupidly easy and I've been afraid of attempting it all these years for nothing.
  • 1/2-1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp hot chili oil - For the bold
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 large carrots shredded - I shred them to mask the flavor, I also hate carrots. Man I look picky now!
  • 1 cup fresh pea pods
  • 1 large green pepper diced
  • 6 cups cooked and chilled white rice - I made rice with dinner the night before and just made sure to have plenty of extra for this
  • Additional 1/3 c reduced sodium soy sauce
  1. Heat oil in wok over medium high heat. 
  2. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the 2 tbsp of soy sauce and carrots, pea pods, & green peppers. Stir from 5-6 minutes or until veggies loose a bit of their crispness but are still al dente.
  4. Add rice and the last 1/3 c soy sauce, stiring slowly and breaking up clumps.
  5. Heat until cooked through. 
  6. Serve hot.

If I could do it over...
The only thing I'd really change in this recipe is the portions; this batch was massive. By the time I finished cooking the veggies I was well aware of the fact that I had no room left in my wok for the rice. So I halved the veggies, and the rice and cooked one smaller batch with what I had. The rest of the rice and veggies are packaged away separately for round two later this week. After we finish eating the leftovers from round one.

Okay, I lied, I'd also change the recipe by adding more pea pods. I loooove pea pods. 

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Coconut Ice Cream
Last but not least, coconut ice cream. This recipe came from an series about Chinese food, so I'm hoping it's actually a Chinese dish, but I apologize if it's not. Either way, coconut ice cream is where it's at.

One of the things that caught my eye with this recipe is that there is not dairy, rather coconut milk is used in place. Mmm double coconut goodness.

I had to mess about here and there with this recipe to account for the fact that out of the three groceries stores I frequent, one with an entire section dedicated to Asian delights, I could not find unsweetened coconut flakes anywhere. I'm sure if I had time or energy to check a few more stores I could have tracked them down, but that just wasn't in the cards for this week.

  • 4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 1/4 c sweetened coconut flakes
  • Toasted coconut to garnish (see note above about toasting your own)

With an ice cream maker
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your ice cream maker.
  2. Stir to combine.
  3. Refrigerate cylinder and mixture for about an hour, or twenty minutes in the freezer for the impatient. 
  4. Do what ever magic you need to do to set up and get your ice cream maker moving. 
  5. Let it do it's thang.
  6. Remove when done doing it's thang.
  7. Eat.

Without an ice cream maker (you poor soul)
  1. Combine the coconut milk & sugar, stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the coconut extract and coconut flakes and mix until combined.
  3. Place in freezer and stir occasionally (every thirty minutes or so) until hardened.
  4. Once desired consistency is reached, eat it.
It turns out I am glad I had the sweetened coconut flakes, this recipe was very...un-ice-creamy. I am going to admit a foul on my part here and say that I am pretty sure I took this recipe from the orient to a Chicagoian back alley bakery. I originally tried to cut the sugar from the original recipe down since I was using sweetened coconut, but that didn't suit my tastes. So I added the full amount of sugar. Then I doubled the sugar content. Then I left it there out of fear of diabetes, but it still could have been a bit sweeter for my overly processed, high fructose corn syrup adjusted taste buds.

What I got was a sweet creamy dessert resembling in texture something between soft serve and "normal" ice cream. It was very delicious and not very sweet. I quite enjoyed it and will be going back to it to finish the batch.

If I could do it over...
I really wish I would have shredded the the shredded coconut. The individual strands were very long and awkward in a dessert. They made the ice cream chewy and strange. I didn't really mind, but the BF said it was a problem for him. When I make it again I will probably run the shredded coconut through the food processor to break it down further. Oh, and I'll probably add some chocolate chips too.

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All of the dishes were delicious and the entrees were even better on days two (and three, and...) I will most definitely be making each of these recipes again.


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