Asian Flavored Pork Chops with Sautéd Vegetables

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Lately, I have been trying to feed Peter less meat. I either use small portions of sliced meat in vegetable stir-fries to enhance the flavor or I serve him the same vegetarian meals the girls have. I know he misses meat when he tells me to relax and not worry about cooking dinner. “I’ll order from Green Island tonight,” he’d say. Green Island is his favorite take-out place, where you can get three dishes of tasty Chinese food for $27. Peter usually orders the stir fried beef with vegetables, curry beef brisket and rock cod in garlic black bean sauce.  That’s how he gets his weekly fix of greasy, salty Cantonese provision. When I got a midday call from Peter asking if there would be meat for dinner tonight. I knew that it was time for me to cook a serious meat dish.

I had opened a bottle of good brandy some time ago to make desserts and there was still 1/3 of a bottle left.  I decided to use it in the marinade, but if you don’t have brandy handy, Shao Xing cooking wine will probably work fine, too.  The key is to marinate the meat for at least two hours, ideally 4 to 8 hours. The pork chops that I bought today were about 1/2 to 2/3 inch thick. If your chops are 1 inch thick, you will need to use 1 1/2 portion of the marinade. The pork chops will absorb and lock in every last drop of the marinade and turn out tender, juicy and absolutely delicious.

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Asian Flavored Pork Chops with Sautéd Vegetables

Ingredients:

4 pork chops

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 red jalapeno pepper, seed and sliced

1 small yellow onion, sliced

2 to 3 slices of ginger, thinly slivered

3 tablespoons cooking oil, separated

2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dark rice vinegar or rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Marinade:

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons brandy

1 tablespoon molasses or honey

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon tapioca flour, or corn starch

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Preparation:

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pound the pork chops and poke holes on the meat with ice pick or the tip of the knife. Use your hand to mix the chops with the marinade and transfer to a large ziplock bag. Leave in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight. All the liquid will be absorbed into the chops as they marinate.

Cut a slit on the pork chop at the opposite side of the bone to prevent curling during cooking.

Heat 1/2 of the oil in a large cast iron skillet on medium. Pan fried the pork chops about 4 to 5 minuets on either side or until cooked through. You will need to cook longer with the lid on if your chops are thicker. The chops brown easily because of the sugar in the marinade. Lower the heat a little if necessary.

When the chops are done. Take them out of the skillet and set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil in the same skillet on medium high and sauté the vegetables. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Give it a few swirls with the spatula and turn off the stove. Cook the vegetables in two batches if your skillet is small.

Separate the sautéd vegetables into four plates and top with the pork chop. 

Or slice the chops before serving with rice and saluted vegetables.

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Osso Buco Style Ling Cod with Gremolata

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This morning, Peter and I wanted to take a walk but it was drizzling.  So we instead took a walk in the isles of Costco and came home with loads of food. For lunch, I made this hearty, soothing and yummy dish that was perfect for a rainy spring day. Peter and I loved it, and ended up having it for both lunch and dinner without even changing the plates or the utensils. Lazy Sunday indeed.

You can enjoy the fish “osso buco” over polenta or creamed potato, but I simply added the potatoes into the dish and made it a one pot meal. Very satisfying.

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Osso Buco Style Ling Cod with Gremolata

Ingredients:

2 6 oz ling cod fillets or other white fish fillets

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1 1/2 cup halved or quartered red skin potatoes

1/4 cup marinara sauce

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup white wine

1 1/2 tablespoon tapioca flour or corn starch, I used tapioca flour

1 1/2 tablespoon corn flour or wheat flour, I used corn flour

A few dashes of cayenne, smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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Preparation:

In a large bowl, mix the tapioca flour, corn flour, the dried spices and a generous pinch of salt.

Wash and dry the fish. Rub with a little olive oil. Dredge the fish pieces one by one in the flour mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a large skillet or a pan on high and brown the fish on all sides. Set aside.

On medium high, heat the rest of the oil in a wok, sauté the garlic and onion until aromatic. Add the tomato, celery, carrots and potatoes and stir for about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the marinara sauce and stir for another minute or two.  Pour the chicken broth into the wok and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Salt to taste.

Pour the cooked vegetables and all the juice into the skillet with the browned fish and return to stove on medium high. Pour in 1 cup of white wine.  Cook until fish is done, about 10 minutes.  (My fish is thick. If your fish is smaller, cook for less time.) 

Mix a little water into the bowl with the left-over flour mixture for dredging, and use it to thicken the broth if desired. The spices in the flour mixture also add extra flavor to the dish.

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Ingredients for Gremolata:

1/3 cup minced parsley

1 loosely packed teaspoon minced lemon zest

1 loosely packed teaspoon minced orange zest

2 clove garlic, minced

Preparation:

Use a grater or a vegetable peeling to get the outer most layer of the lemon and orange skin.  Mince the zest with a knife.

Mix the zest with chopped parsley and minced garlic. You can make gremolata up to 6 hours ahead and leave in the fridge in a sealed container.

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Empress Dowager’s Crab

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Empress Dowager’s Crab is a Chinese dish that most of you have probably never heard of — a scrambled egg with an unusual but delicious twist. I have mentioned in previous blogs the hairy crab obsession in Shanghai, that has in recent years spread to other major cities in China. People make this scrambled egg to satiate the craving for hairy crabs when crabs are not in season, or not in one’s budget.  Fable had it that the dish was invented one day when the Empress Dowager demanded to eat crab out of a whim. The royal chef had to improvise with eggs because there were no crabs to be found and he didn’t want his head chopped off. 

The egg white is to imitate the taste and texture of crab meat while the yolk the flavor of the crab roe.  Since the steamed hairy crabs are always eaten with a dark sweet rice vinegar and finely minced ginger, this dish uses the same unique combination of ingredients to trick the tastebuds into making the association with crab.  When I was growing up, it was made with only eggs, ginger, vinegar, salt and sugar, but the fancier version nowadays includes diced fish or prawns. I used ling cod today.

I have always loved eggs no matter how they are prepared — soft boiled, hard boiled, over-easy, poached, omelette, braised in soy and tea, steamed egg custard… you name it. Eggs are the most versatile food in the world, and today they are masquerading as crab meat. Traditionally the yolk is cooked slightly runny. Peter doesn’t like his eggs runny and I cooked the yolk a little bit longer, but still very soft. You mix the cooked white and the slightly runny yolk right before serving to let the flavor of the yolk coat the white.

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Empress Dowager’s Crab (Scrambled Egg with Fish)

Ingredients:

4 extra-large eggs, white and yolk separated and beaten

3 to 4 oz white fish or prawns

2 1/2 tablespoons dark sweet rice vinegar (CHINKIANG VINEGAR, Chinese supermarket)

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon sugar, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine to marinate the fish

1/4 teaspoon corn starch

2 tablespoons cooking oil, separated

Chives or cilantro leaves for garnish

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Preparation:

In a ziplock bag or a bowl, marinate the fish in the Shao Xing cooking wine and a pinch of salt.  Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to over night.

Beat the egg white and egg yolk separately in two bowls.

Pat dry the fish and dice into 1/3 to 1/2 inch cubes. Mix the corn starch with the diced fish.  Stir the diced fish into the egg white with a teaspoon of the minced ginger and a pinch of the salt.

Beat the yolk with with 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 loosely packed tablespoon minced ginger, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon minced ginger with 1 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Pour the egg white, fish mixture into the pan and gentle stir until the fish turns opaque. Put the cooked egg white and fish cubes on a serving plate and set aside.

Wash and dry the pan. Heat the rest of the oil in the pan on medium low heat, pour the yolk mixture into the pan and stir until slightly congealed but still a bit runny. Scoop the cooked yolk on top of the egg white and the fish.

Garnish with chives or cilantro leaves.

Mix the white with the yolk before serving.  Pour the vinegar ginger mixture into he dish if desired.  Give it a taste before deciding how much of the ginger vinegar mixture you need.

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Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

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Dessert before dinner is not a problem in this case.

These are absolutely the most delicious little treats made with the simplest and healthiest of ingredients.  When I was in Shanghai earlier this month, I made them for my parents, and they couldn’t believe that the decadent panna cotta was actually good for them.  Whenever I visit my parents, I pack food in my suitcases —  cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, whole grain cereal, decaf coffee beans… you name it.  My suitcases remind me of the ones hauled by the black market merchants during the era of food rationing in China. This time I brought them a bag of xylitol along with other novelty foods.  My dad has a voracious appetite and he loves sweets, but he needs to watch his blood sugar.  So xylitol was a perfect gift for him, and the panna cotta was a perfect dessert to showcase it. 

Looking at my dad chomping on peanuts in front of the TV, I knew I was doomed. It is amazing how one can inherit a penchant for peanuts from one’s father. There is definitely a peanut loving gene  in my DNA.  My dad is hard of hearing and talking with him is laborious for the both of us; so we shelled peanuts together while watching some Sino-Japanese war series on TV. It seemed that my parents are always watching the same battles being fought every time I visit them.  The Japanese invasion and the Chinese resistance must be one of the few themes that can pass censorship while still showing some scenes of sex and violence. I was able to make them happy simply by sitting with them. Nothing else was required — just my presence. I think only children have this kind of magical power over their parents.

Okay, back to the panna cotta. It is low fat, but feels extremely creamy in your mouth.  I made mine sugar free with xylitol and stevia extract.  Stevia extract is natural and has virtually no calories. I usually add a pack or two with about 1/4 cup of xylitol. If you don’t like xylitol or stevia, you can use 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar depending on how sweet you want your panna cotta.  

Everyone in the family loved the panna cotta not only because it is delectable and healthy, but also because home-made dessert means mommy is back.

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I found reusable yogurt bottles with lids to be perfect for the panna cotta. You can easily store them in the fridge for a few days.

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Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

2 1/2 cups Fage Total or other full fat Greek yogurt

1 1/2 cup 2% organic milk or milk of choice or cream (I used 2% organic)

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup xylitol or sugar

1 to 2 packs of organic stevia or 1 to 2 more tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

2 1/2 teaspoons (1 1/4 ounce packet) unflavored gelatin

Canola or safflower for greasing the containers

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Preparation:

Grease the containers (ramekins or teacups or bowls) if you plan to un-mold the panna cotta when serving.  If you plan to serve the panna cotta in the container that you make it with, you can skip the greasing.

Pour 1 cup of milk in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin in the milk, let soak until soft, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a small sauce pan on low heat, stir the xylitol or sugar, milk and gelatin until melt. (Do not boil.) Let cool for 3 to 5 minutes.

In a food processor, mix together milk gelatin mixture, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, xanthan gum and stevia.

Pour mixture into desired container and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours depending on the size of the container, about 2 hours for small ramekins or cups and up to 8 hours or overnight for a cake pan.

To take the panna cotta out of the container, dip the bottom of the container in a pan of hot water for 5 seconds, or use a sharp knife to separate along the side of the container. Cover the container with the plate you plan to serve on and turn the whole thing upside down.

Serve with fresh berries and a dollop honey or maple syrup

Or

Top with brandied dried apricots

I made the brandied apricots the same way I made the brandied dried figs and the brandied dried cherry.

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