Jan 25, 2009

The Book: Chinese New Year

If there were a book, there'd be a party plan for Chinese New Year. Also known as the Lunar New Year, it generally falls in late January. Take a look & let me know - too complicated for real life? 

Preparing Asian food can sometimes be intimidating for a home cook. Recipes usually include a long list of crazy ingredients that you use once & then never again. Shorter ingredient lists and a store-bought appetizer make this a doable, family-style feast.

Visit your local Asian market for cheap decorations – paper lanterns, plastic dipping bowls and colorful chopsticks…plus you’ll be able to buy frozen dumplings, delicious sauces, restaurant-style fortune cookies and authentic jasmine tea there. Websites like www.pearlrivermart.com are another great resource.

A red tablecloth or napkins and a big bowl of tangerines in the center of the table will help create a dramatic mood. Gold & red foil-wrapped chocolate coins represent the Chinese tradition of giving money to loved ones during the New Year.

Send your friends home with takeout containers full of chocolate, fortune cookies or even actual leftovers… if there are any!

Serves 6-8

The Menu:
Potstickers w/ Scallion Dipping Sauce
Longevity Noodles
Soy Sauce Chicken
Sesame Green Beans
Tangerines, Fortune Cookies, Chocolate Coins
Jasmine tea
Red Lotus Martinis

Potstickers with Scallion Dipping Sauce
You definitely want to take the shortcut route here. Yes, you could spend all afternoon making potstickers by hand – but really – who has the time for that? Instead, head to your local Chinese grocery store or specialty store (like Trader Joe’s) and pick up a bag of the pre-made frozen variety. They come in a few flavors, just pick one you like. I like to use the mushroom flavor for my vegetarian friends and the pork with vegetable are always a hit.

Prepare the potstickers according to the directions on the package & serve with a small bowl of dipping sauce.

The Sauce:
Quarter cup soy sauce
One TB rice vinegar
One teaspoon sugar
3 TB thinly sliced scallions, white & green parts

NOTE: You can also use plain soy sauce or soy sauce mixed with prepared wasabi paste or chili sauce.

Longevity Noodles
Long, uncut noodles are traditionally served during Chinese New Year celebrations to represent a long life.

4 quarts water
10 ounces mung bean or soybean sprouts (4 cups)
2 tea salt
One pound fresh Chinese egg noodles
half cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 TB soy sauceOne tea toasted sesame oil
2 TB peanut oil
One half-inch-thick slice of fresh ginger, lightly smashed
half pound snow peas
One cup water chestnuts, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (use the canned ones!)

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put the bean sprouts in a colander or strainer, lower it into the boiling water and blanch the bean sprouts for 10 seconds. Remove the strainer and rinse the sprouts in cold water; drain well and put sprouts in a large bowl.

Add the salt to the water in the saucepan and bring it back to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Drain the noodles thoroughly in the strainer and rinse them in cold water; drain. Rinse again then drain, lifting them to separate and dry the strands.

In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock with the soy sauce and sesame oil to make the sauce.

Warm a large saucepan or wok over high heat for 45 seconds. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the pan. Stir in the ginger and cook for 10 seconds. Add the snow peas and stir-fry until bright green, about 1 minute. Add the water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Stir the sauce, add it to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and stir-fry until they absorb the sauce, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer the noodles to a platter and serve at once.

Soy Sauce Chicken
Poaching the chicken in a flavorful broth produces a moist, delicious dish unlike any Chinese food you’ve tried before. This is a really popular dish around the New Year and traditionally a whole chicken is prepared, but I’ve substituted chicken breasts for ease and speed.

4 cups chicken stock
3 cinnamon sticks
3 TB brown sugar
4 star anise pods
One 2-inch piece ginger, smashed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Shao-Hsing wine, white wine or dry sherry
4-5 chicken breasts on the bone with the skin (2 1/2 pounds)

In a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, star anise and ginger and bring to a boil over high heat. Add soy sauce and reduce the flame to medium heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 12 minutes. Turn the chicken, cover and cook for 12 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let the chicken stand, covered, for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the liquid. Remove and discard the skin and bones. Slice the breasts crosswise about one inch thick and serve.

Sesame Green Beans
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 TB toasted sesame oil
2 TB garlic, minced
3 TB soy sauce
2 TB rice vinegar
1 TB (packed) golden brown sugar
Quarter tea ground black pepper
2 TB sesame seeds, toasted

Cook green beans in large pot of salted, boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain. Transfer green beans to large bowl of ice water to cool quickly and stop them from cooking. Drain again. Pat dry. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Just store them in a large re-closable bag in the fridge overnight.)

Heat the sesame oil in heavy large wok or nonstick skillet over high heat. Add garlic and green beans and stir-fry until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Stir-fry until sauce reduces slightly and loosely coats green beans, about 2 minutes longer. Add sesame seeds and toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve.

Red Lotus Martini
Makes one cocktail

3 - 4 ounces premium vodka
1 ounce lychee liquor
1 ounce cranberry juice

Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. OR… You can choose not to strain it, and serve it over ice.

Send your friends home with a sweet take-out treat*


Order a load of takeout, put it in your own serving dishes and throw away the evidence. Just kidding… mostly. :)

* Stay Tuned… Later this week I’ll post a DIY for chocolate-dipped fortune cookies. YUM!

1 comment:

RRH said...

Your poached chicken sounds yummy. Can't wait to try it. I might sprinkle a few red pepper flakes on the green beans!