中国新的一年快乐 Happy Chinese New Year

( I hope this wishes everyone a happy Chinese New Year )

Following my post for Cantonese Pork and me highlighting authentic Chinese cuisine, I can only follow it by giving my version of a totally bastardised American Chinese dish. A sweet, slightly spicy and I am the first to admit very moreish dish called General Tso’s Chicken. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, a Qing dynasty general, and statesman, however any connection is very tenuous. The origins of the dishes invention are in the 1950’s influx of Chinese to the United States.

general-tso-chicken

The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. Fuchsia Dunlop, in the New York Times, identified the claim of a Taiwan-based chef Peng Chang-kuei. Peng was the Nationalist government banquets’ chef and fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. In 1973 he moved to New York to open a restaurant and experimented and developed Hunanese-style cuisine adopting it for western tastes.

Other chefs claim that they created the dish or variations which include vegetables, meat other than chicken in a sweetened sauce. Later the chicken was deep fried before being added to the sauce, now almost every American Chinese restaurant has General Tso’s Chicken on the menu. Where the dish is cooked outside of the United States the dish is less sweet with more vinegar or rice wine vinegar and soy sauce in the ingredients, this is definitely more to my taste.

For more Chinese Recipes to celebrate in style with a Chinese Buffet go to my recipes for Crab and Sweetcorn Soup, Cantonese Pork, and Beef in Black Bean Sauce.

General Tso’s Chicken                                                             serves 4

As always a general note of caution

BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.

For the Sauce

1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips

1 Red Pepper, diced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and sliced in 1 inch pieces

1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped ( approximately 1 tablespoon )

75 ml quality Chicken Stock

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons soft Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoons Rice Wine

1 heaped tablespoon Corn Flour

2 Cloves

A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice

 

for the fried chicken

2 skinned Chicken Breasts, washed and diced

2 Egg Whites

Juice of 1 Lemon

75 gr Cornflour

Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

1 ½ liters neutral Vegetable Oil for frying

For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, mushrooms, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes being careful not to burn the garlic and then add the peppers. In a small pan heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.

For the chicken, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper the mix. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the chicken pieces into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In a second wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand then place a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Fry the chicken in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon.

When the chicken is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and place into the hot sauce. Simmer for two more minutes and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with a few finely sliced spring onion tops.

My Mardis Gras Cajun Gumbo

And so it is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, and today I am cooking a Cajun classic, Gumbo. Gumbo is a type of stew from southern Louisiana combining the ingredients and techniques of a melting pot of cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw. In general, a Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, okra and filé * powder. Native words for either of the last two ingredients are the likely root of the word gumbo. A Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux made from fat and flour and is spicier. Both use a ‘ Holy Trinity ’ of ingredients,  chopped onion, celery and green pepper as a base,  developed from the classic mirepoix. Andouille sausage * or ham is often added to gumbos of either variety. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then the meat is added. The dish simmers for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish, filé and extra spices added near the end.

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*Gumbo filé powder is a necessity for cooking authentic Creole or Cajun cuisine. Filé powder is the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. When ground, they have a rich, spicy flavour with a hint of eucalyptus. Andouille sausage is a staple of Cajun and Creole cooking brought to the United States by French immigrants to Louisiana. It is a course pork sausage flavoured with garlic, pepper, onions and wine.

If you are going to cook Cajan then you can get in the mood with this version of the Hank Williams classic. My Gumbo recipe is no exception, the only time I waiver from the truly authentic is adding a little extra butter to my chicken, sausage and prawns to produce a rich sauce to top the finished dish. As they say in New Orleans,

” Laissez les bons Temps Rouler -let the Good Times Roll “

My Cajun Gumbo                                                                                      serves 4

12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined

4 chicken breasts, butterflied

200 gr Andouille sausage, sliced

200 gr Long Grain Rice

150 gr Butter

50 gr Flour

1 litre quality Chicken Stock

50 ml Olive Oil

1 Large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 tablespoons of Cajun-style seasoning

2 tablespoons Filé powder ( available from a good Deli )

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce ( you can use more if you prefer )

Juice of 1 Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped parsley

In a medium bowl mix the prawns, chicken half the sausage and 2 tablespoons of the Cajun style seasoning. In a large heavy-bottomed, saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onion, pepper and celery for ten minutes without burning. Remove from the pan and reserve. Melt half of the butter and stir in the flour. Cook out the roux over a gentle heat, stirring continuously until a dark nut brown. Add the cooked trinity, the seasoned chicken, garlic, bay leaves, the sausage, the remaining Creole seasoning and Tabasco sauce. Pour in half of the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over the lowest possible heat for two and a half hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

In a second pan, cook the rice by bringing the remaining stock to the boil, add the rice and place on a tight cover. Simmer for five minutes then remove from heat and leave to steam for ten more minutes. Add the prawns to the gumbo and reduce the cooking liquor down by a third until the prawns are cooked. Add the filé powder, the lemon juice, butter and check seasoning. Finish the gumbo with chopped parsley then divide the cooked rice into bowls using a slotted spoon and top with a piece of chicken, prawns, sausage and some cooking liquor.

My Cajun Seasoning

3 tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 tablespoons Onion Powder

2 tablespoons Garlic Powder

1 tablespoon Hot Mustard Powder

1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper

1 tablespoon Dried Oregano

1 tablespoon Dried Thyme

1 tablespoon Salt

½ tablespoon ground Bay Leaves

½ tablespoon ground Black Pepper

Mix in a food processor and store in an airtight container.

Super Bowl 50 & The Best Buffalo Wings Ever

Sunday is a milestone in American sport the fiftieth Super Bowl. Now I am no expert on the game but I know that the Super Bowl is always celebrated in some style. I imagine that for the fiftieth the celebrations will be spectacular and as millions gather in bars or at home to watch, food plays a massive role. So what are the top snacks piled on the table tops across the USA? Heaps of Nachos with spicy dips, bacon stuffed crispy potato skins, beer broiled Hot dogs smothered in onions, cheese, mustard and ketchup, buttered corn-on-the-cob and sticky BBQ ribs all washed down with ice-cold beer will all be popular but THE Super Bowl snack is the Buffalo Wing.

As a professional chef a long time ago potato skins were what your potato came in and they were as likely as not peeled off. The only time you saw a chicken wing in a hotel or restaurant kitchen was in a stock pot. At home the chicken carcass, neck and wings made a base for hearty soups, and nothing was wasted. With the advent of commercialization of poultry farming and of mass refrigeration throughout the food supply chain from a producer, supplier, distributor and in the home, customers became ever more able to pick and choose their favourite part of the bird. People wanted the thigh, breast and leg consequently butcher’s almost paid the chef to take away the wings which no one wanted.

And then……

On October 30, 1964, in Buffalo, New York, at the now legendary Anchor Bar*, the owner Teressa Bellissimo created a late-night snack for her son and his friends. At hand, a surfeit of chicken wings, which she deep fried, dressed in a sticky, sweet chilli flavoured butter sauce and served them with celery sticks and a creamy, blue cheese dip. The buffalo wings, they are from Buffalo, I knew you were going to ask me about that, became popular and for a while they were free on the bar for regulars. Is it me but do all fridges seem to have celery and blue cheese lurking within ready for late night culinary inspiration, and anchovies and olives and Parmesan, actually that is more like a small deli and perhaps for another article.

Since that day chicken or ‘ Buffalo ’ wings have become a little more popular and on Sunday night, it is estimated a mammoth 1.25 billion wings will be eaten during the 50th Super bowl. Chicken wings are now universally popular and come in numerous sauce varieties from sweet, oriental to smoked or hickory style.

* The city of Buffalo has designated July 29 as “Chicken Wing Day,” and today, the Anchor Bar serves up more than 70 thousand pounds of chicken per month. The Anchor Bar original recipe for hot sauce is now sold commercially.

Buffalo Wings 5-2-2016

 

Oven baked Buffalo Wings                                                                 makes approx. 24 pieces

Buffalo Wings are a personal favourite I love the mix of spicy chicken, cool full of flavour blue cheese dip and crisp celery. This easy convenient recipe bakes the wings instead of frying. It is a little more healthy –  just and so much easier.

For the Wings

1 kg Chicken Wings (about 12 wings)

3 tablespoons Butter

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

6 tablespoons good Tomato Ketchup

1 tablespoon bottled Hot Pepper Sauce

1 tablespoon Honey

2 tablespoon Dry Sherry

1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

For the Blue Cheese Dip

125 ml Sour Cream

125 ml Mayonnaise

100 gr crumbled, mild Blue Cheese ( I use Danish Blue )

1 tablespoon quality Cider Vinegar

1 Clove Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

A generous pinch or two of Celery Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

 

Celery sticks

The parts of the wing used will also vary from person to person and restaurant to restaurant. Some will cut off the wing tip and separate the remaining wing pieces. Some cook all three parts together. I know some people who will eat the wing tip bone and all if it is fried up nice and crunchy. A good butcher will prepare the wings as you like.

For consistent, even cooking in the oven I cut up the wings by first removing the wing tips, they can go into the freezer ready for the stock pot. Then cut wings into two pieces, at the joint. Put chicken wing pieces in a large glass bowl, season generously, cover with cling film and set to one side. ( Make sure you thoroughly wash the board you cut the raw chicken on ).

In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan melt the butter and sauté the garlic over a low heat, without burning for two minutes. Add the ketchup, hot pepper sauce, dry sherry, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper and cook for five more minutes stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and allow to thoroughly cool down. When cold pour all but a couple of tablespoons of the marinade over the chicken pieces in the bowl. Cover with fresh cling film and place in the refrigerator and marinate for at least two hours.

Preheat your oven to 375F / 190C / Gas mark 5. Drain the chicken pieces and place on a wire rack over a metal roasting pan. Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes, until the chicken is tender and no longer pink. The sticky marinade may char, don’t worry this all adds to the flavour. Remove from oven and baste with reserved marinade.

Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese dip

For the Blue cheese dip, combine dip ingredients – sour cream, mayonnaise, blue cheese, vinegar, and garlic – in a blender or food processor. Blend or pulse until smooth. Cover and chill. The dip can be made ahead and will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.