TND – Problems I Have Never Had

March 28, 2013

grilled bok choi

Problems I have never had:

There was an article earlier this year in the NYT about the dangers of immersion blenders. I clicked on it curiously, and discovered that it wasn’t so much about the dangers of immersion blenders as it was the dangers of cooking while stupid. The gist of the article was that people who attempted to clean their immersion blenders while they were still plugged into the wall socket tended to get their fingers sliced up when they accidentally depressed the power button on the blender.

Now, (a) cleaning your immersion blender while it’s still plugged into the wall strikes me as cumbersome – it’s much easier to clean if you disconnect the motor end from the blade end because it is then shorter and less unwieldy to manipulate; and (b) why would you stick your fingers in something that is sharp and designed to puree things while it’s plugged into the wall? Would you also stick your fingers into the cuisinart while the blades are running?

Not slicing up your hands on the blades of an immersion blender seems to me to be fairly easy to avoid – don’t stick your fingers near the blades while it’s plugged into a power source. Problem solved. Next?

There are, apparently, many many people who don’t like chopping garlic not because they don’t like mincing things but because they don’t like the way it makes their hands smell. The sheer number of column inches and products devoted to how to avoid touching garlic and/or cleaning your hands afterwards is mildly mind boggling. The weirdest one I’ve come across recently was the suggestion to rub your hands vigorously against the side of your (stainless steel) sink under running water. I’ve also seen ads for the stainless steel disks shaped like bars of soap that you can use to wash your hands.

Personally, I’ve never found that a garlic smell lingered on my hands after I’d finished washing up from whatever it was I was cooking. By the time I’ve finished mincing my garlic and washed a sinkful of dishes that garlic smell is gone – it’s not like capsacin in hot peppers that will linger on your hands (and generally under your finger nails, particularly when you have a cut you didn’t know about) even after washing your hands multiple times. Perhaps this is an advertisement for not having a dishwasher – if you have a dishwasher you’re less likely to spend enough time with your hands doused in soapy water to eliminate the garlic smell?

Failing that, if I am going to be mincing garlic I’ll do it first and then mince something else that’s going into the recipe – mint, basil, lemon zest, ginger – so that’s the smell that’s left on my hands at the end. Although, that said, I don’t actually find the smell of garlic on my hands all that offensive. I can’t quite imagine how much garlic I’d have to be chopping up to get to a point where it was egregious.

Disposing of Spring produce. This is mostly because I have yet to see any local Spring produce, notwithstanding the many cooking magazine articles, blog posts, and emails from recipe websites, helpfully suggesting meals involving fresh radishes, baby turnips, new peas, and – the holy grail of Spring produce – asparagus. There’s still snow on the ground in Massachusetts. Crocuses are only just starting to put forth green shoots above the wintery landscape.

Now, I acknowledge that I live in the Northeast and that Spring will come late for me – by which I mean, it will be May before I see local asparagus – but I am genuinely curious about where exactly anyone is getting local asparagus in mid-March. I say this because my mother – who lives a lot further south than I do – emailed asking for a vegetable side dish suggestion and when I asked if she was getting asparagus yet, she laughed and laughed, and then said no. If she’s not seeing asparagus until late April, where exactly is seeing asparagus and fresh peas and new radishes right now?

Anyway, maybe it’s just me.

However, for those of use still mired in the winter that will not end, the past two weeks of Dinner have been an indulgence in comfort food, which apparently translates to cooking with a lot of creamed corn. This week, I experimented with the idea that not all Chinese food has to be a stir fry (verdict?  experiment successful – shall continue to explore).

Dinner 2 Weeks Ago
Pan Fried Chicken Cutlets
Corn Pudding (recipe previously given: Corn Pudding & Other Gateway Drugs)
Green Beans
Apple Sauce (recipe previously given: Bangers-n-Mash)

Dinner 1 Week Ago
White Chicken Chili (recipe previously given: Election Night)
Creamed Corn Cornbread (recipe previously given: End of Birthday Season 2012)

chili & cornbread composite

Dinner This Week
Chinese Braised Chicken with Chestnuts
Grilled Baby Bok Choi

chestnut braise composite

Chinese Braised Chicken with Chestnuts
(serves 6-8)

3 lb boneless-skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed & cut into 1” strips
6 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
Vegetable oil
12 dried shitake mushrooms
½ red onion, minced (or 2 shallots)
6 scallions, cut into 2” lengths (+ more for garnish)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1” fresh ginger, peeled & julienned
10-14 oz (peeled & cooked) chestnuts (I went heavy on the chestnuts because I love chestnuts)
1 cup hot water
1/3 cup medium dry sherry
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of ½ orange
3 Tbsp honey
1-2 dried star anise
1 (3”) cinnamon stick
2 tsp cornstarch (optional)

Pour the hot water over the dried shitake mushrooms in a small bowl and allow to rehydrate for 30-45 minutes. When hydrated remove from soaking liquid (reserve), trim the stems off and cut each mushroom into halves or quarters (depending on size).

Marinate the trimmed & cut up chicken in 3 Tbsp soy sauce for 10-15 minutes.

In a little vegetable oil brown the chicken in batches in a large heavy dutch oven – about 3-4 minutes per side – adding more oil as needed. Remove and reserve.

In the same pan sauté the onion, scallions, garlic and ginger until fragrant and slightly softened. Add the mushrooms and their soaking liquid (I strained mine) and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the sherry, honey, remaining 3 Tbsp soy sauce, orange zest & juice, star anise and cinnamon stick. Stir to combine. Return chicken to pan with any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 15-20 minutes. Uncover, add the chestnuts, and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes until chicken is tender and sauce is reduced.

If you want a thicker sauce, whisk 2 tsp cornstarch with some of the braising liquid in a small bowl, then stir the slurry into the pot and cook until thickened (about 5-10 minutes).

Garnish with more chopped scallion greens if desired (this is mostly just aesthetic). Serve with rice.


One comment

  1. Note: Fresh peas spotted (and bought) in grocery this week. Also broad beans. But again I am much and much further south and not only do we not have snow (nor have had any) but the mimosa are out and the Judas trees are in bloom.

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