Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's for Supper: Kung Pao Chicken & Friends

I could eat some sort of Asian food every day of the week. However, The Studly Muffin grows tired of my Asian food whims and therefore, I try and keep it to a Once A Week minimum. I love it all.

When I was a little girl my mom would give big dinner parties for church folks and friends alike. They were small town pastors, but they also owned a business and mom worked as a Respiratory Therapist at the local hospital. They were busy people so the occasional dinner party made it possible to connect with groups of people at one time. One of our favorite dinner nights was Chinese Night. Mom had collected favorite Asian Recipes from a trusty cookbook and my Aunt Joyce (who is a fabulous cook). She also had gathered over the years sets of Chinese soup bowls and soups, teapots and chop sticks straight from Chinatown in San Francisco.

I can remember my first meal in Chinatown. A little man escorted us through a hall of dark, ornate wood and into a little room with one table. Instead of piling around a buffet filled fried meats and greasy rice, our dinner was brought in family style. Big platters of deliciousness.

Now it was hard to get good Asian food in the hills and hollers of North Central Arkansas…at least it was when I lived there is a little girl. I can imagine that Mom’s search for the correct ingredients must have been pretty tough. There wasn’t an Asian market nearby. And since I’ve been adult I’ve lived in little towns that might have had a grocery store with soy sauce and a few cans of La Choy Chicken Chow Main (or Mein...depending on your part of the country). But her food was always tasty and interesting. A secret to efficient Asian cooking is prep work. So we kids would be in the kitchen stirring up sauces and when we were older, chopping veggies. Thanks to my momma I have mad egg roll wrapping skills.
Adding an Asian dish to your weeknight meal plans is not as hard as one might think. There are always premade stir fry sauces and kits. I really have to watch the premade sauces. I am likely to have a nasty reaction to MSG, plus they tend to have outrageous amounts of sodium. So I wind up making a lot things from scratch.

I am not an Asian food purist, either. I enjoy the more Americanized recipes, too. In fact, one of my favorites is the Springfield Style Cashew Chicken that originated in the city I live in. I have feed my husband some pretty interesting (awful) Asian experiments. He still loves me. At least I'm assuming he does.

One of my favorite recipes for Kung Pao Chicken comes from a cookbook that has hodgepodge of good and tasty recipes. It uses ingredients that can be found almost anywhere.

I don’t have time share any recipes tonight. I am still unpacking from our trip. I promised The Studly Muffin that I would at least clear a path so he can get through to the recliner after work. Of course, I did spend at least 30 minutes making egg rolls. But any time spent in the preparation of the Egg Roll is time well spent. I'll share my recipes another time.

Be not scared of the Kung Pao Chicken. Even if you're not a fan of spicy food adding a few little chili peppers is what makes it Kung Pao. Otherwise it's just a chicken saute with peanuts.

I know the trend is to use brown rice. I enjoy brown rice, but I am not friends with it. I have ruined many pans of brown rice. I perfected my white rice ages ago. Plus, Josiah loves just a bowl of plain white rice. Mine is not instant...but it only takes 12 minutes.

If you want Egg Rolls (or any kind of side for your Chinese food) you can purchase them ready made at most grocery stores.  Making them is a more time intensive and if you want to make them for company (and have never made them before) be sure to practice rolling them. A badly rolled egg roll will leave you with a mess in the fryer.  I also made a little soy sauce with vinegar sprinkled with sesame seeds. You can also add a little chili oil or sesame oil. I don't have sesame oil (my first choice) and I didn't want too many spicy flavors...the Kung Pao has just the right amount of heat.

No. This picture of Josiah in Costume has nothing to do with Kung Pao. Other than I was cooking supper when he walked into the kitchen wearing this.

All of his grandparents will appreciate this picture. Josiah is our Quirky guy. Nothing says Quirk like Scotch Tape Clothing.

Well. I'm off to unpack some more. And to try and talk Josiah out of his tape. That looks like it might hurt a bit during removal!

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