Friday, June 25, 2010

Hot Pot

Every New Year's Eve our family has a tradition of eating Chinese food. Most often, we eat "Hot Pot". This is a meal best eaten in winter months, and when you have plenty of time to eat. It's a great meal to share with guests! We do eat it other times of the year, but New Year's is our tradition. I'm going to give you the basics, but you could adapt this to your own lifestyle.

First you need to make a sauce. There are many ways you could do this, but our standard is using chinese "Char Sui" barbecue sauce. (pictured below)

The way we were taught is to pour the entire jar in to a bowl, and add one egg. Add a little soy sauce to thin out the paste. Add chopped cilantro, and a splash of sesame oil. Now, you could add other things like finely chopped garlic or ginger, or even hot chili sauce, but we pretty much just use this recipe. Give each person their own bowl with some of the sauce in it.

Next you are going to need some kind of electric skillet to put in the middle of the table. We have an electric skillet, but we also have a "hot pot" that was given to us by a friend. With our large family, and guests, we usually use both. Fill both with chicken broth, and set on high heat. Once the broth gets boiling you can turn it down a little if needed. Keep a pitcher of water on the table to refill the pots if they start to boil down. Make sure you have a lid that fits because this sometimes comes in handy when cooking.

You can use just about any kind of meat you like, but we prefer pork, chicken, and shrimp. Ask your butcher to slice the pork and chicken thinly. We own a meat slicer, so we slice it ourselves. For my family, I would plan on about 2 pounds of meat. If you have left over, you can always eat it again the next day. :)

Once again, you can use any vegetable you like but we prefer the following.
--Nappa Cabbage cut in manageable chunk size.
--Spinach leaves
--Daikon radish peeled and cut in cubes
--bean sprouts

We like:
--Firm Tofu drained cut in cubes.
--Straw mushrooms (we use canned)
--Any other mushroom you like.
--Bean thread noodles (clear noodles)


As soon as the broth is simmering, add some of the meat, vegetables and extras to the broth. The radish takes a little longer to cook than the other food. When the pink is gone from the meat, or when the shrimp turns color, it is done. The vegetables cook very quickly, so don't let them get too soft. If the pot is particularly full, you might want to put the lid on to help bring the heat back up so that the food cooks quicker.

Each person can retrieve the food they like from the pot and dip it in their sauce and eat it. We use chop sticks to retrieve the food from the broth, but you could have a large serving spoon handy for those who are "chopstick challenged". :) Most Chinese like to drink the soup with the noodles at the end of the meal.

This is a pretty healthy meal, and tastes great! The most difficult part for most people is finding the sauce. But I think many grocery stores now days carry it. Give this dinner a try!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recipe Challenge

I recently posted a recipe for my mother's "meat rolls". Although I liked the recipe, I felt it could be improved. I asked fellow blogger Rickb, who is a chef, to see what he could do to make it better. His recipe definitely looks better! I'm going to try it! If you need a good idea for dinner, check out this recipe on his blog. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Food Review: Limburger Cheese

My family LOVES cheese. And I don't mean the boring stuff that most people buy. My husband takes great care to find interesting cheeses for us to try. At holiday time, he makes up a cheese platter consisting of many different kinds of cheese. Once, after traveling in England, he bought some English cheddar and brought it home in his suitcase. We love all different kinds of cheese, and my children are not timid when it comes to strong cheeses like blue cheese. Yesterday, for the first time in our lives, we tried Limburger cheese.

I think my review of limburger cheese could best be summed up in the after taste I experienced. The cheese was VERY strong, but after I ate it, I felt like I had eaten something off the barnyard ground. I told my son it tasted like I had eaten cow manure. He asked how I knew what cow manure tasted like. I told him that limburger cheese came closest to what I imagine cow manure to taste like.

In some ways I wondered if I would like it better in cooking. But I don't want my entire dish of food tasting like the barnyard, so I'm afraid to try it and see.
What is your experience with limburger?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Favorite Kitchen Tools

I decided that I wanted to share some of my favorite kitchen utensils. As I write, I realize I forgot to take a picture of one of my favorites; my wok and chopsticks.

First I should say that my cooking is greatly influenced by chinese cooking. I use chopsticks to turn things in hot oil. I use a wok for most of my vegetable cooking. Below is a picture of my favorite knives. The one on the left is a "rocker" knife that is really useful in chopping vegetables. It is especially useful when you want things cut finely. Next to it is my favorite cleaver. I had another cleaver that I really liked, but recently the handle on it broke. I was afraid I wouldn't find one that I liked as much, but I think I like this one even more. It is just the right size for my hands, and I love the slightly curved blade.

This next picture contains some odds and ends that I find really useful. On the left is a chinese rolling pin. I know that chefs say you should have a large rolling pin, but this one fits my hands just right and I can manipulate it easily. I prefer this to the large rolling pins. I have a large one somewhere, I just never use it.
Next to it are a garlic peeler, and a garlic press. We eat a lot of fresh garlic. The bottled stuff has a sour taste to it, and just doesn't give the right flavor. Garlic salt is nothing like the real thing, and adds more salt than I want. This garlic peeler takes the peels off so easily, and the garlic press gives just the right consistency, while releasing the oils.

This platter is one of my favorite items in my kitchen. I'm really not a person who goes for gold plated china. I love this metal platter that I bought at IKEA. It is really large and can hold a large turkey plus trimmings, or can hold several batches of cookies. And I don't know why, but the pattern just makes me happy. :) I think it only cost me about $12, but has been indispensable.

This last picture is of a purchase I made this last Christmas. I'm not sure if you can tell, but these are soup mugs. My husband and I have a thing for red bowls. We can't seem to pass up red bowls in the store. In general, whenever we eat chinese food we eat it on red plates, and in red bowls. I love having these soup bowls on the counter to add color to my kitchen, and to be ready for dinner. I bought these at World Market for about $12.

Okay, those are some of my favorite kitchen gadgets. What are some of yours?