Saturday, July 31, 2010

Crunchy Cabbage, Cucumber, and Chicken Stir-Fry

I make stir-fries a lot. They're a really simple and tasty way to make a quick and veggie-packed dinner. Usually, by the time the rice is done, my meal is done, as well (or at least really close to being done!) I often use a few variations on some common themes: beef and broccoli (sometimes with red bell peppers or carrots) with a lightly sweet soy sauce; shredded pork and cabbage with dark soy and a little heat from sriracha or sambal olek; sliced pork or chicken with Thai red curry paste, lime leaves, green beans, and basil. And sometimes I just dump in whatever I have on hand, with whatever condiments, vinegar, sauces, herbs, and maybe some crunchy toppings, sound good. The great thing is, it's pretty hard to screw up. As long as I don't overcook my meat and veggies, or make the sauce too salty, it's all pretty tasty. But I don't find them worthy of posting, because I don't measure, and while they're always good, they're never great. Not something you'd feel comfortable telling someone "Hey, you should make this! You'll like it."

Well, this time I made one that's really good, and worthy repeating (and a blog post)! Cabbage and snow peas are great in stir-fries, but the real winner here is the cucumber. Stir-fried until slightly softened, the flavor becomes sweeter, milder, and almost a little nutty. The texture becomes more silky, and it loses some of that graininess. It becomes a really nice and unexpected foil to the crisp and crunchy cabbage and peas. The mint and cilantro are a must here, too, as they cap off the stir-fry with a nice, fresh, herbal note. With a side of your favorite rice, this is a lean, healthy, satisfying meal that feels like a real treat.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Italian Chicken Burgers

Italian Chicken Burgers at Paprika Red

I told you guys I was on a burger kick!

What happens when you take inspiration from Chicken Milanese and Salad Caprese and put it on a bun? You get a delicious sandwich, that's what. The idea for this sprang from seeing a recipe in Bon Appetit about a Chicken Parmigiana sandwich. It looked delicious, but I wrestled with the idea of putting tomato sauce on my sandwich. I envisioned trying to eat it and getting a ring of sauce in the palms of my hands. I pictured the sauce dripping onto my shirt. I pictured soggy breading. In my mind, this wasn't really going too well. I wanted a crisp-coated chicken burger, and that tangy tomato flavor, and of course the basil and cheese. Just no gloppy messiness, please.

I started with a lb of ground chicken, and an egg. It got very soupy very quickly, I had to use quite a bit of what I'd planned on using for the coating as a binder, to sop up the juice. But that's ok, because the end result is a delicious, juicy patty that doesn't taste bready, and who can argue with that? Depending on how moist your chicken is, you may need more or less bread crumbs, so add a TB or two a time until you can form a patty, while trying to handle the patty as little as possible.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vietnamese-style Pork Burgers

Vietnamese-style Pork Burgers at Paprika Red

I've been slightly obsessed with burgers lately. I love just about anything on a bun, from handmade veggie burgers to beef with bacon, with lamb burgers (with goat cheese and pickled red onions, please!) being one of my favorites. Not to mention that I think my husband has perfected the beef burger (he has a secret ingredient - I'll see if I can get him to share it in a later post!). But I've been trying new ways to get some of my favorite flavor combos sandwiched between a yeasty kaiser roll or soft ciabatta, if you are a talented enough baker, or lucky enough to source some good ones, and to cut down on meat costs by purchasing ground meat. If you are in the Seattle area, I am really fond of Essential Baking's kaiser rolls, as well as their Panino rolls, or, if you're feeling decadent, Macrina's brioche buns. I know, buying expensive buns may seem to defeat the purpose of eating frugally, but to me, the bun is second only to the patty, so I won't skimp there.

This is a pretty straightforward translation - turning a pork banh mi into a pork burger. I'll admit, it's not much of a stretch, but it sure is yummy! Use good quality and fairly lean ground pork - I really like Thundering Hooves - and toss with a little fish sauce, dark soy, and lemongrass. I used to purchase whole lemongrass, peel them to their less fibrous innards, chop them into 3" lengths, and freeze them until I needed them (I do a similar thing with ginger). And this is still a good option, but one day, browsing through the large Asian section at my favorite local grocery store, I found a giant frozen tub of finely minced lemongrass. For about $2. Well not only was this a time saver, but it's also an excellent deal, so I snagged it and have been using it ever since!