It’s the end of the month and that means I’m up to my eyeballs in photo editing and post writing. Several blog challenges are due and as usual, I’ve left a couple of them until the last minute. I’ve enjoyed cooking the recipes and photographing the results, but the writing maybe just takes a bit more of an effort. It doesn’t always come naturally so you can always tell when I’m forcing a blog post.
Fortunately I don’t have to force anything with this post about the ‘Around the World in Twelve Plates’ challenge by Gabby of The Food Girl in Town. This blogger is no stranger to blog challenges having cooked every cover recipe from Food and Wine magazine back in 2013. I like blog challenges because they make me feel accountable and because they force me to cook dishes that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. Gabby says she enjoys them because she “learned new cooking skills, acquired some awesome kitchen gadgets, and stocked my spice cupboard like a baller”. Ditto lady…ditto! One look at the recipes available on my blog and you will notice that A) I bake a lot BUT more importantly B) I love to cook dishes from other countries. That’s what makes this sort of a challenge extra fun for me.
So what is the Around the World in Twelve Plates Challenge (ATW12P for short)? Each month we cook a meal or dish from a country of Gabby’s choosing. Since this challenge is designed to stretch our abilities, tummies, and pantry shelves she has taken Italian, French, and Indian off the list of possible cuisines. Well, that still leaves literally a whole world of possibilities and this month our cooking challenge country is CHINA. I’m not talking about Ginger Beef (did you know this dish was invented in Calgary?) or any kind of ‘Americanized’ version of Chinese take out dishes. No more Moo Goo Gai Pan or Almond Gai Ding…only an authentic dish is acceptable for this challenge. Remember, we want to stretch our limits here!
I happen to own a brilliant Chinese cookbook from Kian Lam Kho called Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. Kian wrote this cookbook specifically for people like me who may not have had a lot of exposure to authentic Chinese cooking. He included a brilliant section on pantry basics and tools, chapters on different techniques, and explains all the regions of Chinese cooking. If you are wanting to learn more about this cuisine (and even if you know quite a bit about Chinese cooking), I highly recommend this cookbook. I don’t own a properly seasoned wok, so I chose the low and slow method of braising for my ATW12P challenge. While the Red Cooking Technique can be applied to almost any protein, I used this slow braise method with stew beef. The combined aromas from the star anise, cinnamon bark, dried orange peel, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds were driving us crazy all afternoon but the end result was worth it!
I think everyone had a lot of fun with January’s challenge…check them all out here:
The Food Girl in Town: http://thefoodgirlintown.com/2017/01/31/around-the-world-in-12-plates-china/
Chinese Red Cooked Beef
- 1 pound stew beef or chuck; cut into one inch cubes
- 4 cups beef stock, or the liquid from the parboiling, or water. Plus more as needed.
- 1/2 cup Shaoxing cooking wine
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 inch long piece of fresh ginger; crushed with flat side of the knife
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 whole star anise
- 1 – 2 inch square piece of cassia bark
- 1 – 2 inch square of dried tangerine peel
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 4 dried red chilies (optional)
- 1 medium carrot; cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 medium daikon radish; cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 tbsp green onion; chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro; chopped
- Place the beef in a dutch oven and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and skim off surface scum for about ten minutes.
- If using stock, drain parboiling liquid, otherwise add dark soy sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and sugar to the dutch oven.
- Place star anise, cassia bark, tangerine peel, peppercorns, fennel seeds, and chilies into a mutlilayerd cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature and cover. Cook for 2 hours, replenishing liquid as needed.
- Add the carrot and daikon, and ensure they are immersed in the braising liquid. Add more if needed.
- Cook until vegetables are tender.
- Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions and cilantro.