Moo Shu Pork

Growing up, you could never entice me with a pork chop.  Or any pork product of any kind, except maybe a hot dog.  Nowadays things seem to have reversed themselves.  I haven’t touched a hot dog in years, and other cuts of pork have never looked so good.

The one exception being bacon.  I despise bacon.  Boo all you want, but it won’t change my mind.  To me, bacon is gross, and that’s just the way it is.  But put a nice pork shoulder or tenderloin in front of me and I am ready to go.

We all know I love pulled pork.  Well, I also am really starting to like pork tenderloin.  I bought a 2-pound one when they were on sale one day, and threw it in the freezer until I could figure out what to do with it.

Not having a grill, and an unwillingness to repeat the cleaning disaster that is my grill pan, I knew there must be other ways to utilize this meat.

And oh lordy I found it.  Now, I have never had moo shu pork from an American Chinese restaurant.  I never had it in China as it is a northern dish and I was in Taiwan (which falls more into the Southern school of cooking).  So I have no idea if this is close in taste to “authentic” moo shu pork, but my goodness was it good.

The recipe also calls for making your own mandarin pancakes, so it’s intensive, but the final result is quite impressive and sure to delight.  Plus, it’s MSG free!!

Moo Shu Pork

Adapted from 2002 Cooking Light Annual Recipes

Makes 6-8 servings

For the pancakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup boiling water

1 ½ Tbsp sesame oil

For the pork filling:

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine or sake

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp cornstarch

1 ½ lbs boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into 1x ¼ inch pieces

½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms

8 oz button mushrooms, sliced

½ cup scallions, sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp peeled fresh ginger, grated

3 Tbsp rice wine or sake

3 Tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp cornstarch

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp peanut oil (or any other veggie oil), divided

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 Tbsp rice wine or sake

½ cup hoisin sauce

1 Tbsp soy sauce

First, marinate the pork.  Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large Ziploc bag.  Add the pork, seal, shake to coat pieces and let marinate in the refrigerator for one hour, turning occasionally.  Remove pork from bag and discard the marinade.

While the pork is marinating, make the pancakes.  Combine the flour and water in a large bowl.  Stir until a soft dough forms, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.  Shape the dough into a 1 ½ inch thick log.  Divide the dough into 14 or 16 equal portions.  Roll each dough portion into a 6 inch circle.  Brush one half of the pancakes evenly with the oil, then top them with another pancake, gently pressing them together.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Place 1 pancake stack in the pan and cook for one minute on each side or until slightly puffed.  Remove from pan, and cool.  Peel pancakes apart and repeat with the rest of the pancake pairs.  Set them aside to cool.

Continue to make the filling.  Combine 2 cups boiling water with the dried shiitakes mushrooms in a bowl, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes.  Drain, discard the stems, and thinly slice the caps.  Combine sliced shiitakes, sliced button mushrooms, scallions and ginger in a medium bowl, set aside.

Combine 3 Tbsp rice wine and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk.  Set aside.

Heat ½ Tbsp oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add pork, and stir fry 3-5 minutes, or until no longer pink.  Remove pork from pan.  Add the remaining oil and add the vegetable mixture.  Stir fry for 5-8 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and have released their juices.  Add the eggs, and stir fry 30 seconds more or until softly scrambled.  Add the pork back in, and then add in the cornstarch mixture.  Stir fry for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.  Place pork mixture on a platter.

Combine hoisin sauce and soy sauce in a small bowl.  Spread a little of the mixture on each pancake, then top each with about ½ cup of the pork mixture.  Roll up and enjoy!


Beef Stroganoff

Man oh man, I really wish we had a grill.  When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, something just makes people what to cook their food outside on a fiery hot grill.

I will admit to being one of these people, minus owning a grill.  Our downstairs neighbors have one outside their door, and I’ve been tempted to ask to borrow use of it, but then I remember that I’ve never owned, operated, nor cleaned a grill and wouldn’t want to leave it in poor condition, nor have to pitifully ask them to help me through every step of using it.

So I tried to find some middle ground, i.e. a grill pan.  It worked wonderfully, despite the fact that I cut the meat too thickly in some cases and that I smoked up the majority of the apartment, even with three windows open.  (My kitchen has no hood, so I had to remove the closest fire detector because I’d set it off stir-frying mushrooms)

Anyway, the grill pan was great…until it came time to clean the darn thing.  Half an hour later, Luke and I had resorted to scouring it with SOS, as I had given up on preserving any of the seasoning while scrubbing away char bits.  Eventually, we got it to a manageable level, and now I have grime under all of my fingernails that won’t go away.  At this point, since we’re moving to a house with a real yard in a few months, I’ll hold off on grilling until we have an actual grill.  It was worth a try though.

Beef stroganoff does not require grilling, thank goodness.  It’s one of those stick-to-your-bones meals that always brings a smile to my face.  I remember my mom making this dish with cream of mushroom soup back when I was younger.  Since Luke is a lover of both beef and mushrooms, I feel like I should have made this sooner!

One more thing before you go.  I wrote a little piece elsewhere on the internets about how to master Chinese.  Click here if you’d like to check it out!

Beef Stroganoff

Adapted from What’s Cookin’ Chicago

Makes 4-6 servings

1 1/4 lbs sirloin steak tips (trimmed of excess fat and cut lengthwise with grain into 4 equal pieces)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 lb white mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp hot water
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 tsp sugar
fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
4 tsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp white wine
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Using a fork, poke each piece of steak a couple times. Place in baking dish; rub both sides evenly with soy sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.

While meat marinates, place mushrooms in medium microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until mushrooms have decreased by volume by half, 4-5 minutes (should be as much as 1/4 cup liquid in bowl). Drain mushrooms and set aside; discard liquid. Combine water, dry mustard, sugar, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a small bowl until smooth paste forms; set aside.

Pat steak pieces dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place steak pieces in skillet and cook until browned on all sides and internal temperature registers 125 to 130 degrees, 6-9 minutes, reducing heat if the outside begins to burn. Transfer meat to large plate and set aside while cooking sauce.
Add mushrooms, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt to skillet and cook until vegetables begin to brown and dark bits form on bottom of pan, 6-8 minutes. Add tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring constantly, until onions and mushrooms are coated, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/3 cup wine, beef broth and mustard paste and bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce has reduced slightly and begun to thicken, 4-6 minutes.

While sauce is reducing, cut steak pieces across grain into 1/4″ thick slices. Stir in meat and any accumulated juices into thickened sauce and cook until beef has warmed through, 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let any bubbles subside. Stir in sour cream and remaining tablespoons wine; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish and serve with egg noodles.

Fettuccine with Chive Sauce & Mushrooms

I thought it might be fun to get Izzy a spinning hay dispenser to keep her occupied, since she’s the sole house bunny.  It was not so fun vacuuming up this mess.  Izzy liked the dispenser though, and moved it around her pen.  I have since removed it because of the mess it makes.

Oh well.  Experimentation is part of life I suppose.  It’s how we find new things to enjoy.  Or, we use things we already enjoy and turn them into something new.

Which is how chives, mushrooms and pasta became a meal.  And quite a delicious meal at that.

The chive sauce is almost like a pesto, making this pasta very fresh and springy-tasting.  Even though it seems like we’ve skipped spring and moved right on into summer.

Whatever.  I made this while it was still cold out, and enjoyed it immensely.  Also, it’s incredibly quick to throw together if you need a dinner idea and have chives on hand.

Fettuccine with Chive Sauce and Mushrooms

Adapted from 20 Something Cupcakes

Makes 3-4 servings

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup roughly snipped fresh chives

1 pound fettuccine (or any other pasta)

 Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Toss the mushrooms in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Spread the mushrooms in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning once, until tender and browned, about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut the mushrooms into quarters.

In a food processor or blender, combine the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, the chives, and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Process until pureéd.

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water if you plan to serve the pasta hot. In a large serving bowl, toss the pasta with the mushrooms and chive oil. If serving immediately, toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water. Otherwise, let the pasta cool to room temperature.  Don’t forget to top with grated parmesan or romano cheese!

Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Shells

My little bundle of bunny love was only gone for about 9 hours.  I kept myself busy so as not to notice her absence too much, but every time I walked into the living room, I still almost starting crooning at an empty pen.  I dropped her off around 8am, and got a call from the vet at 9:25am saying her surgery was successful.  Wow, that was quick.  When I had kidney surgery, it took 6 hours!  I guess spaying is a pretty basic operation.

I lay a sheet down in her pen last night so she’s more comfortable.  She’s just been lounging about looking half asleep, though this morning she’s being a little more lively.  She’s also waddling a little from the incision.  Definitely adding to her adorable factor.  All in all, I’m immensely thrilled that she’s back home safe, and hopefully some of her more annoying behaviors will have been removed along with her uterus.

Ok…food time.  One of my New Years resolutions for 2012 is to cook dinner more often.  What?  Me, the person that practically sleeps in the kitchen doesn’t cook dinner every night?  Hey, only robots cook dinner every night.  There’s always food to eat for dinner, but I don’t cook it from scratch every night.  So I’m going to work on that.

I’m also going to work on getting Luke to eat more veggies.  This dinner was a semi-success.  I was determined to use up the rest of my thawed spinach…and I might have gone overboard.  Fine for me, not so great for Luke.  He still ate it and smiled, and took some for lunch the next day.

This dish was all thumbs up from me.  Ricotta, parmesan, mushrooms, spinach and pasta shells?  Yes, please.  I’m pretty sure I ate this for 3 nights straight, and was perfectly content every time.  If I make it again, and I hope I do, I’ll use less spinach.

Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Shells

Adapted from Handle the Heat

Serves 4-6

20 jumbo pasta shells (about half a 12-ounce box)

1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce (or 3 cups homemade sauce)

1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta

2 cups baby spinach, chopped (I used half a bag of frozen spinach)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

8 oz chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup grated mozzarella (4 ounces)

Set an oven rack to the highest position and heat oven to 400° F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool.

Spread the marinara sauce in the bottom of a large broilerproof baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, basil, mushrooms, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on top of the sauce. Alternatively, transfer mixture into a large ziploc bag, snip one corner, and pipe filling into shells.

Sprinkle the shells with the mozzarella and bake until heated through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Increase heat to broil. Broil the shells until cheese begins to brown, 2 to 5 minutes.