This past week, I’ve not only spent more time in the kitchen, but also have tried to break out of my comfort zone. The results are not always perfect. Sometimes things get thrown right down the drain. But, I promised to share with you my successes and my ‘learning experiences’ so here it goes . . .
First, an explanation about my inspiration. Part of the reason that we end up eating out so often is because most of (okay, fine, all of) my cooking repertoire is Italian-inspired. Lately, though, my tastebuds have been screaming for spice, which means lots of Mexican and Thai food. These are Brad’s favorites, so he’s happy as a clam. But, my kitchen is feeling very lonely because I don’t cook either of them. Ever.
Why the aversion to cooking Mexican and Thai food at home? I was convinced that they require tons of ingredients, too many dishes, special equipment, and lots of time. How could I possibly prepare a stir fry with umpteen vegetables, a tasty sauce, and some form of protein at the end of a busy workday? Especially when it’s so easy to swing by our Thai place and pick it up on the way home!
Answer: Vegetable Chow Mein with Teriyaki Pork
I went to the grocery store after work, got home at 7:00, and dinner was on the table by 8:00.
The key: Multi-tasking. By timing the vegetable prep while you are waiting for other things, you maximize every minute. So, I re-wrote the recipe to highlight when you have pockets of time to prep while other things are cooking.
The stir fry ingredients are easy: green beans, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, noodles, hoisin sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce, and honey. I had most of these in the kitchen already!
To keep things simple, I had the meat-man (Yes, that’s what I call him. He doesn’t mind.) cut two lean pork loin chops extra-thin and throw on some teriyaki sauce. Having them cut thin makes them cook in half the time — a tip that I wish I’d remembered when I left them under the broiler too long. And, having them pre-marinated saved me from having to make another sauce. (It’s all about taking baby steps, here.)
The result, while not perfect, was good enough that the leftovers are actually being eaten. And, I have a good base recipe that I will use as a starting point for future dishes.
Lessons learned ::
1. Wok oil is over-rated. It sounds like a good idea; it’s made for stir frying, after all. But, the garlic and peppery flavors overwhelmed the sauce. Next time, I’ll stick with safflower oil and maybe a splash of peanut oil for flavor.
2. The broiler should not be under-estimated. My plan was to cook the pork chops under the broiler, set on Lo, for 5-6 minutes per side. I watched those suckers like a hawk for the first 4 minutes, and was convinced they weren’t going to cook through. Then, I made a rookie mistake and walked away. Within seconds, they went from moist and barely pink to bubbly and brown. (I tried to convince myself that this was just yummy caramelization, but the truth is that they were burnt.) I flipped them over to cook on the other side. Then, quickly pulled them out to rest, all while crossing my fingers that they would OK. They were edible, but definitely required a knife, which a good pork chop should not need. Brad is trooper, and ate every bite with smile. 🙂
3. I *can* make Asian food at home. And, considering the amount of leftover chow mein, I even did it at half the price!