Blog Site is Moving

I have been so grateful to the community that I have formed on WordPress.com. Thank you everyone for following, liking, commenting on, and sharing my posts. I am not always the most responsive, but I have greatly appreciated the support. Sadly, I have decided to close wok-with-me.com and I will be moving to a new website: JennsKitchenDiary.com. It is my hope that I can grow and optimize my scope of reach through this new website. Wok-with-me.com will remain in operation until October 2019, so feel free to save any recipes that you’ve enjoyed. I will slowly build JennsKitchenDiary.com using the content that I have already published on wok-with-me.com, while adding new content as well. I hope that folks who have enjoyed the content I posted on wok with me will continue to provide support and follow my food adventures on JennsKitchenDiary.com.

Sending much love,

Jenn

Soy Sauce Glazed Steak

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It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. I have been avoiding writing on the food blog, because it is tied to my Instagram account, which was named in honor of my beloved fur baby, Benji. Sadly, we had to put our little doggy to rest on June 14. This was one of the most difficult decisions that my husband and I have had to make. We went through various stages of grief, guilt, and shame. Now, I feel that we are at a place of acceptance and peace, or at least working toward it. As a therapist, I try to emphasize healthy coping strategies to my patients. I am trying to practice what I preach. We have made a memorial collage in Benji’s honor and are working on cartoon caricature stickers and t-shirts at the moment. We want to celebrate the life that he lived and focus on our happy uplifting moments, rather than the difficulty of the last days of his life. In that spirit, I thought I might post a recipe that Benji might have enjoyed and eat his favorite foods in his honor. His favorite foods in the world were: steak (or beef), chicken, Japanese sweet potato, and fried eggs. He absolutely loved steak and enjoyed it every Christmas and Thanksgiving when my family would make loads of it. He would pace around the kitchen near my feet every time I seared a nice juicy steak. This was so endearing that it would often earn him a nice nibble as a treat. Which is why Ray and I decided to prepare a big juicy rib eye steak for Benji as his last meal on the last day we had with him. Every time I smell beef or prepare it for dinner, I will always think of my precious little guy and what joy he experienced as he relished this special treat. RIP my little pup.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe for an Asian-inspired soy sauce glazed steak with green onions. I actually prepared this recipe using some rib eye that I had dry aged in my own refrigerator for 20 days. This aging process intensified the beefiness of the meat and made it super tender. If you have the time and patience and can stomach wasting about 20% of your roast, I would highly recommend dry aging at home.

Steps for Simple Dry Aging at Home:

  1. Rinse your roast and pat dry with clean paper towels.
  2. Cover your meat completely with a large piece of cheesecloth, wrapping 3-4 layers around the meat. This will helps to absorb any moisture that is released during the dry aging process.
  3. Elevate meat onto a rack and place onto a plate.
  4. Place in your refrigerator and let sit for ~20 days.
  5. After 20 days, unwrap the meat from the cheesecloth and cut off dried/leathery surfaces.
  6. Take the meat that is left and prepare as steaks or stir-fries.

 

Cooking Tips:

Ingredients in stir fries involving veggies and proteins are often cooked in separate batches. Because you have various cooking times of your ingredients you want to be strategic so as not to overcook your veggies. In general: cook your meat first, and then remove from the wok/heat. This prevents your meat from overcooking. Then cook your veggies starting from the thickest/ones that will take the longest to cook.

Flavor each component of your stir-fry separately first, and then together. For example, add seasoning to your meat and allow to sit for a few minutes. Afterward, add seasoning to your veggies as they cook separately. When you mix the meat back in to the veggies to cook, season again, usually with some kind of sauce (e.g., soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, black bean sauce).

Some folks parboil thicker veggies ahead of time to reduce stir-fry time. For example, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, etc… By parboiling, I mean that you should cook them only for 2-5 minutes so that the veggies are still crunchy and not cooked through yet. You want the stir-fry process to finish the cooking. Otherwise, you will end up with mushy vegetables.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5-7 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb steak, cut into ½ inch thick strips
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 bunch of green onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter

Season beef with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare green onion and cut into 2-inch pieces.

Turn on wok or skillet on high. When pan is very hot, add oil. When oil is shimmery, add steak and allow to sear for 30 seconds-1 minute on each side until beef is just cooked through. Then remove beef from skillet

Add green onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes

Add beef back into pan with green onion. Add butter. Stir-fry and add soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper to taste.

Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Remove from heat and serve.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Tomato Beef Stir Fry

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Continuing on my lower carb eating goals, I have been trying out various stir-fries. Although I have to admit that I dearly miss white rice, I am also satisfied by the richness of flavors imbued in stir-fried dishes. Because of the practice of cooking meat and veggies on very high heat, stir-fries often carry a rich smokiness that comes from a hot wok (referred to as “wok air” in Cantonese). This is analogous to the smoky quality of American barbecue, as it differentiates truly great stir-fry from mediocre stir fry.

Traditional stir-fries in Chinese cuisine require copious amounts of oil, a practice that I try to modify in my own home cooking. I remember feeling appalled when I saw my parents cook a stir-fried vegetable dish at home. You would never think that almost half a cup of oil went into the healthy-looking vegetable dish served on our dinner table. Of course, I appreciate that the oil provides a certain level of flavor and texture in Chinese cuisine, so I do not believe in stir frying completely without oil. But I have found my own ways of achieving a similar flavor profile while saving on calories and fat.

Your basic stir-fry is comprised of the following:

  1. Oil
  2. Aromatics (garlic, ginger, scallion, chile)
  3. Thinly sliced vegetables
  4. Thinly sliced meat
  5. Flavoring sauce (salt, soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, shrimp paste, black bean sauce, etc…)

Once you have this formula down, you can be creative and make new combinations of stir-fries. In stir-fries, it is absolutely essential that you first start by frying your aromatics in oil. This perfumes and flavors your oil so that the veggies and meat that are eventually cooked in it will also take on the flavor profile of the aromatics. But be careful not to burn your aromatics, especially garlic. Once your garlic turns somewhat golden brown, dump all your vegetables in and stir vigorously. This will release much-needed liquid to prevent your garlic from burning. Another trick is to splash a bit of water into your wok/pan and then cover with a lid to create some steam for more rapid cooking.

Also, I know I often rant about how adding sesame oil to a dish does not necessarily make it an authentic Asian dish. I get upset when I think about some famous chefs and their take on Asian food because it always involves sesame oil. And that is just not the case. Clearly, some dishes greatly benefit from the rich earthiness of sesame oil, but there are also times that it does not belong. This is actually a dish that benefits from such a splash of sesame oil. So, drizzle away! But not too much. Too much of sesame oil will make your dish taste like dirt. Yuck.

Cooking notes/tips:

An essential nuance in cooking with a wok is timing and knowing which ingredients to stir fry first, which to stir-fry together, and which must be separately stir-fried and then combined later on with the sauce. Most stir fried veggie dishes start off with the browning of garlic in oil before adding the other ingredients. The problem is that the garlic will quickly burn if it is not given some liquid. To prevent burning of garlic, I usually add a splash of water to my stir-fry after adding the vegetables. Traditional Chinese cooking utilizes LOADS of oil to prevent garlic from burning, but that is a rather unhealthy approach, so I prefer my splash of water.

In stir-fries involving meat and veggies, I almost always stir-fry the meat first, remove it from the pan, and then stir fry the veggies separately. This allows proper cooking of each ingredient, as cooking them all at once will create a watery mess. They are later combined and stir-fried with the sauce, which is oftentimes soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, fermented bean sauce.

Stir-fried vegetables should always retain some level of crunch after cooking. When in doubt, slightly undercook your veggies. That way, the residual heat will do the rest of the softening of the veggies. For people who follow a meal prep life, undercooking the veggies is a good strategy to give your veggies the perfect texture after re-heating.

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp oil
½ lb Flank steak, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp oil
1 bunch of garlic chive, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes cut into 1-inch wedges
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
Optional: splash of sesame oil

Marinate steak in soy sauce and corn starch. Allow to sit at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep other ingredients.

Turn on wok or skillet on high. When pan is very hot, add oil. When oil is shimmery, add flank steak and stir fry for 3-5 minutes until beef is just cooked through. Then remove from heat.

Add oil to the skillet/wok, and when oil is shimmery, add in garlic chives and tomato. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes, until vegetables are slightly softened.

Add in beef and stir fry together. Add in oyster sauce and sugar. Stir fry another minute. Taste for seasoning.

Remove from heat and serve.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Balsamic Glazed Bacon Brussels Sprouts

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Wow, it has almost been half a year since I’ve posted! I have been meaning to get back into posting about my culinary adventures, but life can sometimes get away from you. In December, I was offered a promotion at work. I became a manager, which meant I had to learn how to train others, manager others, and find a way to do it without transforming into the quintessential horrible boss. It is so common to have a horrible boss that Hollywood even made a movie out of it. I wanted to find a way to help train and manage others, ensuring high quality work, while trying to build up those that I supervise. A few months later, I finally feel like I’ve got a grasp on it and have some free time in the evenings now. While it would be awesome to food blog full-time and support myself financially with this, I have to be practical and make sure that I sustain the life that I have. I realize that we are not all destined to be internet famous (or famous in other ways). I am just content to produce a record of the food I love to cook and be able to share it with others who are interested. So after all this time, I’m going to post a relatively simple recipe, because I’ve had to prepare more simple dishes to accommodate a busy life.

Brussels sprouts were the underdog of the vegetable world that recently became head of the pack in recent years. Chefs have reinvented this misunderstood green, much to my delight. Growing up in an Asian household, we never ate Brussels sprouts. Instead, we would opt for its more mellow cousins-broccoli and gai lan (AKA Chinese broccoli). When I first began experimenting with these oddball veggies, I really couldn’t understand how to make them palatable. They have an intense bitterness that needs to be tamed. So lesson #1: never serve boiled or steamed Brussels sprouts. The bitterness will pucker your lips and turn you away. Instead, Brussels need a good blistering, a result that can only be achieved by combining oil and heat. You can choose to pan fry, deep fry, or roast in the oven. Either way, make sure to use LOTS, and I mean LOTS, of oil and/or butter when cooking these babies.

Friends of Brussels sprouts also include: bacon, vinegar, sugar, garlic, butter, onions. I love adding caramelized onions to my sprouts because they add a nice sweetness. I did not include these in this recipe for the sake of simplicity. Instead, Balsamic vinegar plays a key role in taming the beastly bitterness that resides inside of a Brussels sprout. Aged vinegar will be sweeter than the thinner non-aged versions. You don’t need anything fancy. I love the Trader Joe’s brand of aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe. In terms of bacon, you’ll want to avoid bacon that has a large amount of sugar in it as the high roasting temperatures will burn your bacon.

 

Cooking Tips

I prefer to use fresh Brussels sprouts instead of frozen as that will impact the flavor and texture of your dish.

Cut Brussels sprouts in half or ¼ pieces to increase the surface area that touches oil, which will create more delicious golden and charred surfaces. This will also reduce cooking time and allow any seasonings that you use to better absorb through the layers of leaves that comprise a sprout.

A general tip for roasting veggies in the oven: hotter is better. You want your oven at least at 400 degrees F. Oftentimes, I will actually turn on my broiler/burner on maximum heat to get a good roast on my veggies. At lower temperatures, your veggies will just steam, which defeats the purpose of a good oven treatment.

Although an oven will say that it is at 350 degrees F, there is no knowing its true temperature unless you stick a thermometer inside. It is important to know if your oven runs hot or cold, and where its hot spots are. That way, you can learn to adjust cooking time and rotate your food as needed to ensure even cooking.

Recipe
Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb Brussels sprouts, quartered
4 slices bacon, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch red pepper flake
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced sliced
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Cut Brussels sprouts length-wise into 1/4 pieces (i.e., cut Brussels sprouts in half, and then in half again).

Cut bacon into ½ inch pieces.

Combine Brussels sprouts with oil, bacon, salt, pepper, and red pepper flake. Place onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Spray with additional oil as needed.

Roast Brussels sprouts for 30-35 minutes, turning every 10 minutes to allow even roasting.

When Brussels sprouts have become golden brown and bacon has become crisp, sprinkle minced garlic and splash vinegar evenly onto the sprouts.

Continue to roast for another 5 minutes or until the balsamic vinegar has begun to thicken and become a glaze.

Remove from oven, taste for seasoning, and enjoy!