The Best Asian Pan Sauce

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I thought about calling this post “The Little Asian Pan Sauce That Could…Be Put on Everything”.  But ultimately, I thought simple was better, because this sauce is exactly that: simple.  And, yet, it is extraordinarily delicious on everything I have brushed it onto: chicken, shrimp, pork, pineapple, roasted vegetables.  These photos are from the beginning of the summer, before the camp craziness, but I have made this sauce several more times throughout the past weeks.  Even after an 11-hour work day, the fifteen minutes spent to create this sauce were well worth it.  Though I rarely remembered to take photographs over the last seven hectic weeks, I still have a respectable list of recipes (and even a craft or two) waiting to be posted.  But this sauce tops the list.

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Camp is an interesting time in my life.  I keep hoping that I will be better adjusted each time that summer rolls around, but even after three years, camp is the sprint of my occupational race.  This year, with our move, we were up by 5:30am to walk the dog, pack breakfast, dress and get out the door to beat traffic.  M’s schedule had him outside for five hours of the day, and running around in between.  My schedule had me warming-up, stretching, dancing, writing, filming, improvising, acting, blocking, and directing 30 teenagers for seven hours straight, before joining M for the final hours outside.  Besides the physical energy needed to keep up with our campers, the mental energy needed also surprises me.  We are monitoring allergies and health issues, and students’ preferences, behavior, and participation.  We are leaders, mediators, teachers, and examples, whether we are behaving correctly or not.  Especially with teenagers, the moment that their teachers disengage in an activity, their interest is lost, as well.  We eat with the students and take breaks with them; every moment between when they step out of their car, until they climb back in, is under our eyes.

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So I suppose it isn’t so surprising that camp, while exhilarating, entertaining, and uplifting; is also entirely draining.  Though I jumped at the chance to participate in any opportunities for stretching during the camp day, I come out of camp craving long walks and yoga.  I find myself needing a nap by midday, and still climbing into bed early each night.  I yearn for the contemplative time spent kneading gnocchi dough, simmering soups, and slow-roasting vegetables.  I need to savor the meditative smells of rising yeast bread, caramelizing onions, and fresh-chopped herbs.  The end of camp sends me running to the kitchen and also induces cravings for the heartier, slower autumn dishes, in spite of the August heat.  Luckily, butternut squash is already starting to appear in our farmer’s markets, and the summery tomatoes and peppers lend themselves towards these fall flavors as well.  I’m alternating between long, involved dishes and quick sautés and stir-fries as I settle into this self-imposed time of renewal.  I’m looking forward to my mornings of walking and yoga, with more slow-paced stretches of work before I come to evenings of cooking, writing, and learning.  I finally have time to truly delve into my Lynda.com subscription, and I am very excited at the variety of program tutorials waiting for me.

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I suspect that this Asian sauce will be showing up in my kitchen again, very soon.  The full flavor, so simply made, is too perfect to ignore.  I hope you will make some, too!  Let me know what you try it on–I’ve yet to be disappointed.  Shrimp may be my favorite meat to glaze with this sauce, but it was absolute divine on the peppers and pineapple in these skewers.

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Asian Pan & Glazing Sauce

Adapted from Bonefish Grill

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. gluten-free tamari*
  • 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1/2 c. gluten-free oyster sauce**
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp.-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp. sriracha sauce (optional)

*Please always check labels.  The vast majority of tamari used to be gluten-free, but I am finding more and more that contain gluten.  San-J is a reliable gluten-free brand.

**Wok-Mei makes a gluten-free oyster sauce.  For vegetarians/vegan readers: several veg. brand are available.  Lee Kum Kee’s Vegetarian Oyster Sauce is, in fact, vegan, but contains wheat.  Please let me know if you find a reliable Gluten-free AND Vegan Oyster sauce.

Saute ginger and garlic in the olive oil in a small saucepan.  In a separate bowl, whisk together tamari, ketchup, oyster sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and honey/agave.  Once ginger and garlic is fragrant (1-2 minutes) and just barely beginning to brown, add sauce mixture.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in red pepper flakes and sriracha sauce.  Remove from heat.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  If too thick, add up to 1 Tbsp. of warm water.

Brush sauce onto grilling or frying meats and vegetables, basting with every turn.  Or, use as a marinade.  Sauce will keep in tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.


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My everlasting love: Asian Spicy Chicken

Anyone who knows me and knows a smidgeon about living gluten-free would understand my undying love for a certain chain of casual dining, quality-food Chinese restaurants.  Needless to say, though I had been there once before my diet switch, it was the first on my list after I cut gluten out of my life.  There is such a detailed routine to their gluten-free items, menu, preparation, and presentation that it takes much of the restaurant stress out of dining-out.  Before and after losing the gluten, I ordered the Spicy Chicken dish on the menu.  I’m a sucker for General Tso’s chicken and this fruity take was my instant favorite.

So it is not so surprising that I soon went looking for a recipe for recreating my favorite dish.  I found countless recipes and knock-offs, but this one looked the most likely.  Not too mention, I kept finding this recipe over and over again.  That’s usually a pretty good sign.  I also liked that I would not have to ‘use a flour mix’.  Instead of breading the chicken in flour, this only coats them with cornstarch.  That makes the end result very similar to the popular restuarant’s chicken.  As mentioned, I found this recipe several different times.  I, personally, followed it on Meemo’s Kitchen, the first time I tested the recipe, but, since then, her blog has been taken off line.

Can anyone guess the “secret ingredient”?  I never would have.  It wasn’t until I saw this fruity addition that I actually recognized the sweet flavor in the sauce…But, with further adieu:

Here is my adaptation for the perfect restaurant-style, Asian Spicy Chicken:

Restaurant-Style Asian Spicy Chicken (P.F. Chang’s Knock-Off)

Sauce Ingredients:

·2 tsp oil (canola, vegetable, or coconut)

·1½ Tbsp garlic, minced

·3 green onions, sliced

·1 c. pineapple juice

·1 Tbsp sriracha chili sauce

-1 Tbsp sweet-chili or garlic-chili sauce

·2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar

·4 tsp white sugar

·1 tsp tamari

·2 Tbsp water

·1 tsp cornstarch

Chicken Ingredients:

·2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

·⅓ cup cornstarch

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tsp oil over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onion for a few seconds, until fragrant, then add pineapple juice, sriracha sauce, sweet chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, and tamari.

Whisk 1 teaspoon cornstarch intp 2 tablespoons water and add it to the other sauce ingredients in the pan. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, or until beginning to thicken. Remove from heat.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1/4 cup oil in the pan over medium heat. Toss chicken pieces with cornstarch in a bowl until all pieces are evenly coated.  Sauté chicken in the oil, flipping every few minutes until all sides are light brown. Do not overcrowd the pan.  Remove chicken to a plate and drain excess oil with paper towels.   OR place chicken pieces on a baking pan, mist lightly with cooking oil spray and bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Allow chicken to cool slightly, then pour chicken pieces into the saucepot.  Toss with sauce until all pieces are coated.

Serve with cooked brown or white rice, a la classic restaurant presentation.

For extra vegggies and vitamins, or just to mix things up a little, try sauté-ing pineapple chunks and chopped red pepper, or even snow peas (as I did in the photo) while the chicken is baking/frying, and adding the vegetables to the sauce when mixing in the chicken.


Brown-bagging it! (Link Love)

I’ve less than a week until my summer job starts, which means going up to school everyday. (Hurray friends as coworkers! Boo, eating up my gas budget.)  It also means  bag lunches, lest I spend all my paychecks on fast food.  Not as satisfying and certainly not as healthy.  I’ve begun planning (porkbutt in the crockpot one busy Sunday can last for lunches all week-pulled pork sandwiches, pupusas, carnitas, chili) and stocking up (my freezer is packed!)  Another week, I’m planning on a big batch of fried rice, so I spent yesterday fiddling with my potstickers recipes.  I’m a sucker for Asian food, especially dumplings, and recently found  http://www.asiandumplingtips.com/.  Its like heaven in a website.  Best of all, they’ve organized their recipes to include a gluten-free section.  I’ve been searching for authentic asian recipes for a while, knowing that many foods are already made without wheat ingredients, without needing any tampering and changing.

It was here that I found Bahn Xep Chay Dumplings.  I much prefer meat in my dumplings, but the dough looked promising.  Look at that picture!  Smooth, cohesive dough without any gluten?  I was beginning to think it was impossible.  But this dough worked perfectly, with the oil keeping it from being to sticky, it really did look and feel like playdough.   I used Kate Chan’s filling recipe from my last batch of potstickers and the flavors were lively and delicious against the dough’s simple background.  Once I learned the tricks for keeping the dough from cracking it was easy enough.

Bahn Xep Dough Tricks:

  • Always keep dough and finished dumplings under a damp papertowel
  • -Press these with a circular stamp or a tortilla press in between wax paper–I used one long strip folded in half over the dough.  **And, before I pressed the nub of dough flat, I ran wet fingertips over the surface, this was just enough water to keep to dough pliable.
  • -Release both sides of the dough from the wax paper before added the filling–pull the paper from one side, then flip the circle over (still on the wax paper) and pull the paper from that side as well.
  • -Place the filling just off of center in the circle, and then fold the dumpling together, pressing the edges together while still between the wax paper.  This helps fight against the cracking.
  • -While these won’t hold up to boiling, I dunked each dumpling individually into a pot of water before placing it in the steamer.  Make sure they don’t touch each other!   I prefer crispy dumplings, so I fried them up in a frying pan with a touch of canola oil after steaming.
  • -I fried the entire batch of dumplings before freezing, because I didn’t want the dumplings to stick together.

Prep for Potstickers.

I also tried my hand at Nicole Hunn’s Won Ton Wrappers.  I used my whole grain mix (quinoa, millet, sorghum, brown rice, oat, and corn flours + various starches, at the moment).  While I froze most to be used later, I still had a little dumpling filling left over, so I filled one or two of the wrappers and cooked those up (these stood up to boiling, then frying).  While still good, I don’t think whole-grain potstickers will be a fad catching on anytime soon.  Some inherent part of potsticker delight is biting into that slightly soft, doughy wrapping.  Even so, I could tell that these wrappers have great promise for raviolis (somehow, the wholegrain is more acceptable with Italian fillings) and egg rolls!  I can’t wait to wrap up a few of those. Not to mention all the lovely little quiche cups and sorts of fillings I can bake up in these.

In the meantime, I’ll keep stocking up for lunches for the next month.  I might get a few odd looks pulling rhubarb out of my lunchbag, but delicious lunches are well worth it!


Leftover Round-up: Fried Rice

Last night was a leftover meal.  With a little over a week and a half home, and my constant cooking, the fridge has been filling up with bits of this and that and Tupperware.  I’ve tried to keep using the leftovers for lunch the next day, but a few stubborn containers have been leering at me whenever I open the door.  As mentioned yesterday, I’m fairly addicted to our dumplings, despite the flaws, so we continued with the Asian theme.

Steak Fried Rice, Gluten-Free Chicken Potstickers, Homemade Dipping Sauce

Fried Rice

Leftovers:

  • 1/2 lb. finely diced Steak (Memorial Day grilling) (*can replace with mushrooms/veggies/tofu/etc, anything on hand)
  • 4 stalks chopped Green Onions (Starting to wilt)
  • 1/2 c. chopped Sugar Snap Peas (Just about expired)
  • 2 minced Garlic cloves (drying out a bit)
  • 2 lg chopped Carrots (dry as well)

Other ingredients:

  • 3 c. cooked Brown Rice
  • 1 med. chopped Onion
  • 2 tsp. Canola Oil
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Ginger (didn’t have fresh root on hand, so I just used the ground spice)
  • 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds
  • Salt & Pepper

I really got the hang of fried rice when I accepted what it was–leftovers.  Traditionally, the dish is made with day-old rice and whatever bits of veggies and meats are left over from previous meals–ham from breakfast, the veg that didn’t quite get eaten at yesterday’s dinner, the one unused egg.  The day-old, cold rice is the trick: fresh rice will stick together and won’t fry up crisply in the oil.  Also, don’t overload on the veggies–too many will turn your rice soggy.  Even though it means a bit more clean-up, I relay the cooking of the ingredients, removing each after cooking until mixing them all together in the final step.  This also helps with overcrowding the pan (especially when you are wok-less, after your brother’s friend used a sharp spatula to mix in it and scraped off the nonstick surface).  This dish is especially easy, as you don’t really have to measure any of the ingredients.  I’ve made mine by eye and been quite happy every time.

So, last night, I allowed our largest frying pan to heat, added about a teaspoon of oil and added the last chopped quarter of a white onion and two cloves of mince garlic.  I sauteed these for about two minutes, until fragrant and the onion had turned translucent, the edges just beginning to turn color.    Into the pan, I added a handful of chopped baby carrots, the sliced white parts of 3 green onions (I reserved the green portion for later), and the remains of our sugar snap peas, chopped (a little more than a handful).

I continued to sauté this mix until the veggies were warmed through, but still crisp, and seasoned with the spices (salt, black pepper, ginger, cayenne).  Then I cleared the whole mix into another bowl off the heat to wait. I had enough oil remaining in the pan to just throw in my chopped steak.  It was maybe about 1/2 lb, all together, leftover from Memorial Day.  We served it topped with blue cheese butter, alongside grilled asparagus and shallots, but the steak itself had only been previously seasoned with S&P and cooked to medium.  I cooked the steak until browned and warm and added it to the Reserve Bowl with the veggies.

I added a bit more oil to the pan and scrambled 3 eggs (the favorite ingredient in our household) that had be beaten with a touch of soy sauce, sesame oil, and S&P.  After those were cooked through, into the bowl they went.

Now comes the tricky part: the rice.  As I mentioned, day-old cooked rice is best (jasmine variety), but we only had brown rice and I never, ever remember to cook rice beforehand.  Usually this meal is a standby when I’m out of ideas.  So, instead, I made the rice that afternoon, and spread it all across a jellyroll pan and put it into a 150 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  This helped to dry the rice out as it would overnight.  I was running out of time, so I popped the whole tray into the freezer for about 20 minutes, until it was nice and cold.  If you have more time, just leave the rice in the fridge until dinner, or do it the authentic and easier way: use actual leftover rice!

Anyways, one way or another, I had my rice.  I added sesame oil to the pan this time, as I love the flavor, but more canola or vegetable oil would work just fine.  I made sure the entire pan had been coated with the oil, gave it a minute to heat up, and then added my rice, stirring quickly to get every  grain coated with the oil.  Then I let the rice sit for one-two minute intervals, to allow a bit more frying.  I  did several of these “intervals”, stirring so the rice on top had a chance to fry.  Then I added soy sauce (I’ve found La Choy and Target’s store brands to be wheat-free) until it looked about the right color and stirred until all the rice was coated.  Another one or two frying “intervals” let the soy sauce caramelize and gave me the chance to season again with the spices (ginger, cayenne, S&P).

My veggies, eggs, and meat were still warm (and I didn’t have anymore room in my pan) so I transfer the rice to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mixed it all up.  If you have the room, transfer all ingredients back to the pan, and allow to reheat for a minute or two while you mix everything together.  At this point, I stirred in the sliced green portion of the green onions, and a spoonful or two of sesame seeds.

This fried rice was served with a couple of dumplings (pre-made and frozen the day before) and a homemade dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, cayenne, S&P–all mixed to taste).  It was a delicious, easy meal: excluding my rice catch-up-manouver, the whole process took about 30 minutes from chopping to sitting down at the dinner table.  The fried rice was lovely, not sticky, but not too dry, and the steak worked especially well with all of the other flavors.

Easy, delicious, and it clears out the leftovers!