Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Remember those 3 whole chickens that I bought on sale a few weeks ago?  I used one to make Vietnamese style chicken curry and the second one to make roast chicken and potatoes.  This roast chicken recipe is so quick and easy to make, with very little prep time.  Just make sure you allot enough time for it to be in the oven.  Other than that, put in the oven and walk away.

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I normally don’t eat chicken skin unless it’s crispy (makes me gag otherwise), but let me tell you, I have no problems eating the skin (or any other parts) on this chicken.  It’s crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.  The potatoes also come out perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  Yummy!
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I paired the chicken with kale stir-fried with a bit of olive oil, garlic, shallots I had leftover from the curry (you can omit or use onion instead) and salt and pepper.  Easy peasy.

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When the everything is done, just put the whole roasting pan on the dining table and carve the chicken as you eat.  No need to be fancy.  Well, you can be a little fancy and add some flowers to the table.  A girl always needs a bit of flowers in her life…

What should I do with the last chicken?

Roast chicken and potatoes (Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver)

  • 1 whole chicken
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large, preferably unwaxed, lemon
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
  • a handful of fresh thyme or 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • olive oil
  • a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  1. Rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of salt (I use about 1 tbsp) and freshly ground black pepper (~30 grindings). Do this in the morning if possible, then cover the chicken and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to start cooking it for lunch or dinner.
  2. Preheat your oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
  4. Cut the potatoes into golf-ball-sized pieces, put them into the water with the whole lemon and the garlic cloves, and cook for 12 minutes.
  5. Drain and allow to steam dry for 1 minute (this will give you crispier potatoes), then remove the lemon and garlic.
  6. Toss the potatoes in the pan while still hot so their outsides get chuffed up and fluffy – this will make them crispy when they roast.
  7. While the lemon is still hot, carefully stab it about 10 times.
  8. Take the chicken out of the fridge, pat it with kitchen paper and rub it all over with olive oil.
  9. Push the garlic cloves, the whole lemon and the thyme into the cavity, then put the chicken into a roasting tray and cook in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes.
  10. Remove the chicken to a plate.
  11. Some fat should have cooked out of it into the roasting tray, so toss the potatoes into this with the rosemary leaves.  You can add carrots at this point if you want.
  12. Shake the tray around, then make a gap in the center of the potatoes and put the chicken back in.
  13. Cook for a further 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are golden. (You can tell the chicken is cooked when the thigh meat pulls easily away from the bone and the juices run clear.)
  14. Remove the lemon and garlic from inside the chicken, squeeze all the garlic flesh out of the skin, mush it up and smear it all over the chicken, discard the lemon and rosemary and carve the chicken at the table.

Ribs with Apricot Sauce

These tasty apricot ribs are super easy to make and smell mouth wateringly good.  The meat used were purchased with the intention of making soup and weren’t the best quality but the family still gobbled these up.

ribs

 

Recipe (adapted from Luau Ribs on Food.com):

Apricot Ribs

Serves 1-2

  • 2 lbs pork ribs
  • 8 tbls apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tbls soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

IngredientsThe apricot preserve is the secret ingredient in this recipe:

Apricot

 

Directions:

  1. Rinse ribs and dry, remove membrane if necessary.
  2. Mix all ingredients.  Optional: marinade ribs a few hours up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.
    marinate Ribs in large bag
  3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 to 120 minutes or until done.  Baste with marinade while cooking.
  4. If sauce didn’t caramelize nicely, broil for a few minutes at the end and ta-da:
    ribs
  5. Enjoy!

Since the oven is already on, I like to throw in some vegetables under the ribs for a quick side.

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Root vegetables like carrots or potatoes are great.  Cauliflower works well too.  Season the vegetables simply with salt and pepper to taste and toss in a little garlic or olive oil and just let the vegetables soak up some of the drippings for extra flavor.

Don’t you just love the dark purple color of these potatoes?  Just picture them with some carrots and corn and it would be a colorful feast for the eyes.

Purple Potatoes

Add a salad for more vegetables and the sauce is also really good on rice or pasta for a complete meal.  My daughter asked to eat these ribs with a piece of cheesy toast.

When I try a recipe for the first time, I resist from adjusting it (too much); I might learn or find something new.  But if it only turned out good and didn’t wow, then I would try to make it my own the next time.  This rib smelled and tasted great but was no where near perfection so I might try this recipe again with a few changes.  Normally, I like making ribs with a rub, so the next time I will start with better meat, use a base rub and cook at a lower temperature for longer so that the meat falls off the bone before basting with the sauce.  What is your personal preference? Sauce? Rub? or Both?

What do you think?  Will you be having ribs any time soon?

 

 

 

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Vietnamese style chicken curry (Ca Ri Ga)

The other day, we went grocery shopping to buy ingredients to make Vietnamese style chicken curry.  We saw whole chickens on sale – 3 for $20.  That’s pretty cheap in our neck of the woods so we bought them.  I wasn’t completely sure what I would use all that chicken for (I had a few recipes in mind), but I knew I could just freeze it until I figured it out. We normally buy chicken in parts (thighs, breasts, etc), so having to butcher a whole chicken was a bit of a first for me. I tried to follow Martha’s instructions, but our knives were pretty dull so I had to enlist hubby’s help.  It actually wasn’t so difficult to do, just need some muscles or sharper knives.  😉  We used most of the chicken for the curry, except for the back (we saved for making stock) and 2/3 of the breast.  That way, everyone is happy since the hubs likes dark meat and I prefer white.  You can choose to use any parts of the chicken you like.  I prefer skin-on and bone-in for more flavour.

This recipe is relatively easy to make.  You can divide the work into 2 days if you want, just marinate the chicken overnight the day before you want to eat it.  It’s also a one pot recipe….you know how much I love one pot dinner recipes!  Less dishes to clean!

What makes this curry Vietnamese style is the coconut milk and lemongrass, which may be difficult to find depending where you live.  If you want to omit the lemongrasss, I am sure the curry will still taste pretty good.  You can adjust the spiciness with the amount of curry powder and chili paste.  The amounts used here don’t result in an overly spicy curry.  Even our baby can eat it!

I love the smell of this curry, especially when garnished with cilantro.  Mmmm…can you smell it too?  Don’t forget to have it with toasted baguettes.  It’s how Vietnamese people eat their curry and the best way to eat it, in my opinion!

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Oh and one more thing, this curry is better than my mom’s (according to the hubs). Shhh…..don’t tell her! 😉

Stay tuned for more easy chicken recipes.  In the meantime, try some of our other tasty recipes.

Vietnamese Style Chicken Curry Recipe (adapted from Food.com)

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
2 small shallots
1 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon chili paste ( such as Sriracha)
peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 lbs chicken (thighs, breasts, whatever you prefer)
1 medium yellow onion, divided into 6 pieces and separated
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
2 2/3 cups coconut milk
4 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
potatoes and/or yams cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/4 cup cilantro leaf

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine curry powder, garlic, sugar, shallots, salt, chili paste, 1 tablespoon of the oil and black pepper. Lightly puree and pulse into a rough paste.
  2. Rub the paste all over the chicken. Place in a bowl , cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and lemongrass and cook for another few minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Add the chicken to the stockpot and sear for about 10-15 minutes, or until browned.  Remove chicken from the pot.
  5. Turn the heat to high. Add the water, coconut milk, carrots and potatoes to the pot.  Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to low.  Add back chicken and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked and carrots and potatoes almost soft.
  6. Test the carrots and potatoes for doneness before adding the peas. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes in a light simmer.
  7. Serve hot over rice or with fresh, warm baguettes. Garnish with cilantro.

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Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

When I discovered that my toddler, who practically sustained on air, was actually enthusiastic about eating unnaturally bright blue or green color foods, I began searching for non-dyed choices to indulge her and to hopefully get her to gain a few pounds or at least a few ounces to get her weight percentiles up from the single digits.  Cue green pork and shrimp dumplings.

She wasn’t interested in naturally blue or green foods like blueberries or broccoli but foods that are not typically blue or green like noodles, rice or dumplings.

As a result, pandan, pesto and spinach became common ingredients in our kitchen.

For St. Patrick’s Day, we decided to celebrate and join in on the festivities with two of my daughter’s current favorites: green dumplings and spinach noodles.

Green Dumplings & Spinach Noodles

No green beer for us 😉
There is no doubt in my mind that my mom is the queen of pork dumplings so I used a modified version of her recipe where all vegetables like chives and leeks are omitted with some store brought green dumpling wrappers.

Green Dumplings

There is a beautiful post here by the Flavor Bender on how to make your own green (spinach) wrappers but I took the easy way out.

Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. ground pork
1.5 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp bouillon of choice
3 tbsp. sesame oil
white and black pepper to taste
1 lb. raw deveined shrimp
1/2 tsp salt
Dumpling wrappers

optional: herbs such as chives, leeks, cilantro or vegetables such as cabbage

Garlic Worcestershire Reduction

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
Splash of Balsamic vinegar
Splash of Garlic oil
Sesame oil

Directions:
1. Mix pork, water and salt until “sticky” so that the meat will be moist and not crumbly. My mom used a wooden spoon to manually mix the meat, but I just put it in the kitchen aid for about 3-5 minutes.

Ground Pork
2. Add seasoning (sugar, boullion, pepper and sesame oil) and mix until incorporated.

Mix Pork
3. Smash shrimp with salt to make almost a paste. My mom uses the flat side of a meat cleaver but due to my knife aversion I just crush the shrimps with my thumb and palm. Add shrimp “paste” to pork mixture and blend well.

Shrimp Paste

4. Assemble dumplings. There is a great video on YouTube by Tipsy Waltz showing 7 different ways to wrap a dumpling:

5. Cook dumplings in your preferred method (steam, boil, deep fry or pan fry).

Boiled Green Dumplings with Spinach Noodles

Boiled Green Dumplings with Spinach Noodles and Hoisin Sauce

Pan Fried Green Dumplings

Pan Fried Green Dumplings with Garlic Worcestershire Reduction

6. If using the Garlic Worcestershire Reduction Sauce, boil first three ingredients until reduced and drizzle on sesame oil then pour on dumplings or serve on side as a dipping sauce.
7. Enjoy!!

Tips:
1. So many other sauces work well with these dumplings! My daughter likes dipping her boiled dumplings into plain hoisin sauce. My mom likes her dumplings pan fried and served with a Sriracha and white sugar paste.  I prefer my pan fried dumplings drenched in a sweet and sour raw garlic and vinegar sauce (my breath stinks for days though).  What is your favorite dumpling sauce(s)?
2. My mom taught me this trick when I was still her little helper. To quickly devein shrimps, pierce the back of the shrimp with a toothpick (works better with the shell on) and then gently pull the toothpick up, perpendicular to the shrimp, pulling the entire vein out.  Growing up in a competitive household, it was always fun to see who can devein the most shrimp quickest.  It takes us about 5 seconds to devein a dozen shrimp.

Shrimp

3. Keep wrappers moist during assembly by covering with a moist towel.
4. Assembled dumplings can be kept for hours in the refrigerator if well wrapped and for a month or two if frozen so a great time saver is to go ahead and make a large batch and save some for another day.
5. Any extra meat mixture can be formed into meatballs or patties and frozen for use in other recipes.  This is partly why I omit the herbs and vegetables in the receipe- the meatballs and patties are awesome for a quick last minute meal.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Easy Yummy One Pan Garlicky Ketchup Chicken

Gralicky Ketchup Chicken with vegetables, rice and quinoa

Garlicky Ketchup Chicken

Doesn’t it seem like some days just get away from you? I thought I was ahead of the dinner game when I managed to pull a bag of chicken out of the freezer to defrost, and cooked a pot of rice and quinoa while my daughter was busy helping stir the pumpkin into the egg mixture for the Libby’s Pumpkin muffins we were baking.

Instead, my daughter won’t take her afternoon nap and at 6 PM, she was fussy and I still haven’t a clue what was for dinner except that there was rice and quinoa, and the boneless and skinless chicken thighs were defrosted.

I’ve been wanting to use the green beans I got earlier in the week from Costco so I Googled ‘chicken green bean recipes’ and thought a green bean and chicken casserole that came up looked tasty.  But it’s getting much too late to be attempting to make cream of chicken soup from scratch since I didn’t have any on hand so I pinned it for another night.

Does Pinterest come with a warning label? It’s a dangerous place for me when it comes to time management.  I’m not sure what happened after I pinned the recipe but I ended up looking at shrimp recipes when I had no shrimp in the house, just defrosted chicken and a picture for sweet and sour shrimp looked really delicious.

While the term sweet & sour often conjures up an image of something fried and drenched in a bright red or orange sauce for some, it really can mean any flavor profile with both a strong sweet and a strong sour component.  The sour notes can be from vinegar, or tart fruits such as tomato, kiwi or pineapple, or sauces such as ketchup for example, and the sweet component can be from different types of sugar, sugar substitutes such as artificial sweeteners, honey, agave nectar, fruit preserves, syrup, etc.

Any of those variations are almost always well received by this family.  The balance of sweet and sour can be adjusted easily to your preference and works well with other spices on meats, seafood and vegetables.  Sweet and sour sauces are probably higher in sugar content so that might be something to consider if it’s important to you or your family.

By now, I think my daughter is hungry enough to eat anything so I just need to get food on the table quick.  I push away my phone and think.  The ketchup shrimp we had a few weeks ago was quick and easy to make and was wildly popular with my kiddo so maybe the sauce would translate well to chicken?

Garlicky (Sweet & Sour) Ketchup Chicken 

Adapted from one of my favorite sites for Cantonese recipes: The Hong Kong Cookery

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken (I used boneless and skinless thighs that were already marinated to taste with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder)
1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used white grape and peach juice since I know the chicken we have on hand was accidentally over salted when it was marinated)
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Shao Hsing Rice Wine
1 tbsp garlic, crushed
1 tbsp soy sauce

Optional: vegetables of choice

Directions:

  1. Brown chicken on both sides, then add stock, cover, lower heat and cook until juice runs clear and until centers are no longer pink, approximately 20 minutes.  About halfway through, I added approximately three cups of frozen vegetables (organic broccoli, red pepper, mushroom & green bean stir fry mix) and some browned vegetarian sausages as meat substitute for me.
    Browned Chicken, Vegetarian Sausages, and organic vegetables

    Browned Chicken, Vegetarian Sausages, and organic vegetables

    Remove chicken, vegetables and any liquid from pan.

  2. In the same pan, heat oil with crushed garlic at low temperatures until fragrant and garlic is slightly browned but not burnt.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (ketchup, sugar, Shao Hsing Rice Wine, and soy sauce) and liquids from chicken and cook until sauce is thick enough to coat chicken. Ingredients: soy sauce, rice wine, juice and ketchup
  4. Add back chicken, and vegetables if added, to sauce and mix and cook just a few minutes until well mixed

Tips:

To save time, I used frozen vegetables and the chicken was marinated and frozen the day we purchased it a week ago so there was almost no prep time.  I crushed the garlic in one of the serving plates so I won’t have to wash the cutting board.

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Also, I didn’t need to add any oil but depending on your pan, add oil ~2 tbsp. to brown chicken.  I am probably super annoying because I rave so much about my Anolon pans, but once I discovered that I did not need to add any oil to brown meats, even skinless chicken, I was in love.  LOVE.  My sister brought me the set from Macy’s as a gift after she fell in love with her pans and now my mom and brother both have sets in their kitchens too.  Look how nicely the skinless chicken browned without any oil added:

Love how nicely the chicken browns with no oil

Love how nicely the skinless chicken browns without adding any oil.  Affiliate link: Anolon Pans

My daughter enjoyed this dish so much that she ate the leftovers for the lunch the next day when normally having the same meal in succession is a big no-no in her books.  Sweet and sour saved dinner (and lunch)!  Maybe give this recipe a try – and let me know if you liked it.

So, does your family like sweet and sour as much as ours?  What is your favorite sweet and sour recipe?

Go to One Pot Dinner

I’ve always loved one pot dinner recipes that don’t require a lot of work and taste great.  Well, who doesn’t?  Pre-baby days, I liked recipes that were quick to make since I often got home from work late and didn’t want to eat dinner at 9pm.  Those days, we had a lot of fried rice, pasta or bbq.  Now with baby, things have changed a bit.  You may think that being on maternity leave, I have a lot of time to cook lavious meals.  Au contraire mon ami.  You see, as my babe has gotten older, it’s become more difficult to leave her alone while she’s awake.  She’s currently 10 months old and I don’t know if it’s the separation anxiety or if she’s just a momma’s girl, but she can’t seem to be without me for more than a few minutes.  Even if I put her in a playpen next to me in the kitchen, she will only last 5 to 10 minutes before wanting me to pick her up.

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(Yes, she is playing with a water bottle and a drink tray.  Please, no judgements.)

Prior to being mobile, she was content to just sit in her chair and watch me do dishes or prep dinner.  Now, she just wants to be in constant contact with me.  These days, making dinner is an all day process.  

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Most of the time, I prep the ingredients (wash and chop veggies, marinate meat, etc) during her morning nap then either cook the meal during her second nap and we have a cold or lukewarm dinner when my husband gets home from work or I wait until he gets home to look after her before I begin cooking.
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This is why I like recipes that don’t require a lot of work.  I especially like ones where you put everything together in a pot or oven and walk away.  This recipe I’m sharing today is for how to cook pork shoulder for pulled pork but we just eat it as is straight out of the oven.  It’s my husband’s new favourite dish.  He loves being welcomed home by the smell of it cooking in the oven as he walks down the driveway.  

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One pot dinner

This dish has everything you need: meat, veggies and carbs.  The meat is so tender and carrots and potato so soft  (they ought to be, it’s been in the oven for 2 hours) that even baby can eat it.  Bonus!  We usually have it with rice and a side of blanched veggies (no need to season since the meat is already so flavorful).  And if I’m really ambitious I’ll make some cheddar biscuits to dip in the sauce, but usually I’m not. 😉  Remind me to share that recipe later.

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What do you think?  Does this look good enough to give it a try?  Let me know what you think.

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What’s your go to recipe?   How do you keep your child occupied while you cook or do other things?  

One Pot Dinner (Adapted from the kitchn)

Ingredients

4 to 6 pounds boneless or bone-in pork shoulder or butt

1-3 tablespoons mixed spices (see rub recipe below)

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1 yellow onion, sliced

few carrots, roughly chopped

few celery stalks, roughly chopped

few nugget potatoes, chopped in half or quarters

4 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)

1 1/2 cups liquid — chicken or vegetable broth

Rub from Food Network (makes more than you need, just store leftovers in a sealed bag or container)

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 bay leaf, crushed

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 325°F.  Place an oven rack in the lower-middle of the oven.
  2. Trim the pork: Trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside, but leave small pieces and the interior fat. If using boneless pork, cut the pork into several large fist-sized pieces. If using bone-in, leave the pork as is, on the bone.
  3. Season the pork: Sprinkle the pork with the spice mixture.  Rub the seasoning into the pork with your fingers so the meat is evenly coated on all sides.
  4. Sear the pork: Warm the oil in the Dutch oven (or frying pan) over medium-high heat. Sear the pork on all sides, working in batches as necessary so as not to crowd the pan. For more detailed step-by-step instructions, see How To Sear Meat.  Transfer pork to oven safe dish or pan after searing if not using a Dutch oven.
  5. Add the vegetables: Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, potato. Nestle them around the pork.
  6. Add the liquid: Pour the liquid over the top of the pork. The pork should be only partially submerged, with some of the pork remaining above the surface of the liquid.
  7. Bring to a simmer: Set the Dutch oven with the pork over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer.  If not using a Dutch oven, warm the liquid in the hot pan after searing the pork.
  8. Cover and transfer to the oven: Once simmering, cover the Dutch oven and transfer the whole pot to the oven.  If not using dutch oven, cover oven-safe dish or pan with aluminum foil.
  9. Cook for 2 hours or until fork tender: Let the pork cook undisturbed for 2 hours, then begin checking it every half hour. Total cooking time will be 2 to 4 hours, depending on the amount of pork and whether it’s bone-in (which takes longer to cook). The pork is done when it is fork-tender (when the meat can be easily pierced with a fork without resistance and easily falls apart with a little pressure). If you’re cooking pork on the bone, the meat should be falling off the bone. If in doubt, cook the meat another half hour; it’s almost impossible to overcook meat with this method.  Two hours is usually enough time to cook to tender.

My 8 Favorite Freezer Staples

I admit, I’m sometimes envious of the clothing and make-up hauls I see on YouTube, and calling my weekly groceries from Costco a ‘haul’ strangely makes me feel better.

Ever since I made the decision to stay home as a full time mom, the discretionary budget is tight and my previous spending on make-up, clothes and shoes suddenly seemed excessive so I cut waaaaaay back.  I suppose my daughter doesn’t really care about my OOTD, and she protests the entire time I try to apply my MOTD.  It’s not that she cares about groceries either but I just have a responsibility to feed her.

Groceries

We will probably struggle to finish all the Romaine lettuce but the fuji apples and corns often don’t last the whole week because they are both so sweet and so juicy.  The strawberries are usually pretty decent too even though they aren’t organic.

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Some of the Costco product sizes are a bit large for our family of three (i.e. the 6 pack of Romaine lettuce), but the selection and quality makes it worth managing, especially the non-perishables and frozen goods.

I used to rarely use frozen foods but after my daughter got old enough to protest every grocery trip I try to take, I took to frozen quickly and was pleasantly surprised.  For example, the frozen broccoli from my local Costco consistently tastes sweeter than most fresh broccoli and it is so soft and tender without being mushy.

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While I can’t get any “wok hei” with frozen, I now generally prefer it over fresh because there is no washing or prepping required, I can typically always have some on hand, and most importantly, I don’t have to worry about using up or wasting fresh broccoli.

Do you use frozen foods? What are your freezer staples? I love to always have these 8 items in the freezer:

  1. Frozen mixed vegetables
  2. Frozen broccoli
  3. Frozen meatballs (recipe)
  4. Frozen fish filet like Cod, Flounder, Salmon or Halibut
  5. Ravioli
  6. Hash Brown
  7. Marinated chicken
  8. Ice cream of some sort

With just a few pantry staples like rice or pasta, I am able to make a wide range of quick meals that my daughter will eat with these 8 frozen foods like congee (rice porridge), soup noodle with meatballs, fried rice, various chicken stir-fries, steamed fish with rice etc. This way I am able to plan fresh groceries and meals for only 4 days of the week but have meals as backup to maximize flexibility and minimize wastage.

The shopaholic in me can’t wait for the next haul, even if it’s only groceries 🙂

A Single Dish Celebration Dinner: Pun Choy 盆菜

Pun Choy (or Poon Choi)

Pun Choy (or Poon Choi)

This was my first attempt at making Pun Choy (or poon choi), translated literally as ‘basin vegetables’, and now it might become a family tradition.

Poon Choy was something on my cooking bucket list that I was leaving for when I had the luxury of more time, maybe even weeks, to plan, research recipes and shop. Instead, this was thrown together a la reality tv show challenge style.

Premise: you got limited ingredients and only 3 hours to plan and put together a celebration dinner. What will you present before the hard to impress judges aka picky toddlers? Cue dramatic music.

Pun Choy (Poon Choi)

Sure, sure, the key layers were purchased ready-to-eat, but this Pun Choy turned out surprisingly easy to make and tasty for an unplanned last-minute feast!

Layers:
1. Garlicky Romain Lettuce Stir Fry
2. Fried Gluten Balls (that’s right, you read it correctly, GLUTEN, not gluten-free balls!)
3. Oyster Sauce Shiitake Mushroom
4. Pork meatballs
5. Fuzhou style fish balls
6. Soy sauce chicken*
7. BBQ pork (char-siu)*
8. Roast duck*
9. Broccoli
10. Ketchup Shrimp
* purchased from a Chinese BBQ restaurant

Soy Sauce Chicken

Soy Sauce Chicken

Roast Duck

Roast Duck

BBQ Pork "Char-siu"

BBQ Pork “Char-siu”

There are probably as many ways to make one as there are families, with simple easy to make and inexpensive layers like mine, to exotic and complicated layers I incorrectly thought it would require.

The potential ease to make, combined with the large variety of foods to accommodate many, makes this a wonderful potluck dish.

Holiday celebrations in this household are usually ad hoc affairs because of the Mister’s stance on non-commitment with going to my in-laws. It is just like pulling love me daisy leaves, except it’s ‘we might be going / we aren’t going’ instead. This year we landed on we’re going, but at 4 PM, the Mister texted from work that we aren’t leaving anymore until the following day. I texted my sister the news and she asked us to join them for dinner at 8 PM. What could I bring?

At 5 PM, my daughter woke from her nap so we went to the kitchen and I took stock of the nearly empty fridge; except for eggs and a bag of Romaine lettuce heads, I had successfully cleared it out in preparation of being out-of-town for 4 days.

I peeked in the freezer- frozen waffles, broccoli, fish sticks, fish and meat balls and eggplant parmesan. The pantry held dried beans, dehydrated Shiitake mushrooms, fried gluten balls and chicken stock. I can scrap together a quick dinner but what is Lunar New Year if dinner is not a feast?

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I started ruminating on the feasts my mom would put together for us each year. It was disappointing that I wasn’t doing the same for my daughter so I thought I should at least attempt just one of the more festive dishes. Just one dish, just one dish, just one dish…

And poof, just like that, the one dish train of thought lead to an ambitious attempt at making Pun Choy for dinner in 3 hours.

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I started on the shiitake mushrooms first because of the amount of time required to get them really soft the way I like them. Normally I soak them for hours or even over night so with just hours until dinner, I washed them and soaked for just an hour and stuck them in the pressure cooker for another hour with some water and cane sugar. Then I drained and cooked them with some garlic and savory Oyster Sauce.

While the mushrooms were in the pressure cooker I made a pot of soup to cook the meat and fish balls. Then I used the same soup to cook the gluten balls next. Finally, I used the same soup to steam and season the frozen broccoli.

Broccoli & Fried Gluten Balls

Broccoli & Fried Gluten Balls

While the meatballs were cooking, I stir fried the Romaine lettuce with some garlic.

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The time was now 7 PM and I was pretty much done but I was disappointed- the dish was hardly festive. If only I had some seafood or meats to give the dish more substance. Just then the Mister texted to say he was on his way home. So I asked him to pick up some BBQ pork (“Char-siu”), soy sauce chicken and roast duck and a pound of shrimp.

I gave my daughter a bath and got ready for dinner while I waited for the key ingredients. The Mister arrived at 7:30 PM, we should be leaving for my sisters but I still have to cook the shrimp so the next half hour was a whirlwind. This is where some people start cracking on reality shows, and the cameras pan frequently on the clock.

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We made it to my sister’s on time and had a wonderful night after all.

The judges? I have no idea if they were impressed or not but they ate and in my book, that’s a win 🙂image

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!!