Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lemony Snickets

I was thrilled to receive The Cook's Book of Everything for Christmas. I had been eyeing it up at Chapters for a while, although when it comes to cookbooks there is very little I don't have my eye on. This particular book really does have a recipe for everything. It also has an herb and spice guide which is very informative.

My grocery store has this one produce aisle, I call it the miscellaneous aisle. That aisle is home to a random assortment of vegetables or herbs that can be unusual. The problem I have with this aisle is that I can't always count on a certain item to be there. For instance, I have seen Thai basil in the aisle on occasion, but not every single time that I shop there.
When I was walking down that aisle recently I saw lemongrass, an item that I have never noticed before at Sobeys. I went home, forgetting about the lemongrass, and opened my new cookbook. No joke, I opened it up to a recipe for lemongrass beef. Not seeing this as a coincidence the next night I picked up some lemongrass and made the dish.

Lemongrass Beef
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs grated ginger
4 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely chopped
1.5 tbs vegetable oil
600 grams lean beef fillet, thinly sliced (I didn't know what they meant by beef fillet so I just used steak)
1 tbs lime juice
1-2 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs kepap manis
1 lg red onion, cut into small wedges
200 g green beans, sliced
To make:
1)Mix together garlic, ginger, lemongrass and 2 tsp oil in a large, non-metallic bowl. Add the beef, toss well to coast, then cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes
*note: when working with lemongrass, peel off the outer leaves*

2) To make the stir-fry sauce, mix together the lime juice, fish sauce and kecap manis. (Kecap manis is a thick, dark sweet soy sauce used in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking. If not available, simply stir a little soft brown sugar into regular soy sauce until it dissolves) Sobeys did not have kecap manis, so I used the soy sauce and brown sugar combo
3) Heat the wok (or large skillet) over high heat, add 1 tbs oil and swirl to coat. Stir fry the beef in batches, 2 -3 minutes, or until browned. Remove from wok and set aside.
4) Heat the remaining oil in the wok over high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the beans and cook for a further 2 minutes, then return the beef to the wok. Pour in the stir-fry sauce and cook until heated through.
Delicious! I have never worked with lemongrass before, and I have to say their smell reminded me of lemon wet-naps. Some people might find that to be an unattractive quality, but I love wet-naps so I didn't think this was a bad thing at all. I was skeptical of first of how lemony the lemongrass would make the meat taste, but there was a very strong citrus flavor to it. Not exactly like lemon, but lemon with a hint of herb.

The other night I used actual lemons in another recipe from The Cook's Book of Everything.
Chinese Lemon Chicken
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs Chinese rice wine
1 spring onion (scallion, or green onion), finely chopped
1 tbs finely chopped ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
100 g (1 cup) cornstarch
oil, for deep frying
Lemon Sauce Ingredients:
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp cornstarch
To make:
1) Cut chicken into slices. Place in a bowl, add the soy sauce, rice wine, spring onion, ginger and garlic, and toss lightly. Marinate in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.
2) add the egg to the chicken mixture and toss lightly to coat. Drain off the excess and coat the chicken pieces with the cornstarch. The easiest way to do this is to put the chicken and cornstarch in a plastic bag and shake it.
3) fill a wok one-quarter full of oil and heat to 190 C (375 F), or until a cube of bread dropped in the oil turns golden brown in 10 seconds. Add half the chicken, a piece at a time, and fry, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. Or until golden brown. Remove with a wire sieve or slotted spoon and drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Reheat the oil and return all the chicken to the wok. Cook until crisp and golden brown. Drain the chicken. Pour off the oil and wipe out the wok.
4) To make the lemon sauce combine all the ingredients.
5) Reheat the wok over med heat, add the lemon sauce and stir constantly until sauce thickens. Add chicken and toss lightly until the chicken is covered in the sauce.

Sadly I was in a hurry to eat so I just quickly threw it all onto a plate. As I was about to take a bite I remembered I should take a picture of it for the blog, which is why the picture seems to be lacking.
The chicken was so good. I think next time I would use honey instead of the sugar in the lemon sauce, and I would add another tsp.
I have used cornstarch as a coating for fried chicken before, and I liked the results. This time around I LOVED the results, I credit it to dipping in the egg first, but also frying the chicken twice. The chicken is very crisp this way.

Even if only half the recipes in the book turn out as well as these two did, I would have to say no home should be without it.

I can't resist making this post even longer without telling this story. A friend and I were out at a pub when we ran into her neighbors. Her neighbors turned out to be the biggest germaphobes I have ever met. They were telling us that they wash all their produce in soap and water before they will eat them. They also mentioned that they will never buy a lemon or a lime. Ever. They use the bottled lemon or lime juice. You see, one time they watched a documentary on what happens to a lemon or lime from the time it is picked off the tree, to the time it gets to one's house. At this point, you should be able to tell what kind of people they are judging their entertainment picks. During this enthralling film a lemon had been handled by 4 people who had picked their nose, which had scared them off buying lemons and limes forever.
I had a couple problems with their theory. I can understand being thoroughly grossed out by this but:
1) Wouldn't all fruit/vegetables that are hand picked off trees or wherever, also have a chance of being handled by nose pickers? Or is nose picking only limited to the lemon and lime workers?
2) If you bought a lemon or lime from the store, you could take it home and wash it in water and soap, and feel confident it is clean, but the bottled juice is made from actual lemons and limes. Are we sure the factory cares enough to wash the fruit before juicing it?
This is only one...quirk this couple had. Perhaps over time I will share what the entire, very painful, evening had to offer.


Anonymous said...

Beef fillet is the cut that they slice fillet mignon from so steak was a good substitute:)

Miss Lady said...

Thank you :)