Thursday, March 10, 2011

Asian Fusion Weekend

This past weekend witnessed a host of continual successes in my kitchen. It seems that everything we made, be they desserts, breakfast, or actual main courses, ended up perfect. In addition to this excellence, it appears that we also had an unplanned theme of vaguely pan-Asian-ish flavours in our dinners. That probably had something to do with the abundance of teriyaki and soy sauce in use. Y'know, just maybe. In any case, both these dishes do a wonderful job of pairing distinct sweet and sour flavours together. They were such an unexpected treat, I can't help but blog about them.

Saturday: Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon Fillets
I don't eat enough fish in my life. This is because a) as a scuba dive instructor, I find it somewhat odd to eat my little aquatic friends, and more saliently, b) the price tag of fish in the Midwest doesn't like me. But when you get a craving, there's no fighting it. I needs me some fishies. So, bolstered by the earlier success of revisiting old cookbooks, I took another leap of faith and started examining the fish section ATK's 2009 Cooking for Two. I don't rely on this one much, because "for Two" doesn't generate sufficient leftovers in my opinion. The food is good, though, so there's no sense in completely ignoring it.

This dish stood out from the rest in the section. It involves pan-searing salmon until it's almost crisp, and then covering it in a thick, viscous glaze of homemade teriyaki sauce (because bottled just isn't good enough). What's more, the recipe leads you to serve it on a bed of simple cabbage-shiitake stir-fry. Though I would add more mushrooms next time, this is a quick way to add both the crunch of veggies and the je-ne-sais-quoi of shrooms to the already sweet-salty tang of the fish. Talk about rich in taste and texture! ATK FTW. And simple enough that even I might decide to assemble it on a weeknight. When I can afford salmon on a regular basis. Yeeaaah...

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs mirin
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 small head napa cabbage (about 8oz), cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 (6oz) skinless center-cut salmon fillets, about 1,1/2 inches thick

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Whisk the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and cornstarch together in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the scallions, garlic, sesame oil, and ginger.

Heat 1 Tbs of the vegetable oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook until they soften and just begin to brown, about 2min. Stir in the cabbage and cook until wilted, about 5min.

Clear the center of the skillet, add the scallion mixture, and cook, mashing the mixture into the pan, until fragrant, about 30sec. Stir the scallion mixture into the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and transfer the mixture to a platter. Tent loosely with foil and keep warm in the oven while preparing the salmon.

Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out the skillet with a wad of paper towels, add the remaining 1 tsp oil, and heat over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place the salmon, skinned-side up, in the skillet and cook until well browned on the first side, about 5min. Flip the fish and continue to cook until the flesh is opaque and flakes apart when gently prodded with a paring knife, 3-5min longer. Transfer the fish to the platter with the cabbage in the oven while preparing the sauce.

Wipe out the skillet with a wad of paper towels. Whisk the soy sauce mixture to recombine, add it to the skillet, and bring to a simmer over medium ehat. Cook until the sauce is a thick, syrupy glaze, about 2min. Spoon the glaze over the salmon and serve.

Sunday: Honey-Chile Chicken Wings
This recipe has been on my waiting queue for a while: Moxie and I had been planning to wait until the local farmer's market reopens to purchase quality meat. Unfortunately, we've both been suffering from meat-cravings recently, so we caved and bought the best free-range chicken the supermarket could provide (which isn't so much "happy" chicken as "vaguely content"). But man, does it hit the spot.

My first reaction to biting into the finished product was: "...buffalo wings?" Because indeed, they are similar to the restaurant appetizer that Do wants to order by the bucketful whenever he comes to visit. They have the same crispy skin and juicy interior; both are doused in sauce; finally, eating them with your hands makes a tasty mess that will leave you licking your fingers for hours. The sauce itself is what makes all the difference; I'm sure you can imagine the depths of taste in the combination of vinegar, honey, and soy sauce. Adjust the spice content to match your heat tolerance (Do, for instance, would triple the amount of crushed red pepper, and then add some hot sauce), and you can add the right amount of burn to the sticky sweet & salty mixture.

  • 4 lbs chicken wings // You don't need that much; we used less than 3 lb
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat the broiler and set a rack in the center of the oven. In a large bowl, toss the chicken wings with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the wings on a wire rack set over a large, sturdy baking sheet. Broil for 45-50min, turning once or twice, until the wings are cooked through and crisp.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the vinegar and crushed red pepper and simmer for 1min. Let cool, then whisk in the honey and soy sauce.

In a large bowl, carefully toss the chicken wings with the honey-soy mixture. Transfer the wings to a platter, sprinkle with the scallions and serve.

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