I was browsing among various recipes for green beans and noticed a call for Chinese five spice in one of them and wondered if I had the ingredients to make my own. Yes! – or at least close enough for my purposes. I looked over several recipes and they all had the same ingredients with a few variations: Star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns. Some used Szechuan peppercorns and others called for the more familiar black peppercorns, one recipe used cassia bark in lieu of the cinnamon, there were differences in the ratios so I just eyeballed mine as I loaded them into my little spice grinder. I ended up with about a quarter cup of some great smelling stuff.Those are the Szechuan peppercorns between the cinnamon sticks. They have an interesting effect in the mouth, some heat and a numbing sensation on the lips. Another name for them is prickly ash seed.
After all of that, I used about a teaspoon of the spice powder in the soy sauce marinade of the chicken for the green bean dish pictured above. That was a simple enough recipe, the most prep went into the sauce: 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup chicken stock, a tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of rice vinegar with a little corn starch to thicken it in the pan. I steamed the beans for five minutes while the chicken was cooking then added them to the pan with the chicken and then poured in the sauce and cooked until it thickened, a few more minutes.
Cloudy and drizzly and chilly days make it easy to stay in and cook. Found some frozen shrimp and decided to do a gumbo.I started with about a half cup of flour and poured in oil until it looked like plenty. I’ve seen cooks make a very dry looking roux but I prefer to go with it about like this because I find it easier to keep stirred. A roux is usually defined by its color, this one is past the peanut butter stage and is well on the way to milk chocolate. Keep the temps low and you can get by without standing over it every second but it will take longer. This is about as dark as I care to take it but you can stay with it until it’s much darker if you want.You’ll want a nice stock for your gumbo. This one has an onion, a carrot, a rib of celery, one sliced lemon, parsley, peppercorns, sliced garlic, thyme, and the shells from the shrimp. There are about two quarts of water in it and it’ll simmer for an hour or so.
There are tons of gumbo recipes, with tomatoes and without, with okra or not, with other meats like sausage or chicken. They all have a roux in common, and the trinity of onions, green peppers, and celery in water or stock. Knock yourself out!
I always add the green beans to my plate whenever we hit the Chinese buffet that’s located in the same complex that holds the grocery store and the farm goods retailer. I tell myself I’m going to make them next time I have some fresh beans but I never seem to remember. I made a point of making them today since I was already set on stir fry. They aren’t too hard, trim to the size you like and cook them in oil with minced garlic in whatever measure you like. I added sliced onions to these and cooked them for three or four minutes before adding a splash of water and covering the pan. Cook for another few minutes, add a slug of oyster sauce and toss to coat. Cover and reduce the heat until you are ready to plate. I cut the onions too small this time.The main dish was chicken and snow peas in a spicy brown sauce over rice. Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in soy sauce, minced garlic, a splash of Chinese cooking wine, a few tablespoons of water or stock, a tablespoon of chili garlic paste, and a spoonful of corn starch. I usually make additional sauce that is similar to the marinade but with more stock and a splash of oyster sauce or sugar to sweeten it a tad. I find that if I nuke the snow peas for a minute or two in the microwave all they take is another minute in the wok, added with the extra sauce when the chicken is finished.
Orange chicken is one of our favorites but for whatever reason we don’t do it that often. I’ve been getting navel oranges at the local Kroger store that are very good, nice and sweet, so I was disappointed when they didn’t have any the last trip we made. They did have a sack of regular oranges so I bought those. Alas, they weren’t as good as the navels, a little too acidic for my taste. Perfect for cooking, though! I like RasaMalasia for their take on Asian cuisines and that is where this recipe came from.I used chicken breast meat for this one but boneless skinless thigh meat would be great. I’m using a deep cast iron skillet for this batch, keeping an eye on the temperature with a thermometer. I kept the temps around 350 for this, and added the chicken a piece at a time so it wouldn’t clump together. Take the pieces out with a slotted spoon as they reach the color you are looking for and drain them on paper towels.While the last of the chicken was frying I started the orange sauce in another pan. Bring it to a simmer and check the taste, add cornstarch in a slurry if it’s too thin. Keep an eye on the other pan so you don’t overcook those last few chunks.When you are ready to serve, dump the chicken into the pan with the sauce……and flip it a bit to coat everything. I waited until the rice cooker told me the jasmine rice was ready before I took this step.And now for a different orange… LOL! The crittercam caught Ginger Boy trying to sneak up on a Cardinal. I can assure you no birds were harmed during the making of this wildlife cameo.Blueberry muffins! Google told me that a yellow cake mix would work just fine for these, and Mrs J turned out these after getting the specifics from here. (ProTip: these are filled just a wee bit too full.)I noticed that the recipe didn’t include any information on the yield. It definitely makes more than eight, a dozen might be the right number. The crumble topping was good on these. We give them two thumbs up!
Don’t ever ask me what my favorite meat is when I’m eating a nice juicy cheeseburger but at most any other time I’ll answer that with a “hmm… chicken, I guess”. These are chicken enchiladas with jack cheese in a tomatillo sauce. Yummy!I made some beans to go with them, and added a daub each of guacamole and sour cream. I like the chips for the crunch they add.I ordered in a bucket of duck fat after a search turned up a source that wasn’t asking an arm and a leg for it. I have the tub broken down into smaller containers and most of it is frozen save for about a half pound in the fridge. I read all kinds of good things about it and am really looking forward to some turkey leg confit. I did use a spoonful of it when I browned these thighs and really got a nice color on them. I braised the thighs in stock and squeezed in the juice of a lemon and added capers at the finish to make a nice lemon sauce. It was good on the steamed broccoli, too.The rice is a box mix that works well for me – Zatarain’s is a good brand. I really like their wild rice mix.… and a puppeh! I love the expression on his little puppy face. Mrs J says he is a chihuahua terrier mix and was adopted today. Yay!
I’m happy enough with how my gumbo turns out that I don’t much use a recipe anymore. The fellow over at NOLA Cuisine always gets my nod when someone asks for recipes for these sorts of dishes, be sure to take a tour of his place – click on his recipe page for sure.
This one has genuine Louisiana made Andouille sausage and chicken thighs. (Link goes to a Cajun Grocer’s page.) I ordered one of their turduckens to have on hand for the upcoming holiday.