Set your table before you begin cooking.

While I missed blogging Barbara Tropp a couple of weeks ago for “50 Women Game-Changers in Food” from Gourmet Live, it didn’t stop me from making some of her incredible food in honor of a good friend’s birthday and Chinese New Year.

I started out by spending a bit of cozy time with one of Barbara’s books, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, just to see what I thought I’d like to make.  The choices were myriad and luscious… but I couldn’t make all of them.  I did, however, want to keep reading forever; she wrote beautifully.  I decided on three separate dishes:  one a soup for a starter and the other two as a main course that could be eaten together, but that would also provide some great leftovers.  HA!  There were hardly any leftovers.  Do make extra pork; it’s a perfect cold snack.

Here’s the menu:

Soup:  Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder (page 452)–a filling soup silky strands of egg whites
Meat:  Northern-Style Chinese Roast Pork (page 205)–requires a day’s marinating, but worth it.
Noodles:  Five Heap Noodles (p 361)–I changed this up, but used the basic idea.

If you’re not familiar with Barbara Tropp, take a little detour and read this.  Sadly, the world lost a top-flight Chinese scholar and chef way too early in life. Those who cook her recipes continue to share and pass on a bit of the knowledge of a cuisine to which she was forever lovingly enthusiastic and dedicated.  The patience of tone and inventive spirit in Barbara Tropp’s writing are unmatched and well worth the purchase of her books, the other of which is China Moon Cookbook.

Not having the time to blog the entire meal, I chose to write about the velvety and intriguing soup.  It’s the easiest to make and perhaps the most versatile.  I do encourage you to look up the pork and noodle recipes; the pork was so very fun and was unlike any I’d ever cooked. Cook’s Note:  In the pork recipe link, the oven temperatures are Celsius.   Here are some photos of the cooking pork and my noodle toppings:

Recipe called for hanging the pork from “S” hooks; I chose to use a rack over a rimmed baking sheet with water.  Sliced thinly, it can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.

The noodles (first photo) had a light sauce stirred in a couple of hours before the meal, and then were served with variety of toppings at the table (see below), as well as extra sauce–a kind of DIY-Asian-Noodle Salad.  Barbara’s Five Heap Noodles are served at the center of a large platter/bowl, with the heaps dotting the edges of the serving  platter.

Cilantro, cucumber, radishes, grated and sliced carrots, steamed chopped green beans and asparagus–I chose my own vegetables.

Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder–rewritten a bit for my use

  
3/4 -1# fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, retaining liquid
7 large white mushrooms, cleaned well and sliced very thinly (keep stems)
2 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh green beans (or sugar snaps) sliced thinly on the diagonal into 1 1/4″ 
   lengths
2 T peanut oil
2T sherry
5 1/2 cups chicken stock*
15 oz can creamed corn
4T cornstarch dissolved in 6T cold chicken stock
1 large egg white (I misread this and used a whole egg; it was delicious)
sugar and salt (yes, you might need them both)
2 oz good, sweet and smokey ham, coarsely minced

I had all of the soup ingredients prepped and in the frig that morning. 
*Including Chinese chicken stock I made in an hour from rotisserie chicken, ginger, onions, and pepper.


Making the soup:  Read everything well before starting!!

About 15 minutes before serving, assemble all of the ingredients within easy reach of the stovetop, and put individual soup bowls in a low oven to warm.

 
This is good practice for all Asian cooking.  Have everything cut, ready to go, and plates/bowls warmed or set on table. 

Heat a heavy non-aluminum stockpot over medium-high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact.  Add the oil, swirl to glaze the bottom of the pot, then heat until a bead of wine added to the the pot “explodes” in a sizzle.  Add the wine, allow only 1 second for it to explode in a fragrant hiss, then immediately add stock to capture the wine essence.  Bring to a boil, add tomatoes, mushrooms, and corn. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until mixture returns to a boil.  Do not increase the heat or stop stirring; it can burn. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and add vegetables (beans.)  Simmer about 2-3 minutes for snow peasor 4 minutes for beans, stirring constantly until the vegetable is cooked but quite crisp.  It will cook more while you serve.

Taste the soup and add salt or sugar. (Store-bought tomatoes may need a bit of sugar or soup will be flat…”do not hesitate” to add it.)  Reduce the heat to low.  Stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine, then add it to the pot in a steady stream, stirring slowly for about 2 minutes until soup turns glossy and thick.  (This will be very obvious.)  Turn off heat.

Using a fork or chop sticks, beat the egg white with quick, light strokes just to break the gel.  It will froth a bit, but do not beat to a foam.  Holding it about 6 inches above the surface of the soup, add the egg white in a very thin, steady stream.  Stir gently once midway, and again when finished to bring the lacy threads to the surface.

Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with a sprinkling of ham.  Or cover and serve the soup 1-4 hours later, when vegetables are no longer crisp, but the soup is deeper in flavor.

Leftovers keep well for a 4-5 days, refrigerated, or may be frozen.  Reheat in a heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Cook’s Note:  With just a few variations (vegetable stock, no ham or egg), this makes a lovely and satisfying vegan soup.  As the noodles are totally vegan, if you put the two together, you’ll have a great vegetable meal. I am unable to find a link for Barbara’s noodles, but will continue to try to find one. I made Whole Foods 365 whole wheat linguine (instead of using Asian noodles) and made Barbara’s Five Heap sauce-with a bit of a twist- out of:  1T crushed sesame seeds,1T sesame oil,  2T peanut oil heated with  chopped green onions, crushed red peppers and ginger, 2T water, 2T soy sauce, 2T rice vinegar, 1/4 t chili oil.  After adding the vegetables, I added toasted sesame seeds as garnish.  We liked the extra sauce at the table.

Loving kitchen helpers..

Two Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

Been a wee bit chilly around here….I’ve been making lots of soup and long-simmering dishes.  You’ll hear about some of them soon.

Snuggle time in St. Paul

 

Upcoming… Alyce’s Lamb Shanks on Mashed Rutabaga 

Also upcoming this Friday:  Sullivan’s Island Shrimp Bog 

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 If you liked this, you might like:

  Basil Chicken Fried Rice

 or
 Ham Fried Rice

 or
Tofu Stir Fry

 Sing a new song,
Alyce