Edited to add: Yep, I promised this post for tomorrow, but Ecto decided that you should be able to read it a day early! So, enjoy!
Friends, I have found my new, all-time favorite cookbook: Cooking Know-How. This cookbook is like no other I have seen before.
I’ve found that generally, there are two kinds of cookbooks out there: those filled with specific recipes, and those that focus on cooking techniques. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Recipe books contain some excellent recipes, but do not provide information on why each step is there or what kind of variation is possible. Technique books can teach us a lot, but can be complex and don’t typically contain recipes that allow you to use the techniques you just learned.
Cooking Know-How combines the best of both worlds, providing recipes for general dishes with simple, brief descriptions as to why each step is necessary and why certain techniques should be used. Each recipe ends with a list of suggested variations, or you can use your own variation!
For example, I used the book to create my stir-fry recipe yesterday. Here’s how I used it:
Step 1: Heat wok, add oil. The book talks about which oils would be suitable, and which wouldn’t, so that you can use whichever appropriate oil you already have in your kitchen.
Step 2: Add aromatics. Lists typical Chinese aromatics and describes the stir-fry technique. Also suggests good taste combinations and how to dice aromatics.
Step 3: Add meat. Obviously, I skipped this step, but it talks about what kind of meat you could use and how to cut it so that it cooks quickly and evenly.
Step 4: Add vegetables. In addition to a long list of suggestions, the book describes what vegetables are more authentically Chinese, and which vegetables will not cook well in a stir fry.
Step 5: Add sauce. Compares the acidity and sweetness of different vinegars to help you achieve the flavor you are aiming for.
Recipes: Lists ingredients for the following stir-fry variations: Pork & Vegetable, Shrimp in Hot Garlic Sauce, Szechwan Scallops, No-Fry Sweet-and-Sour Chicken, Chicken and Black Beans, Orange Beef, Shredded Pork Stir-Fried with Dried Tofu, and Lobster Stir-Fried with Chinese Vegetables.
Seriously, this book is amazing!
Since I had the sauce ingredients on hand (and, let’s face it, I wanted to play with the new wok some more), I decided to make a vegetable lo mein last night. I used Cooking Know-How for this one too!
This was my first time working with both cabbage and shallots. Be warned: I found that the shallots were much stronger than onions typically are, and had tears running down my face. I ended up putting a cold washcloth over my eyes for a few minutes after chopping them to get some of the sting out! Any suggestions on how to avoid this next time?
Vegetable Lo Mein
1/2 lb. lo mein noodles
1 T. canola oil
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
8 oz. snow peas
1/3 head of cabbage
1 bell pepper
1/2 c. water
3 T. rice vinegar
3 T. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. honey
1 T. Asian BBQ sauce (hoisin sauce would work too)
Cook noodles according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain.
Dice the garlic, ginger, and shallots, and set aside in a small bowl. Slice the cabbage and peppers, and place in a bowl with the snow peas. Mix the water, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and BBQ sauce in another small bowl. I know this adds to number of dishes you’ll need to do, but this step is so important. Your hands will be busy keeping everything moving inside the wok, and it is much faster and easier to just dump the contents of a bowl into the wok!
Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil, garlic, ginger and shallots. Stir fry for 1 minute.
Add the vegetables and stir fry them, keeping the vegetables moving continuously, until all veggies are started to soften. This should take about 4-6 minutes.
Add the noodles and the liquid sauce mixture. Continue to stir fry, keeping everything moving, until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the noodles and vegetables.