Chicken with Fermented Black Beans

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In the post Growing up Foodie, I write about how my mother became extremely enamored and proficient with Chinese cuisine, thanks to meeting a Chinese cook, author, and shop owner in Seattle, Washington, namely Mrs. Esther Chin. This is her cookbook from the 60’s.

Quickly, with cooking lessons in exchange for sea cucumbers my mother collected scuba diving in the Puget Sound, my Mom learned and cooked and our house smelled like an Asian grocery store. There were cleavers and steamers and sieves and woks and chopsticks and porcelain spoons. She never sat with us to eat because she was always cooking everything at the last minute. You just heard a lot of clanging and banging, and endless French swear words.

And then lo and behold, a myriad of dishes would appear on the table – winter melon soup, dumplings, shrimp balls, steamed duck, five willow fish, salads, and an occasional stir fry. And, surprisingly, I loved chicken cooked with fermented bean sauce.

My mother recently gave me Mrs. Chin’s cookbook she had treasured for so many years, and there was the recipe. There are also recipes for bird’s nests and shark’s fins…


Chicken  with  Black  Bean  Sauce
Mrs. Chin

2 pounds trimmed chicken thighs
2 tablespoons cornstarch, or more if necessary
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup fermented black beans
6 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 large green pepper, chopped
1/2 pound cauliflower florets
1 cup stock
1 tablespoon sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with the cornstarch. I use a sieve for the cornstarch, but forgot the photo.

Pound garlic and black beans together and cook with 1/4 cup of stock in a small pot until the beans are soft. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the green pepper and cauliflower florets for a few minutes. Add 1/4 cup stock, cover, and simmer for about 2 minutes.
Remove and set aside.

Add another 3 tablespoons of oil and fry the chicken pieces for a couple of minutes. Add 1/4 cup stock and cook until all the pieces turn white. Place in a separate bowl and set aside.

Fry the black bean sauce with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil for one minute. Add the chicken and 1/4 cup stock. Cover and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add the vegetables, sherry, and salt.

Mix well.

Heat through and serve with rice.

I also like to serve extra fermented beans, because they’re so good!

Lobster and Haddock Casserole

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This post was challenging for me to begin writing, which is not typically an issue. It’s just that so many memories came flooding back to me from when we were in Maine in October of 2021. But that’s exactly how this post came about, from an incredible day on a lobster boat.

Having never been to Maine before, a guide from Experience Maine recommended various activities, and one was spending a day with Linda Greenlaw on her working lobster boat. The day would end with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a lobster feast. I was certainly excited about dinner, but I knew the day would also be educational.

So, who is this Linda Greenlaw? This can’t be answered in one sentence. She is a daughter of a lobster fisherman, born and raised in Maine, lives on Isle au Haut, and certainly one claim to fame is being America’s only female swordfishing captain.

Here she is – small but mighty – second from the left.

From her website, Linda Greenlaw Books, Greenlaw first came to the public’s attention in Sebastian Junger’s book The Perfect Storm, where Junger called her “one of the best captains … on the entire east coast.” She was also portrayed in the movie The Perfect Storm, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

But it doesn’t end there. She also wrote the following books:
The Hungry Ocean, 1999, about her life as a swordfishing captain.
The Lobster Chronicles, 2001, about her life on a very small island.
All Fishermen are Liars, 2004, true stories from real fishermen.
Seaworthy, 2010, an inspirational story of her return to the sea.
Lifesaving Lessons, 2013, a memoir about her experience as an “accidental mother”.

Then, Ms. Greenlaw wrote mystery books! Here I’ve photographed 3 of many…

Because this is a food blog, I’ll get to yet another one of Linda Greenlaw’s achievements. Actually, two. Here are cookbooks written with her mother Martha, on regional Maine cuisine. Recipes from a Very Small Island was published in 2005, and The Maine Summers Cookbook, in 2011. Now do you see how I wasn’t too sure how to start writing about Linda?! She does everything!

The actual name of this recipe, one of her mother’s, is Head Harbor Lobster & Haddock Casserole. And I guess if you are married to a lobster fisherman, you get very creative with lobster!

Or, just serve it steamed. On a boat. As the sun sets.

Head Harbor Lobster and Haddock Casserole
Serves 10-12

2 pounds haddock filets
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup white flour
3 cups half and half
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon horseradish
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 ounces medium-dry sherry
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 pound, about 3 cups, diced cooked lobster meat
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Butter a shallow 3-quart casserole dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the haddock in a skillet, add water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook gently until the fish is no longer translucent in the center, about 5 – 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. When cool enough to handle, break the fish into small chunks.

I ordered lobster tails so I prepared the meat by boiling them for 1 minute per ounce, placed in iced water, then removed the meat.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium to medium-high heat, whisking, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the half and half, bring to a boil, and cook, whisking for 1 minute. Whisk in the ketchup, horseradish, mustard, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Whisk in the sherry and parsley and season with salt. The sauce will be very thick at this point; it will thin out with the addition of the seafood.

In a large bowl, combine the haddock and lobster meat with the sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Transfer to the prepared dish, sprinkle with the crumbs, and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes.

I served the casserole with a cherry tomato salad in a zingy parsley vinaigrette with capers.

I love the flavors of the bechamel in this casserole. They were spot on. And what a delight to enjoy the fresh haddock and lobster in this way.

A nice green salad, perhaps with a lemon dressing, would also be good.

Ultimate Christmas Pudding

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We have a new member of our family – our British son-in-law. My daughter and he have been at our home for Thanksgiving the last two years, but because of the pandemic, they won’t be back in 2020. In fact, they married in Brighton, England, and of course we couldn’t attend. My daughter said I could include a wedding photo in this post. I just couldn’t pick one. Aren’t the pics beautiful!

I’ve been wanting to make a steamed Christmas pudding for years, not just now with a Brit in our family. Ironically, he doesn’t like Christmas pudding! (I’m actually trying to figure out who does!)

I don’t enjoy alcoholic desserts, but Christmas pudding isn’t similar to American fruitcakes, in that they’re not slogged with brandy or rum weekly before being served.

It’s recommended that one start a Christmas pudding up to 3 months in advance of serving, which I did. I chose Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas pudding from her book Nigella Christmas, which is my favorite book of hers, probably because I love Christmas so much. And I love Nigella.

This took me a while to understand, but desserts in England are called puddings, like sticky toffee pudding isn’t a pudding, nor is this Christmas pudding.

Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas Pudding
From Nigella Christmas

150 grams currants
150 grams sultanas
150 grams roughly chopped prunes
175 millilitres pedro ximenez sherry
100 grams plain flour
125 grams fresh breadcrumbs
150 grams suet
150 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)
2 tablespoons honey
125 millilitres vodka (to flame the pudding)

You will need a 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart heatproof plastic pudding basin with a lid, and also a sprig of holly to decorate.

Put the currants, sultanas and scissored prunes into a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.

When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the vodka), either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas.

Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly, then fold in cola-cleaned coins or heirloom charms. If you are at all frightened about choking-induced fatalities at the table, do leave out the hardware.

Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid.

Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my all-purpose pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.

When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen or, if you’re lucky enough, a larder, until Christmas Day.

On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Eight hours combined cooking time might seem a faff, but it’s not as if you need to do anything to it in that time.

To serve, remove from the pan or steamer, take off the lid, put a plate on top, turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding. Then remove the basin – and voilà, the Massively Matriarchal Mono Mammary is revealed. (Did I forget to mention the Freudian lure of the pudding beyond its pagan and Christian heritage?)

Put the sprig of holly on top of the dark, mutely gleaming pudding, then heat the vodka in a small pan (I use my diddy copper butter-melting pan) and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils – you don’t want the alcohol to burn off before you attempt to flambé it – turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of vodka, then pour the flaming vodka over the pudding and take it as fast as you safely can to your guests.

If it feels less dangerous to you (I am a liability and you might well be wiser not to follow my devil-may-care instructions), pour the hot vodka over the pudding and then light the pudding. In either case, don’t worry if the holly catches alight; I have never known it to be anything but singed.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make and freeze the Christmas pudding for up to 1 year ahead. Thaw overnight at room temperature and proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

Maplev Bourbon vButter

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar bourbon, or your choice of liquor
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of allspice

With a mixer, beat the softened butter until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix while scraping the sides of the bowl, so the sugar and butter come together evenly. Add the vanilla, bourbon, and spices.

Mix, scraping the sides again, to combine. Spoon the sauce into a bowl.

This is brown sugar bourbon.

Serve warm or at room temperature, along with some of the maple bourbon butter.

Well, I do like Christmas pudding. And I really like this butter, which I adapted from Ms. Lawson. They’re a great combination.

Well, I liked it!

Cuban Black Bean Soup

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Many years ago my husband and I went to a work party, and the main dish served was said to be authentic Cuban black bean soup. Neither of the hosts were from Cuba, but they did share their recipe for the soup because it was outstanding.

At that time in my life I’d just begun cooking, and hadn’t before been introduced to black beans. Fast forward a few decades, and black beans are my favorite bean, if I was forced to pick one. I love them all, really, but maybe it’s the beautiful purple-black color that makes them so unique. They’re sometimes called turtle beans.

Black beans are prominent in Southwestern-inspired dishes, Latin American dishes, as well as Western African dishes. On the blog alone I’ve prepared black beans with Polish sausage, a black bean salad, puréed them to create “refried” black beans, and used those in a black bean and feta dip. They’re just so versatile.

But today I’m going back to where I was first introduced to them, in the form of Cuban black bean soup.

Cuban Black Bean Soup
printable recipe below

1 pound black beans, such as black turtle beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound lean salt pork, cut into small cubes
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups finely chopped green bell pepper
8 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 pounds smoked pork hocks
Salt and pepper
Cayenne chile pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup sherry

Put the beans in a large bowl and add cold water to cover to about 2″ above the top layer of beans. Soak overnight.

Heat the oil in a stock pot. Add the salt pork and cook, stirring often, until rendered of fat. Add the onions, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until wilted.

Drain the beans and add them to the pork and vegetable mixture. Add the beef broth.

Add the bay leaf and oregano, pork hocks, salt and pepper to taste, and the cayenne pepper flakes.

Bring to a boil and simmer about two hours or until beans are quite soft.

Remove the pork hocks. If desired, remove the meat from the hocks and chop finely to use as a garnish. (I returned the meat to the soup.)

Pour and scrape half of the beans into the container of a food processor. Blend until a purée forms, then scrape back into the stock pot. Puréed black beans are more of a grey color, but mixed with the whole cooked beans the soup is pretty.

Add the sherry. Heat thoroughly and serve.

I served the soup with achiote cornbread.

Serve, if desired, with optional garnishes such as chopped purple onion or green onions, lime slices, chopped ham, and sour cream.

The soup is also traditionally served over white rice, but I prefer mine without.

I hope you try this recipe. It’s a really good, hearty soup, but mostly I like it with all of my toppings of choice!

And cornbread.

 

Amarena Cherry Cake

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I always have Amarena cherries on hand, because my husband loves Manhattans, and I put them in his cocktail. I’ve also used them in sangria, but never baked with them. Until now.

If you buy Italian Amarena cherries, via Amazon, the beautiful jar has a recipe attached for a cake using them, along with this terrible photo. It looks like my grand daughter made this cake!

My cake definitely turned out prettier, and more what this cake is meant to look like!

On the left, below, are the cherries I order from Amazon. Trader Joe’s also sells these cherries.

It’s challenging to describe Amarena cherries. They’re almost candied, but not really. They’re not as sweet as a Maraschino cherry. And they come in a lovely cherry syrup. They would be wonderful on ice cream, or topped on buratta!

I’ve also seen Amarena cherries in biscotti, at the blog Marisa’s Italian Kitchen. I cannot wait to make those!

Amarena Cherry Cake with Chocolate
Cake with Amarena Cherries and Chocolate

200 grams Amarena cherries, drained
2 tablespoons of the syrup
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup fine-grained cornmeal
1 cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs, separated
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat butter with powdered sugar until light.

Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat in orange liqueur and the syrup. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites to a soft peak; fold in gently. Fold in the cherries and chopped chocolate until just incorporated.

Bake in a greased and floured 9” cake pan (loaf pan) at 375 degrees for approximately 65-70 minutes. (I baked mine at 350 degrees and removed it after 45 minutes.)

I’m sure by now you know that this cake is exceptionally good. How could it not be with these cherries and chocolate together?!

Warmed up, served with unsalted butter, was heavenly.

In the photo of the recipe, shown below, the name of this cake is plum cake. I consulted my friend and Italian cooking expert Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help explain why it’s called plum cake when there are no plums.

“It is not necessarily a cake with cherries that is called a plum cake in Italy. Any cake that more or less follows the “quatre quarts” recipe is called a plum cake in Italy.

Originally, a plum cake is any cake that has dried fruit in it, like prunes or raisins. The word “plum” is used loosely. In Italy, plum cake is thought of as a recipe from England. I believe that nowadays a plum cake is usually called a fruitcake in England.

In Italy, the name plum cake is used for any cake that is rectangular and has flour/sugar/butter/eggs as the main ingredients.

A cake in Italy that is rectangular with flour/sugar/butter/eggs plus cherries would probably be called a plum cake, or more completely a “plum cake alle ciliegie” (literally: plum cake with cherries).”

I hope that helps! It’s still a little confusing to me. This photo shows part of the recipe.

How to Stir Fry!

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Stir frying is something I do quite often in my kitchen. For one thing, Asian stir fries, with traditional ingredients, are simple and delicious. Secondly, they’re quite healthy, because of the lovely balance of meat or seafood and vegetables. They’re also a good use for leftover meat and vegetables, and mostly, I love them because no recipe is required.

It does help to be familiar with Asian ingredients. My stir fries are more on the Chinese side, but add some fish sauce and you’ve got yourself a Thai stir fry! As I have said before, you can certainly follow recipes, but I often cook the inspired way. That is, being familiar with the traditional ingredients of a cuisine, and using those in your dish. It may not be a perfect stir fry according to Chinese chefs and grandmothers, but no Chinese food police are coming to my kitchen to arrest me any time soon!

First, it’s important to have the basics – onion, garlic, and ginger. These can be part of the stir fry, or used in a marinade. If I do marinate meat before a stir fry, I only use a little peanut oil or olive oil – enough to blend the aromatics. Liquid additions are wonderful, but then the meat has to be patted dry before cooking. An oily marinade is just easier.

The seasonings for stir fries are easy to find, fortunately. Soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sherry, sesame seed oil, chile paste, hot sauce, and hoisin sauce. Other optional ingredients include fermented bean paste, shrimp paste, plum sauce (which I don’t care for) and oyster sauce.

One Chinese seasoning is called Chinese 5-Spice, which, obviously, is a mixture of spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, star anise, and pepper. I’ve noticed that some also contain fennel. As with most spice and herb mixtures, I hesitate to use them. Just like using a purchased curry powder, every dish you make will end up tasting the same. For this dish today, I just want the meat, vegetables, and seasonings to shine. But use the spice mixture if you like it!

5spice

The protein used in a stir fry has to be good quality and quick cooking. For example, I wouldn’t use beef or pork that requires 4-6 hours of cooking. I’m talking beef and pork tenderloin, chicken thighs and breast, scallops and shrimp. There’s no braising here.

When it comes to vegetables, anything goes, unless you are expecting the Chinese food police to show up. Of course there’s traditional bok choy, Chinese cabbage, Chinese eggplants, snow peas, and so forth, plus ingredients that play a minor role like bean sprouts, dried mushrooms, chile peppers, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and cilantro. But if you want to use carrots and broccoli, you can make a delicious stir fry as well. Or spinach and tomatoes!

The only requirement of a stir fry is that all the different components are cooked properly at the very end when all of they are all tossed together. So if you’re using carrots and broccoli, steam-cook them first until almost completely tender, then add them to the cooked meat at the end. Perfection! Spinach and tomatoes wouldn’t require any pre-cooking. It’s all about common sense.

Here is the stir fry that I made using what was in my refrigerator one night. Enjoy, and make sure to customize it to your tastes and ingredients!

Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry

1 1/2 pounds cubed or thinly sliced beef tenderloin
1/2 cup olive or peanut oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 – 1 1/2″ piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound sugar snap peas or snow peas
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/8 cup mirin
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
2 medium onions
2 medium red bell peppers
Fresh cilantro, chives, or chile pepper slices

Drain the beef well on paper towels, then place the cubed beef in a large bowl or re-sealable bag. I used the ends of a whole beef tenderloin, from which I had cut filet mignon slices, which is why the “cubes” are different shapes. The volumetric uniformity of the cubes is what’s important in a stir fry. Mine are on the large size, but uniformity is what’s critical.

Add the oil, garlic, ginger, and salt to a jar of a small food processor.

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Process until smooth, then pour over the meat.

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Toss the meat, or bounce it around in the bag to make sure the beef is uniformly coated with the flavorful oil. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Bring the meat to almost rooom temperature at least an hour before beginning the stir fry.

When you’re ready, begin by trimming the peas, if necessary, and steam them just until crisp-tender. For me, this was 5 minutes of steaming. Snow peas are thinner and would require less cooking time. However, cooking time also depends on how crisp you like your vegetables.

Let the peas cool. If you think you have overcooked the peas, or any vegetable for that matter, toss a cup full of ice over the vegetables in a colander. This will cool them off faster, and the melted ice will drain away. Set the peas aside.

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In a measuring cup, measure out the soy sauce, mirin, hoisin sauce, and sesame see oil. Whisk the mixture, and set aside.

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If you’re not familiar with hoisin sauce, I’d suggest buying some. You don’t need much for fabulous flavor. It’s just a soy bean paste. There are different qualities and brands. This is the one I can find locally, but when I have the opportunity to visit an Asian market, I buy more “authentic” brands.
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Slice the onions and peppers to your liking. I like more of a wedge look. Have these in a bowl nearby.

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Have everything you’re going to use in your stir fry near the stove. A lot about Chinese cooking, much like all cooking, is to have everything on hand during the cooking process. It’s mise en place on crack, because things can move quickly.

To begin, heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil* and just when it begins to smoke (have your ventilation system on) add a handful of cubed beef. Let them sit for a minute, before tossing around, then leave them alone for another minute or two. Get the cubes to the point where all sides show browning, but don’t allow any further cooking. Remember, there will be a little cooking boost at the end.

Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, then continue with the remaining beef.

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When you are done with the browned beef, lower the heat on the stove by about half. Add the onions and peppers, and saute them, tossing them around occasionally to create some caramelization.

If you want them cooked softer, you can put a lid on the skillet/wok for about a minute.

when you’re happy with the “cook” of the onions and peppers, add the peas and toss gently.

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Then add the beef cubes and any juices that might have accumulated in the bowl.

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Immediately pour in the seasoning mixture, and combine it gently. Stir occasionally, to make sure the beef cooks through to your liking. Mine, of course, will end up medium-rare.

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If the stir fry seems like it has too much liquid, remove the beef and vegetables, using a spider sieve, and place in a large serving bowl. Then reduce the liquid in the skillet/wok.

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Pour the reduced liquid over the stir fry, toss gently, and serve.

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Most people enjoy rice with their stir fries, but I prefer it as is.

Serve the stir fry with chile paste or sriracha or even cayenne pepper flakes for those who want a boost in heat. I’ve also included dried chile pepper slices, and you can always serve black or white sesame seeds for a pretty topping.

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* You may not need any extra oil if you have enough extra oily marinade. Make sure to use all of the marinade in the stir fry for extra flavor.

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note: Some recipes call for cornstarch to thicken the final sauce for a stir fry, but I don’t bother. If you’re not careful, the sauce will become gloppy, which reminds me of bad Chinese American restaurant food.

Buttternut Squash Aigre Doux

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If any of you have been following my blog for a year, and merci for that, you might remember when I made something called cranberry aigre doux. I made three jars of these cranberries essentially cooked in wine and vinegar. The recipe came from a very interesting book on canning called the Preservation Kitchen, by Paul Virant.

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In a follow-up post, I strained the cranberries from the liquid, reduced the liquid, and then poured everything over a room temperature block of cream cheese. My daughter claimed it tasted like Christmas! It was indeed good, and I’d also made the blueberry version of his in the summer before I started blogging so it’s not documented; it was equally delicious.

These posts no longer exist because I need to re-do them.

But I became even more intrigued with whatever Mr. Virant means by his terminology of aigre doux when I saw his recipe for butternut squash aigre doux. Okay, now I get it for cranberries and blueberries. But now for a winter squash? A vegetable? Of course, I had to make it. So here it is.

Butternut Squash Aigre Doux

1 good-sized butternut squash
1 large white onion, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sherry
1 cup maple syrup

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I used this sherry. It wasn’t good for drinking because I prefer sweeter sherry.

Have all of your canning supplies available and ready to go. I used one large jar that held the whole butternut squash, but you can use smaller jars, of course. make sure everything is sterilized.

Peel the squash, cut off the ends, and then slice it once lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Then cut each half lengthwise again.

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Slice 1/4″ slices crosswise and place in a large Dutch oven. Slice the onion crosswise into thin slices and add to the squash in the pot, and add the salt.

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Then pour on the sherry and maple syrup.

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Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat. Simmer the squash for about 30 minutes, stirring it around one time during the cooking process. You want it tender, but not mush. Let everything cool with the lid off.

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Using a slotted spoon, place the squash and onions in your sterilized jar.

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Add the sherry vinegar to the remaining liquid in the pot. Cook the liquid gently for about 10 minutes. I actually placed all the liquid in a different pan that had a pourable side.

Using a funnel with a strainer at the bottom, pour in the liquid until it comes no more than 1″ from the base of the lid. Cover the lid, but not too tightly.

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Process the jar or jars, under 1″ of water, at the correct temperature according to the thermostat on your canning pot, for 10 minutes. Remove the jar from the water, and let it cool.

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Store it as you would any thing that you’ve canned before, preferably a cool, dark place like a cellar or basement.

So then, what in the world to do with this butternut squash? Well, for me, the answer was simple. A salad! But a hearty salad. I’ve been making lots of bean and lentil salads lately, being that it’s winter time, so I reached for orzo instead.

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I put together a salad of spinach, purple cabbage, tomatoes, purple onion, orzo, butternut squash aigre-doux style, and some toasted pine nuts. Of course, I added a little salt and pepper.

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And the dressing? Simply some delicious balsamic vinegar and olive oil – both of which my daughters had bought me as Christmas presents! The vinegar matched beautifully with the somewhat maple syrup-sweetened butternut squash. I wish I could have shared.

verdict: I’ll probably not make this again. But that’s not to say it isn’t good, because it is. Mostly, the butternut squash slices taste like they were infused with maple syrup, although, fortunately, they’re not too sweet. Honestly, it was a waste of a lot of good sherry, maple syrup, and sherry vinegar. And some time that I’ll never get back. But if you’re feeling adventurous, go for it!