The Year of the Ox gets under way Wednesday, and what better guide for a Westernized version of a Chinese New Year party than a Californian who teaches Chinese cooking?
Hugh Carpenter is not Chinese, but he can wield a cleaver with the expertise that only years of practice develop. While studying Chinese history and the Mandarin language at Dartmouth, he developed an abiding passion for Chinese food. He frequented Chinese restaurants several nights a week and happily pitched in whenever his language professor (a Chinese) invited students to prepare Chinese food at his home.
After college, Carpenter returned to Santa Barbara and established a service catering Chinese food. Soon he was teaching the preparation of Chinese foods in private homes to amateur cooks. As he became an established instructor, teaching the intricacies of Chinese cuisine in about 40 cookware shops and cooking schools around the country, the catering business went by the wayside.
Recently, Carpenter has also led tours to the Far East. Not surprisingly, the tours reflect his interest in the history of China as well as its food. This fall, he'll be leading his fourth tour to China in as many years.
Carpenter is not a purist when it comes to preparing food for a Chinese New Year celebration.
In his own kitchen, rather than spending all his time on last-minute stir-fry dishes while guests are waiting patiently for the next course, Carpenter prefers to serve a menu that can be prepared almost entirely in advance.
Falling right in with the current trend of adapting classical recipes of other cuisines to fit the American pace and life style, he likes to use Chinese techniques and flavorings in somewhat unconventional variations. His Curried Lamb Won Tons are a good example of this penchant for experimentation.
Most of the Chinese ingredients called for in the recipes that Carpenter has devised for our Chinese New Year party are available in the Oriental-food sections of supermarkets, but for some, a trip to Chinatown may be necessary.
CURRIED LAMB WON TONS
1/2 onion, peeled and minced 2 medium carrots, minced 1/2 pound ground lamb 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 1 egg 1 tablespoon light soy sauce 1 tablespoon curry powder 1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce, chili paste or sambal sauce 1/2 teaspoon salt Oil 40 square won ton skins
Combine onion, carrots, lamb, ginger, egg, soy sauce, curry, sugar, chili sauce and salt and blend well. Line baking sheet with wax paper and lightly dust with cornstarch. With one corner of won ton wrapper pointing toward you, place 1 teaspoon filling in center of each square. Fold bottom half of wrapper over the filling. The overlapping corners should be slightly off center from each other. Roll filled won ton into a cyclinder with the tips still exposed. Turn won ton cyclinder 180 degrees. Lightly moisten each end of the cyclinder with water. Press moistened edges together. Place on dusted wax paper. Can be refrigerated at this point for several hours priorto cooking.
In large skillet heat oil 1/2 inch deep to 365 degrees. (Oil will be at correct temperature when a small strip of wrapper added to it bounces on the surface.) Cook about 10 won tons at a time. Fry until golden on one side and then turn and fry on other side, about 1 1/2 minutes in all. Remove won tons from pan with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve with plum sauce dip. Makes 40 won tons.
Chinese Plum Sauce Dip 1/2 cup prepared Chinese plum sauce 2 tablespoons dry Sherry 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine plum sauce, Sherry and ground cinnamon. Makes about 1/2 cup.
SICHUAN NOODLE SALAD
IN PEANUT SAUCE 4 cups cooked thin fettucine or other noodles 2 tablespoons oil 1 cup julienned carrots 1 cup julienned green onions pound ham, cut julienne 1 cup bean sprouts 1 cup julienned English cucumber 1 cup julienned sweet red pepper Peanut Sauce
While noodles are still warm, toss with oil until well coated. Chill. Place carrots in sieve and pour boiling water over top. Immediately pat dry with paper towels. Chill. Refrigerate green onions, ham, bean sprouts, cucumber and red pepper separately, covered, until serving time. Bring noodles to room temperature before serving.
At serving time, place noodles in center of large round bowl or platter. Arrange vegetables and ham attractively in separate mounds around edges. To serve, toss noodles with vegetables, ham and Peanut Sauce. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Note: The noodles and sauce must be at room temperature when tossed and served. If colder the sauce will be too thick and will lose its creamy consistency.
Peanut Sauce 1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon minced green onion 6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter 2 tablespoons heavy soy sauce cup red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon Chinese chili paste 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon sesame oil 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon dry Sherry 1 teaspoon Chinese-style hot dry mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup chicken stock
Combine ginger, garlic, green onion, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste, sugar, sesame and vegetable oils, Sherry, dry mustard, salt and chicken stock and blend thoroughly. Cover and set aside. Do not refrigerate. When ready to use, blend well again. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
SHREDDED SPICY SALAD 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 2 tablespoons peanut or corn oil 1/2 cup light soy sauce 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar cup sesame oil 6 tablespoons light brown sugar 1 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce or paste 1/2 pound Chinese pea pods 1 English cucumber, shredded 4 stalks celery, cut in thin diagonal slices 2 sweet red peppers, shredded 2 cups shredded daikon (Japanese radish) 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Saute ginger and garlic in peanut oil in small saute pan for few seconds. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and chili sauce. Bring to boil and simmer 2 minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Pour into large mixing bowl and cool completely.
Blanch pea pods in rapidly boiling water 15 seconds. Drain and rinse immediately under cold water. Pat dry and shred.
Toss pea pods, cucumber, celery, red peppers and daikon with cooled soy mixture. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. (Salad should not be tossed with dressing more than 4 hours in advance or vegetables lose their textures and color.) To serve, drain well, heap vegetables on platter or in bowl and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
MAHOGANY CHICKEN WINGS 4 pounds chicken wings 1/2 cups light soy sauce cup dry Sherry 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce 3/4 cup plum sauce 6 green onions, minced 6 large cloves garlic, minced cup cider vinegar cup honey
Cut each wing in 3 pieces at joints. Reserve wing tips for other use such as in chicken stock. Place meatier portions of wings in large container. Combine soy sauce, Sherry, hoisin sauce, plum sauce, green onions, garlic, vinegar and honey and mix well. Pour sauce over meatier chicken parts, turning to coat, cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
To cook wings, line 2 shallow-rimmed baking sheets with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Drain wings, reserving marinade. Place drumstick portion of wings in one pan and center portion of wings in other pan. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees 1 hour. After 30 minutes, drain off all liquid, turn chicken parts over and baste with reserved marinade. Cool on baking sheet one hour before removing if serving cold. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold. Makes about 12 servings.
HUNAN BARBECUED MEATS 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 1 tablespoon minced green onion 1 tablespoon minced cilantro 2 shallots, minced cup hoisin sauce 1 tablespoon dry Sherry 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon sesame oil 1 tablespoon honey 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter 1 tablespoon Chinese chili sauce 1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan pepper, roasted and crushed, optional 1 roasting chicken, halved, or 1 1/2 pounds pork butt, cut into 1 inch thick strips, or 2 pounds beef back ribs or 1 1/2 pounds meat from leg of lamb, cut into strips 1 cup cilantro sprigs 1 1/2 cups shredded green onions 3 cups shredded cucumber 4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce 2 cups shredded red peppers Hoisin sauce Peking Pancakes
Combine garlic, ginger, green onion, cilantro, shallots, hoisin sauce, Sherry, vinegar, sesame oil, honey, peanut butter, chili sauce, 5-spice powder and pepper. Blend thoroughly. Rub mixture over meat of choice and marinate at least 30 minutes. If using chicken, loosen skin and work some of the marinade between the skin and meat. Roast the marinated meat at 350 degrees until done or cook on an outdoor barbecue. A 4-pound chicken, split, will cook in about 1 hour. Pork, beef and lamb will take about 1 hour, but this depends on how thick the meat has been cut. Check doneness by cutting into the meat or use a meat thermometer.
To serve, cut meat into thin slices and arrange on serving platter. Surround with separate dishes filled with cilantro sprigs, shredded onion, cucumber, lettuce and peppers.
Spread hoisin sauce on Peking Pancake, add small amount of barbecued meat and shredded accompaniments. Roll into a cyclinder, fold bottom edge up and eat like sandwich.
Note: This dish is excellent served cold, however Peking Pancakes are better when still hot from the steamer.
PEKING PANCAKES 1 cup boiling water 2 cups unbleached white flour cup sesame oil, about
Bring water to rapid boil. Stir into flour. Turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Cover with kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, knead briefly.
Roll dough out on lightly floured board (always rolling from center out) until dough is about -inch thick. As you roll dough, occasionally turn it over and sprinkle more flour onboard in order to prevent dough from sticking.
With a 2-inch diameter biscuit or cookie cutter, cut 16 to 20 circles from dough. (Scraps of dough can be pressed together, kneaded briefly and rolled out to make more pancakes.) Set dough circles aside. Remove all flour and bits of dough from board. Lightly rub sesame oil over board. Place one dough circle on oiled board. Rub about 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil over the top of dough. Lay another circle on top of this, and press the two together gently using the palm of your hand.
Using an unfloured rolling pin, roll the pair out (always rolling from the center outwards) into a 6-inch diameter circle. Do not turn pancakes over while doing this.
Heat 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Place double pancake in the ungreased skillet. Cook about 45 seconds on one side, flip it over and cook about 15 seconds longer. Pancakes are done when they just lose their raw color. Brown spots are a sign of too high heat or overcooking.
As pancakes are done, remove from pan and immediately separate them, starting at one edge. Stack directly on top of each other (they will not stick together) and cover with a towel. Repeat process with rest of pancakes.
Pancakes may be refrigerated for several days or frozen indefinitely. To reheat Chinese pancakes, fold them in half, then into wedge-shaped quarters. Place, overlapping, on heatproof plate and place plate in top pan of steamer over boiling water. Cover pan and cook 3 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 16 to 20 pancakes.
CHILLED SHRIMP WITH CHINESE DIPPING SAUCES 2 pounds medium to large uncooked shrimp cup minced green onions cup minced fresh cilantro 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger Chinese Dipping Sauces
Shell shrimp except for the tail. Butterfly shrimp by cutting along top almost through to bottom. Rinse, discard vein and pat dry. Combine onions, cilantro and fresh ginger. Toss shrimp with onion mixture. Place shrimp in top portion of steamer over rapidly boiling water, cover and steam until shrimp are done, about 3 to 5 minutes. When cooked, place on chilled platter and chill thoroughly. To serve, arrange shrimp on serving platter and garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Serve with Chinese Dipping Sauces. Makes about 30 to 40 servings.
Chinese Dipping Sauces Sauce 1: Mix dry hot Chinese mustard with flat beer until smooth. If desired, add a small amount of Dijon mustard and a few drops of sesame oil. Sauce will be very hot.
Sauce 2: Combine prepared hot Chinese mustard and light soy sauce to taste.
Sauce 3: Combine 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1 tablespoons shredded ginger, 1 seeded and slivered dry red chile and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds. Mix well.
Other dips to consider are small dishes of: hoisin sauce, tomato based chili sauce, plum sauce, chutney and homemade salsa.
GIANT WALNUT COOKIES 4 cups walnut halves 1 cup lard 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla Dash salt 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
In saucepan, cover walnuts with water. Bring water to boil and boil nuts for 6 minutes. Tun into collander and rinse under hot water. Pat dry. Spread on baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Turn walnuts occasionally to ensure even cooking. Cool completely.
Cream lard and sugar together. Add 1 egg, vanilla, salt and baking powder. Finely mince enough cooled walnuts to measure 3/4 cup. Set remaining walnut halves aside. Stir minced nuts into sugar mixture. Slowly work in flour. Knead briefly on lightly floured board. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into 2-inch diameter cylinders, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or freeze. (Dough may be refrigerated one week or frozen indefinitely.)
To bake, cut 1/2-inch thick rounds from cylinders. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Press reserved walnut half in center of each cookie. Beat remaining egg. Brush top of each cookie with beaten egg. Bake at 375 degrees 12 to 14 minutes, until cookies are golden on top. Remove cookies from baking sheet while still warm. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
COCONUT ICE CREAM 6 large egg yolks 1 cup sugar 2 cups half and half 2 cups frozen coconut milk, thawed 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut 1 teaspoon coconut extract
Beat yolks with sugar until mixture forms a pale ribbon when beater is lifted. Scald milk. Slowly pour milk into egg yolks, stirring with a whisk. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan, and place over high heat. Beat liquid briskly with a whisk for about 5 minutes until liquid begins to thicken. Immediately pour into bowl placed in sink filled with ice water. Stir custard constantly to speed cooling. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. When well chilled, add coconut milk, shredded coconut and extract. Pour into ice cream machine cannister and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.
To serve, place a large scoop of the ice cream in coconut shells that have been cut in half. Sprinkle toasted shredded coconut over top of ice cream and garnish with a mint leaf, if desired. Makes 1/2 gallon.
Note: Carpenter prefers frozen coconut milk to shelf stable coconut milk, which has an entirely different flavor.