Something I've been meaning to try...

I was cruising the library the other day - for books, people - for books!!! Get your minds outta the gutter...

So - as I was saying - I was cruising the library for books the other day when I came across Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong. I was pretty excited - I had read about the book on Barbara's blog Tigers and Strawberries and wanted to give it a try. I've got a wok and I am not afraid to use it...

Having a five pound bag of chicken wings left over from feeding the gamers on Friday night - I decided to try the Soy Sauce Chicken Wings with Fresh Shiitake mushrooms. The picture looked pretty damn good - it was arranged in the best food porn style. First things first - while I had the soy sauce and the spices, I did not have the Chinese cooking wine or the dark soy sauce in my pantry. I tried to pick up the wine at the local groceries but had no luck so, I headed over to Asian grocery to get my supplies.

Side note: I love Asian supermarkets - it's like going on a hunting expedition. Since the English titles on some of the items are pretty darn tiny, you have to take your time and make sure you are getting what you came for. And there is always the chance you will get the crappy brand of what ever you are looking for - so you have to pluck up the courage to ask the owners and other shoppers what they would recommend. This time, in addition to getting the cooking wine and dark soy, I picked up oyster sauce, hosin sauce, fresh shiitake mushrooms plus a huge bag of baby bok choy. I have to admit, however, that there are items that kinda worry me. Things like Big Bird Pork Fu - but we'll tackle that another time....

So I get home and measure out all the ingredients for the poaching liquid and set it to simmering. It sure smelled great. Anise, cinnamon and garlic were the dominate aroma. The anise worried Tony a little bit. He hates liquorice but I assured him it wouldn't be too strong as I had only put in 5 star anise instead of the 10 the recipe called for.

After 40 minutes, I dropped the wings into the pot and cooked them over very low heat the seven minutes specified in the recipe, then pulled them off the heat and let them set to finish cooking in the hot liquid.

In the meantime, the rice was cooking away on the stove and I followed the recipe for the bok choy with oyster sauce. Very quick, very simple. You blanch the bok choy in water, toss with sesame oil and oyster sauce, then pour hot peanut oil on it at the last minute. Kylie uses this technique on a couple of other veggies as well. Quick and simple, it let the flavors of the bok choy stand out. This recipe is definitely on my keeper list.

So about 15 minutes later the wings got fished out of the sauce, finished off with the mushrooms cooked in a reduction of the poaching liquid, finished the bok choy and this is how it all looked!

Looks pretty damn yummy huh?

So what did the family think? They really disliked the wings. The skin, which had been in contact with the liquid, was very rubbery and the meat, which had not been in contact with the liquid, was very bland. I am going to chalk it up to cultural differences. We, as a rule, love things like chicken feet - which are nothing more than rubbery skin surrounding some tendons and bone. But with wings, we wanted the skin to be crispy - and the same with roast chicken. That means poaching a whole chicken in the same manner would be right out for home dinners. I thought maybe it was just us, so I gave Gail some of the wings. She and her family tried them for dinner. Her son was not too upset by the skin and really liked the wings. Just a note - he is also a professional chef and eats a lot of things with relish that most would not consider. Jim and Gail, on the other hand, disliked the texture of the skin, but found the meat acceptable.

On the plus side, the reduced poaching liquid with the shiitake mushrooms in it was great over the rice and the bok choy was the best. Everyone went back for seconds, and was upset there weren't thirds on the bok choy.

Truthfully, I am not too discouraged by the whole wing debacle. It looked good, it smelled good, but the texture was just too much for us to eat the wings as an everyday meal. The sauce, which I see as an investment, I froze for future use. I was thinking maybe I could use it to poach skinless chicken thighs thus avoiding the skin issue and adding more flavor with the stronger tasting meat. Plus - thighs are a lot cheaper than wings. Once the poaching liquid was finished simmering, the whole dish really only took about 25 minutes - not too bad for a weeknight dinner.

I am also going to be trying some of the egg dishes from the book. I am a big fan of soft poached eggs and several recipes are devoted to different ways of preparing them.

Now for the big question - would I buy this book?

The recipes are fairly simple. Everything I have tried comes out correctly the first time when the directions are followed. The ingredients are mostly easy to find, but some will require a trip to a specialty market to purchase (At least in Columbus). (This might put off some of the more timid souls who are unwilling to go outside their comfort zone just to make dinner one night.) So yes, I would buy the book - it is on my wish list right now.