Friday, February 16, 2007

Ginger Epiphany

Did you ever buy a bottle of some exotic designer booze and then regretted the impulse? I did that awhile back. Picked up a fifth of ginger vodka. Sounded cool. I like ginger in food so I should like it in vodka, right?

I hated it.

So that bottle has been sitting on the shelf, lonely and unloved for lo! these many months. I'm too scotch to throw it out and not mean enough to give it to a friend. But this evening I had a moment of dazzling brilliance. I can COOK with it!

This came to me when I was thinking about stir fry and realizing that once again I was without any fresh ginger to grate into the mix. Ginger. Say ... what if...? Hang with me here and I'll tell you how it goes when you're making a fusion Caribbean stir fry.

First you start your rice cooking. Then you get all the stir fry ingredients fixed the way you want them because, once you start, it goes fast. You need to prepare the goodies up front.

Snipped a boneless, skinless chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and dropped them in a small bowl. Then I splashed a healthy glug of the ginger vodka over the bits and added some dry minced garlic, about a tablespoon of dried crushed chili peppers, a glug-glug each of soy sauce and oyster sauce and stirred it all up good. (That might have been fish sauce. The label is in Thai and I don't remember which it is. Since I use them interchangeably, I figure it doesn't matter.) Anyway, you want just enough liquid to barely cover the chicken bits. Set that bowl aside and go on to the other ingredients.

I had picked up a lovely, crisp, juicy head of napa cabbage today so I tore off the outer leaves and washed them and put them in the fridge for later. The tight inner portion was then sliced thin, just like for cole slaw. Next, I julienned half a sweet potato for color. Julienned red or green bell pepper would have been nice but I didn't have any. Minced some onion. Another item that's wonderful in this stir fry is a barely ripe (still quite firm) banana, sliced up ... but I didn't have one of those, either. I'm just mentioning it for your edification.

In a two-cup measuring cup, I fixed 1 cup of chicken broth and added one of those little 6-ounce cans of pineapple juice. Then I stirred in a couple of heaping teaspoons of corn starch and stirred it up to dissolve the starch.

Okay. Your rice should be done so turn off the heat, give it a quick fluff with a fork and put the lid back on. Now you're ready to start the stir fry.

Set the electric wok at 350 degrees and glug in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss in the sweet potato first because that takes the longest to cook. It probably would have been smart to parboil the 'tater but I didn't think of it in time. Anyway, stir that around for a bit, until you feel like it's starting to cook. Now add the chicken, marinade and all, and the minced onion. Stir everything until the chicken is just cooked. Add the shredded napa and keep stirring until the cabbage has cooked down pretty good. Now pour in your chicken broth mixture and let it bubble up in a boil, stirring until it thickens. Now would be a good time to add the bananas if you have 'em.

If I'd parboiled the sweet potatoes, I'd have been done at that point. Since I goofed on that step, I turned the wok down to low, put the lid on and poured myself a mug of coffee enhanced with a bit of golden nectar. By the time I'd finished sipping that, the sweet potatoes were just done -- not mooshy, but slightly crisp.

Now you scoop some rice onto your plate and spoon some of the stir fry over it. Smell that fragrance. Shazaam! The chicken was the first thing I went for, of course, to test out the culinary use of ginger vodka. Wow! It is wonderful, Coffee Mates. I kid you not. Dayum! I just love it when my weird ideas work out.

Now I have hope for making good use of the lonely bottle of rum that's flavored with lime and lemon.


Anonymous said...

I have vodka. I have ginger. I have chicken breasts... Just as well I don't do chicken for breakfast or my neighbours would wonder if they've been transported... Sounds good, Dee!

Anonymous said...

Oh that reminds me I didn't thaw out any meat for today. Guess I best get the new microwave cookbook out to see how too.

I loved your cooking, sorry I will miss this one.

How are the ladies at the Greasy Spoon?