hakka chinese chicken in wine soup, lite version


The wine-y smell of this soup takes me back to my childhood. I confess it wasn’t the sort of dish I enjoyed when I was younger. I’m not fond of soups and the smell of this one was an earthy and mysterious liquid garnet that tasted disappointingly like vinegar. I never tried it until today when I made a “lite” version, i.e. skinless chicken, trimmed of excess fat. When I tasted it, I realized I had captured the smell that I remembered in this pot. It was delicious. What can I say? I grew up! 

Hakka Chinese Chicken in Wine Soup, Lite Version
Servings: 4
Total Time: 30 minutes

2 chicken thighs, skinless and trimmed of excess fat
2 chicken drumsticks, skinless
1 chicken breast, skinless and boneless
Salt and pepper
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup red wine
1 1/4 cup chicken broth, low sodium preferred
1 small onion (I used quarter of a large onion)
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
10 small dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and softened, OR 4 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps quartered
Scallions, sliced on the bias, for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, lightly salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Set aside.

In a large saucepan or small Dutch pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the ginger and stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken pieces and stir fry until lightly browned on the outside.

Add the wine and chicken broth. Add the soy sauce, onion, and the mushrooms. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to simmer, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken breast and set it aside. Continue cooking the thighs and drumsticks for 15 more minutes. Three minutes before cooking time is up, add the breast back to the soup to warm it. Serve at once, ladled into bowls garnished with scallions, if you wish.

new year’s resolution: eat healthy, eat light, a tangerine sorbet with vodka (naturally)

To begin my new year’s resolution for healthier eating, David Tanis (NY Times Cooking) proposes a meal:  Miso Chicken in Leek, Ginger, and Scallion Broth, Tofu and Herb Salad with Sesame, and of course, a dessert. This delicious tangerine sorbet has only three ingredients: fresh squeezed tangerine juice, powdered sugar and vodka (I didn’t have sake). Because of the vodka the sorbet wouldn’t freeze, not completely, anyway, I put it in the freezer to harden for several hours. This recipe method is for the KitchenAid ice cream maker.

Tangerine Sorbet (adapted from David Tanis)
Yield 4-6 servings
Time: Suggest 3 days to set up and 1 hour 35 minutes (at least)to make sorbet

3 cups fresh squeezed tangerine juice, with pulp (about 18 small tangerines)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 cup vodka (sake in original recipe)

Twenty-four to 48 hours before making the sorbet, put the ice cream maker in the freezer. If you make the sorbet in the morning of the second day, it will be solid enough to enjoy for an after-dinner dessert.

In a blender, combine the juice, sugar, and 1/4 cup vodka. Start out with 1/4 cup vodka to see if the sorbet will freeze in the ice cream maker. Put the mixture in the refrigerator to chill, at least 1 hour.

Set up the ice cream maker and turn on the machine to Level 1. While the dasher is turning, pour the chilled juice mixture into the bowl. Continue churning 20-30 minutes or until the sorbet thickens and can be scooped up in a spoon. Because of the vodka, the sorbet may stay in a liquid state. In that case, put the entire workbowl in the freezer to set up.

new year dessert: crystal osmanthus flower jelly with wolfberries

Crystal Osmanthus Flower Jelly with Wolfberries is an agar-gelatin dessert. It is served at New Year because the osmanthus flower, a tiny yellow fragrant flower, is thought to represent good luck, friendship, and success. For centuries the Chinese have been using flowers like these to make fragrant teas and desserts. This dessert also contains wolfberries, also called goji berries, which are considered an antioxidant high in Vitamin A, 8 essential amino acids, and minerals. The Chinese have been using them for thousands of years to make soup-tonics. This dessert is light, slightly sweet, with a tiny sharp clean scent from the chrysanthemum flowers in the tea. It is a bit firmer and “crisper”  than desserts made with gelatin on account of the agar. But it is so good for you. So here’s to a healthy 2020! Chaiyo!

Crystal Osmanthus Flower Jelly with Wolfberries
Makes one 8-inch cake

9 g powdered agar
20 g gelatin bloomed in 100 g water
166 g rock sugar
1380 g water (about 6 cups)
2 chrysanthemum tea bags
2.5 g dried osmanthus flower (about 2 tablespoons)
8 g dried goji berries (2 tablespoons)

Special Equipment:
large aluminum finish saucepan
8×8-inch square or 8×2-inch round pan

Put the goji berries in a small bowl and cover them with water. This will plump and soften the berries. When softened, 5-10 minutes, drain off the water and reserve the berries. Hydrate 20 g gelatin in 100 g cold water. Stir to mix well and let stand 5 minutes. Lightly oil pan and set aside.

Simmer rock sugar in the saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. Off the heat and drop in the chrysanthemum tea sachets. Let the tea steep until you get a light golden color for the jelly. Discard tea bags.  Sprinkle agar on top of the liquid to hydrate. Because agar needs to boil in order to activate, bring the mixture to a boil.

Add the osmanthus flowers and goji berries; simmer, 2 minutes. Don’t steep the flowers and berries any longer than 2 minutes unless you want a darker jelly. Strain the flowers and goji berries, and reserve. Add the gelatin mixture to the tea mixture. Mix until completely dissolved.

Let mixture cool 30 minutes. To hasten thickening, set the pot in a large bowl of ice. Stir occasionally. Once jelly has started to thicken slightly, add the reserved flowers and berries, stirring gently with a fork to mix well so that the flowers and berries are suspended in the jelly. Pour into the prepared pan. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours,  preferably overnight.

When it is set, unmold the jelly. Run a long thin blade around the edges of the jelly. Cover with a plate and invert. Gently shake, slap the bottom of the jelly pan. The jelly should slip out onto the plate. Use a sharp knife to cut the jelly into squares. Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is best when it is cold.