Forgive me while I tell you about more good news regarding the books - yes, both books! - since this past week was filled with even more terrific news than usual.
I guess that the Festivus fairies are working overtime this year around...
Matt Zuras at Vice Munchies accompanied JH and me on a fabulous tour of Flushing's Chinatown in Queens last September, ate more than he was legally required to do, and lived to tell the tale.
I love this article because Matt really asked great questions, chowed down anything I nudged toward him, and turned out to be one heck of a person to roam the streets with out in the wilds of NYC. He also is a fabulous writer and good people. I now want to move to Flushing, by the way. Just saying.
The lovely and talented folks over at the San Francisco Chronicle food section - and I'm specifically talking about you, Sarah Fritsche - included All Under Heaven in its list of favorite cookbooks for 2016.
I've violated all sorts of promises this year by buying more cookbooks, and who really can blame me when you look at the roster here? I mean, this is one amazingly cool crowd to hang out with. Yes, I'm still a nerd. Thanks for asking.
And then the Wall Street Journal went and loved the bejeezus out of The Dim Sum Field Guide. In "Dim Sum: The Delicious Diaspora," Adrian Ho generously praised this little book as "extensive and satisfying."
So happy these two books are being enjoyed. Thank you to Matt, Sarah, and Adrian, and thanks to all of you who have made this year so utterly wonderful!
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‘Tis the season to be making turkey and all the trimmings, so I thought I’d crack out my own way with this most American of all meals. By which I mean, of course, that we eat this with a decidedly Chinese range of flavors and ingredients.
For decades now, I have been making variations on the following Chinese turkey. What it basically boils down to is a richly seasoned marinade that goes heavy on the aromatics, so that our house smells like heaven by the time we sit down to eat.
At first I started out with a simple mixture of soy sauce, ginger, rice wine, and sesame oil. But then other things started to wend their way into the marinade, and what we have here is one of my favorites. It’s not too salty or sweet or overpowering – in fact, I think it’s just perfect. A thick layer of onions and carrots under the bird provides me with an extra no-fuss vegetable dish, and you can double or triple the carrots for more veggies, toss in some parsnips or mushrooms, if you wish, and really turn this part of the meal into as fancy a deal as you like.
Having all those vegetables in there does more than supply you with what seems like a free side dish, for all their flavors mix in with the turkey juices and marinade as the bird cooks. You end up with a great sauce that can be easily turned into gravy, or you can do as I do and sneak it off to the side to enhance soups and other dishes over the next couple of days.
I’ve also come to enjoy the ease that comes with spatchcocking the bird instead of leaving it whole or even stuffing it. Instead of hours in the oven that dry out the white meat and having to deal with carving the turkey at the table, I simply remove the backbone and flatten the bird, which then only requires a bit over an hour to roast. Have an instant meat thermometer handy to ensure that the dark meat is completely done, too, as this cuts out lots of the guesswork.
Another really good reason why you should cook a turkey this way is that you will not need to baste it. Really! Your oven stays nice and hot the whole time, which in turn crisps the skin up. Do note that the skin on the breast will brown, almost alarmingly dark in places, but that’s just the sugars in the marinade. Have no fear, it will be delicious.
Below the turkey recipe here you’ll find my favorite cranberry sauce. It’s not Chinese at all, but rather a mishmash of Californian influences, with the secret ingredient being jalapeño peppers in adobo. This ends up being not as frighteningly hot as it probably sounds, and these are so mild that I actually toss in at least 4 or 5 of the chiles and as much of the adobo sauce as I think I can get away with at the dinner. You may, of course, adjust it to fit your own palate.
I once gave a jar of this to someone as a gift, and she said that a friend of hers sat there and ate the whole thing, spooning it in until it was all gone. So, people do like it.
I’ll be attempting to add more holiday favorites to the blog over the following weeks so that you can ramp up your preparations for whatever festivities you have in mind. All of these dishes are designed for 6 to 8 people, with leftovers, because what is a holiday feast without all those good things hanging out in the fridge for easy gluttony?
Turkey Chez Huang
Huángjiā huŏjī 黃家火雞
Serves 6 to 8, with lots of leftovers
1 young, unbrined turkey, about 12 to 14 pounds
½ cup Shaoxing rice wine
5 tablespoons light soy sauce
¼ cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
6 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup unsalted stock (see Tips)
3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
8 or so carrots, peeled and left long, but split into wedges if they are too thick
¼ cup softened salted butter
1. Defrost the turkey in the refrigerator according to the package directions – usually a couple of days are needed for a rock-hard bird. Remove any giblets and the neck from the turkey, and then use large tweezers or needle-nose pliers to remove any pinfeathers. Wipe the bird down with paper towels.
2. Place the bird on a plastic cutting board with the backbone facing you. Use a sharp knife (I use my handy wide Chinese blade) to cut down through the ribs on either side of the spine from the neck down to the thigh joints, and then up from the tail to the thighs. Use your blade to cut between the joints on either side – this makes the removal of the backbone really easy, since you don’t have any major bones to whack through.
3. Flip the bird over so that the breast is now facing you. Press the heels of both your hands down firmly and repeatedly on the breastbone, as if you were trying to revive the turkey, but since the bird is now dead will merely serve to break the breastbone and flatten the bird to a certain degree. The bird will now be floppy. Flatten out the legs so that they sprawl evenly on either side of the body – this is important, because if the thighs stay perched up against the breast, they will not cook through quickly. Fold the wings back over themselves to compact them and prevent them from drying out in the oven.
4. Set the turkey in a pan wide enough to hold it easily. Mix together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, agave syrup or honey, sesame oil, and garlic, and then rub this marinade into both sides of the turkey, paying special attention to the meaty bits. Add the ginger and green onions. Flatten the bird in the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, then turn it over and refrigerate for at least another 12 hours. If you have the time and energy, turn the bird over a couple of more times. I also add the neck and backbone to the pan, if they fit. If not, the backbone can be cut in half and the extras stashed into a smaller pan – rub these with the marinade, since you will want to either nibble on them or add them to the stockpot later on. If you want the giblets, stash them in with the turkey.
5. The turkey will need around 1 hour to come to room temperature before you place it in the oven, a little over 1 hour to cook, and another 20 minutes to rest after cooking. So, about 2 hours and 30 minutes before dinnertime, remove the turkey from the oven and let it sit in a cool place to remove much of the chill. Heat your oven to 450°F / 230°C. Pour off and reserve the marinade, but discard the ginger and green onions. Clean out the pan, wipe it dry, and oil both the pan and a rack.
6. Sprinkle the onions and carrots (and any other vegetables you’re using) over the bottom of the pan and set the rack on top of them. Arrange the turkey attractively skin-side up on the rack, so that it lies as flat as possible. Rub the butter all over the skin. Place the pan in the oven and roast it until a instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F / 74°C, which means that the turkey is now cooked to perfection – this will usually take just a little bit over an hour, depending upon your oven.
Get a really good quality turkey, not one of those supermarket specials that are filled with water and hormones and all sorts of evil things.
For the stock, I usually end up using the water in which black mushrooms were soaked. These make an appearance in the Sticky Rice Stuffing My Way, and I’ll post that recipe here soon too. It’s a winner.
To carve a spatchcocked bird, simply cut off the thighs from the bird and then cut up the legs as you like. Remove the wings and then cut down on either side of the breastbone to remove the white meat, which then can be sliced crosswise into juicy pieces. Drizzle a little of the turkey juices over everything, if you are in the mood.
Cranberries Casa Huang
Huángjiā xiăhóngméi jiàng 黃家小紅莓醬
Makes about 3 cups / 750 ml
12 ounces / 340 g fresh cranberries
1 small orange, chopped into small dice
1 cup water
Agave syrup or rock sugar to taste (it will take a LOT more than you expect)
3 or more chipotle chiles adobo (smoked chiles in a sauce), finely chopped, or smoked paprika to taste, or ground chile peppers plus Liquid Smoke to taste
Sea salt to taste
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1. Rinse the cranberries and toss out any imperfect ones. Add the orange and water. Bring this to a boil over high heat and the reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Start adding agave syrup or sugar until it is as sweet as you like.
2. Simmer the cranberries for about 20 minutes, or until the oranges are cooked through. Stir in the chiles, salt, and walnuts. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat. This can be made a week or so ahead of time and even preserved like a jam, or frozen, if you prefer.