Friday, May 3, 2013

I made more foods!

And so I can truthfully claim to have lived up to my pledge to Mulch Boy to take over making dinner twice a week… at least for a week.
I realize that I can thank the new gas stovetop for my newfound enthusiasm for cooking. When we moved into the Little Blue House, it came with a glass-top electric stovetop. A terrible, terrible electric stovetop that made me wreck dishes I used to cook (figurately!) blindfolded. Couple that with my growing reliance on Mulch Boy’s cooking, and I realized that I have completely lost my confidence as a cook over the last few years.
Then came Monday’s success with the feesh. Suddenly, I felt like I had my mojo back, and was anxious to put myself to the test again. I decided I wanted pan-fried noodles, a favorite Chinese restaurant meal and one that I used to actually make with some frequency way back in the day, using this cookbook that I picked up at a used book store:

Well used but not well bound.

This is actually an awesome little Chinese cookbook, from back before “celebrity chef” was a recognizable term, and the discovery that I could make my own extremely credible pan-fried noodles at home was a revelation to my recently college-graduated self.
This week, however, my craving wasn’t for the dish as described in the book (with chicken, shrimp, and boy choy), but for simply the crispy noodles with mushrooms. Lots and lots of mushrooms. This inspiration came from our trip to Super H Mart last Sunday, where you can find, among other things, packages of fresh wood ear mushroom and whole fresh shitakes, both of which I snatched up on impulse.
Thus, last night I found myself doing something I almost never do: improvising on a recipe. Here’s what I did, followed by some tweaks I’ll try next time.

Pan-Fried Noodles with Mushrooms Mushrooms Mushrooms
(Adapted from the Crispy Pan-Fried Noodles recipe in Jean Yueh’s Dim Sum & Chinese One-Dish Meals)

1 lb fresh thin Chinese egg noodles
½ cup cooking oil, preferably peanut because of the high smoking point
12 oz package of whole fresh Shitake mushrooms
8 oz (?) package of fresh wood ear mushrooms
1 bunch of scallions
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon sesame oil
  1. Cook noodles in boiling water for 2 minutes, then quickly drain well in colander and rinse with cold water. Let stand in air until ready to fry. The original recipe says the noodles will be even better if you do this a couple of hours ahead of time; mine “rested” for probably a half hour in the colander on a plate on the counter.
  2. Rinse mushrooms; slice shitakes. Slice scallions (the entire things, white and green) into 1-inch sections. Mushrooms and scallions can all wait together in one big bowl till needed.
  3. Mix together all the sauce ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Heat your wok or giant fry pan to fiery, then heat ½ cup of oil until it’s beginning to haze. Drop a bit of noodle or scallion in; if it sizzles, you’re ready.
  5. Gently drop half the noodles in the hot oil, spread out like a pancake, and fry until golden and crisp on one side (depending on your stove, 5-10 minutes). Flip the noodle “pancake” (a big spatula and some tongs are helpful here) and fry the other side until it, too, is golden and crispy. Remove noodles and drain on paper towels, then transfer to an old cookie sheet and keep warm in a low oven. Repeat the process with the other half of the noodles.
  6. Heat a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil in the wok to the same sizzling stage, then throw in the big bowl of mushrooms and scallions. Stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes.
  7. After giving it a good stir, add the sauce mixture to the wok and stir the whole thing until the sauce is thick and translucent. (This will happen quickly.)
  8. Drizzle the sesame oil on top of everything, give a stir and taste. For more salt, sprinkle some extra soy sauce.
  9. Have your spouse transfer the fried noodles to a serving plate, then pour delicious mushrooms and scallions and sauce on top. To serve more easily, consider cutting the noodles into portions. The noodles will be crispy outside and tender inside, and the sauce will soak in and make them a little chewy, too.

What I Will Do Differently Next Time

The proportions were a bit off because the original recipe called for 8 ounces of noodles, whereas I picked up a 16-ounce package--thus, not quite enough sauce. Still, we ate it all, much to our shame. Therefore, rather than just make the correct amount of noodles next time, my plan is to increase the sauce by 50%, plus add a tad more soy sauce at the end to taste. I may also substitute spicy sesame oil for regular, just to see how the extra bite shakes things up.

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