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Chinese-Style Chicken and Mushrooms

There is a mushroom called “chicken of the woods.”  It’s not one of the ingredients in this item, but there are mushrooms and chicken in it.  While it’s definitely not for vegetarians, Chef Zach’s recipe demands that the mushrooms greatly outweigh the chicken, so this would be a well-relished dish for friends of fungi.

chicken and mushrooms

chicken and mushrooms

Makes 4

2 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts

10 brown mushrooms

10 white mushrooms

A medium handful of oyster mushrooms

1 cup of chicken broth

1/2 cup of chopped green onion

1/4 cup of peanut oil (for frying)

2 tbs. of oyster sauce

1 tbs. and 1 tsp. of freshly chopped garlic

1 tbs. of rice wine vinegar

1 tbs. of sesame oil

1 tbs. of soy sauce

2 tsp. of corn starch

1/2 tsp. of powdered ginger

Cut the chicken into manageable chunks – bite size, but not too small.  Mix together 1 tsp. of garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a bowl.  Toss the chicken in this sauce, and let marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

wok it up

wok it up

Put half of the peanut oil in a wok and heat on high.  Cook the chicken until done, 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.  When done, remove from the wok and set aside.  Add the remaining peanut oil, and then cook the brown and white mushrooms for 3-4 minutes together before adding the oyster mushrooms; cook 1 minute more.  Add the remaining 1 tbs. of garlic, cook an additional minute stirring frequently, then add the chicken broth, green onions, and oyster sauce.  Let cook for 1 minute and, while it cooks, mix the corn starch with a little bit of water.  Put the chicken back in the wok, add the corn starch slurry.  Cook for 1 minute longer, and serve immediately with steamed brown or white rice.  Garnish with a bit of fresh green onion or toasted sesame seeds.

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Shrimp Egg Foo Young with Gravy

Egg foo young/yung/yong, regardless of spelling, is one of Zach’s favorite Chinese dishes.  It is incontrovertibly light, filling, and satisfying at once.  The one trade off, for enjoying the luxury of this being fairly healthy and nutrient rich, is that it requires lots of attention to make.  For much of the cooking time, you will be glued to the range, but the tastes are tremendously tantalizing, enough to make you think twice the next time you consider going out for Chinese.

Serves 2-3

1/2 lb. of peeled and deveined shrimp

2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth

5 eggs

10 brown mushrooms

1 cup of mung bean sprouts

1 cup of shredded green cabbage

1 medium carrot

half of one white onion

1/2 cup to 1 cup of peanut oil (for frying)

1/2 cup of chopped green onion

3 tbs. of oyster sauce

3 tbs. of soy sauce, divided in 1 tbs. and 2 tbs.

2 tbs. of cornstarch

2 tbs. of minced garlic, divided in 1 tbs. and 1 tbs.

2 tbs. of rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. of ground ginger

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F, and line a sheet pan with cloth or paper towels.  Slice the mushrooms to about 1/4″ thick, cut the carrot into matchsticks, and chop up the onion in quarter-size pieces.  Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl.

onion and mushroom in the wok

onion and mushroom in the wok

Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium heat.  Add 2 tbs. of oil, wait 1 minute, then add the chopped onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes, still stirring constantly.

all the veggies

all the veggies

Add the mung bean sprouts, 1 tbs. of soy sauce, and 1 tbs. of garlic, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly even still.  Add the cabbage and carrot, and stirring constantly, cook another 2 minutes.  Transfer the vegetables to a large plate or sheet pan to let cool.

succulent shrimp

succulent shrimp

Wipe the wok or saute pan (no need to deep clean).  Return it to the stove, and heat over high heat.  Add 1 tbs. of oil, wait 30 seconds, then add the shrimp.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until they have turned pink.  Set aside on the same plate or sheet pan as the vegetables.

one at a time

one at a time

Wipe the wok or saute pan again.  Return to the stove, and heat over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup of oil, and it heats, add the rice wine vinegar to the eggs in the mixing bowl and whisk briskly until combined.  Mix in the vegetables and shrimp.  Once the oil is heated and the eggs, veggies, and shrimp are mixed, add 2 ladle-fulls to the wok or saute pan to make 1 omelet.  Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes until golden brown (no more stirring constantly).  Let rest on the towel-lined sheet pan in the oven to keep warm as you cook the other omelets.  If the oil decreases through the cooking process, add more when necessary.

Once all the omelets are cooked and waiting in the oven, drain the oil from the wok or saute pan, save 1 tsp.  Heat on medium-high heat, then add the remaining garlic and let cook only 20-30 seconds before adding the chicken broth, oyster sauce, the remaining 2 tbs. of soy sauce, and ginger.  Put the cornstarch in a small bowl or mug and add just a little water, no more than a few tbs., to make a slurry before adding it to the wok or saute pan.  Let simmer for about 2 minutes so that the gravy slightly thickens, stirring occasionally.

shrimp egg foo young

shrimp egg foo young

To plate, spoon some gravy over each omelet before sprinkling a few chopped green onions.

Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, Berkeley CA

Spenger’s is a landmark of Berkeley with a history spanning over a century, famous the world over for its seafood.  Zach ate here often growing up, and not much has changed in nearly thirty years of his experiences.  Some restaurants simply know how to please their customers and keep them coming back for generations with tried and true practices.  In terms of service and attention, this restaurant shines like the Sather Tower campanile at night.

One of the favorite starters here is the spinach, crab, and Parmesan dip.  It was extremely rich, creamy, and thick with a cheesy top that was nicely browned.  There was an abundance of spinach and artichoke heart morsels to balance the shredded crab meat.  The bread wedges were like a buttery flat bread, with a crispy exterior and fluffy center.  It looked like a lot of bread at first for the amount of dip, but to savor the starter, just a little on each wedge went a long way.

salmon and mushroom sauté

salmon and mushroom sauté

August found it very challenging to make up her mind among three different entrees, their descriptions all sounded so good.  She went with the salmon and mushroom sauté and was very happy with her selection.  The shallot sherry cream was delicate and worked well to marry the salmon, mushrooms, and asparagus.  Hunks of moist salmon were plentiful and substantial, not to be broken by the tender asparagus spear bits.  The mushrooms brought an autumnal earthiness, and the rice helped to add another texture and sop up all the juicy remains.

captain's platter

captain’s platter

Zach’s entree, the Captain’s Platter, had a selection of Spenger’s best seafood, fried.  Oysters, fish filets, and “shrimp scatter” (a handful of bay shrimp) were turned into crisp, succulent morsels and nibbles.  The shrimp were mildly sweet, and the crunchy panko breading did wonders for the oysters to offset their soft creamy insides.  The flaky fish was perfect for dipping into sauces, including ketchup, tartar, and cocktail.  Sweet, tangy, and creamy cole slaw with fresh vegetables provided a refreshing break between bites of fried goodness.

chocolate bag

chocolate bag

Chef Dan came out to meet us and present this masterful creation.  Decadently rich dark chocolate was melted, painted, and cooled to make a “bag” into which sweet cream chantilly was loaded.  On top of the chantilly and garnished all over were bright strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, some of them resting in stripes and swirls of chocolate sauce and strawberry syrup.  Two waffle cone “chips” perched in the “bag,” but this was as far from snack food as we could get!  To satisfy the post-dinner sweet tooth with something not too heavy, this refreshing dish does the trick.

Our server Emily was patient and professional with our every request.  We hope that patrons sitting in other sections received service as good as ours.  In reality, we’re fairly certain they did – what else could bring people back for 123 years?  Food can be replicated, but experience never.