Sesame Chicken

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Karaage is a Japanese-style of frying where meats are lightly dusted with starch before deep-frying. The result is a wonderfully crispy coating that also works to seal in moisture. It also absorbs very little oil so this isn’t nearly as greasy as most deep-fried foods.

This sesame chicken dish, adapted from a Martin Yan recipe, employs karaage-style frying and amazingly, when I reheated leftovers of this dish the next day, the chicken was still crispy. Served atop a bed of steamed spinach and alongside rice, it’s a complete and easy to make meal.

Sesame chicken

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup dashi stock
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 bunch spinach, stems removed, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2-by-2-inch pieces
cornstarch
vegetable oil
steamed rice

1. Combine soy sauce, sake, dashi, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Keep sauce warm.

2. Cook spinach in boiling water for 1 minute; drain well and set aside.

3. Dredge chicken in cornstarch; shake off excess. Place a wide frying pan over medium heat. Add oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. When oil is hot, add chicken and pan-fry, uncovered, until no longer pink in center, about 4 minutes on each side. Lift out and drain on paper towels.

4. Place rice in 4 individual bowls; top each serving with 1/4 of the spinach. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch-wide strips, dip in sauce, then arrange over spinach. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice.

Deep-Fried Tofu with Mushroom Sauce

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I’ve been on a tofu kick lately, and I can’t think of a better way to cook it than with mushrooms. Both are rich in protein and lend this dish a rich, meaty flavor despite having no meat at all.

This Japanese rendition, adapted from Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook, is wonderful on its own or with steamed rice.

Deep-fried tofu with mushroom sauce

1 block firm tofu, about 1 pound
4 tablespoons grated daikon radish
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 green onion, sliced
2 mild peppers, such as Anaheim, pierced and deep-fried (optional)
1 cup dashi stock
3 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup mixed mushrooms such as shiitake, enoki or shimeji
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water

1. Wrap the tofu in two layers of paper towels and place in a flat-bottomed dish with sides. Place a light weight such as another flat dish on top, and leave about 30 minutes to drain excess moisture. Wipe any moisture from the surface of the tofu and slice horizontally. Slice each half into eight rectangular pieces. Set aside.

2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil to medium-high and carefully slip the tofu pieces into the oil. Deep-fry until golden brown, 3-4 minutes.

3. In a medium saucepan, combine the dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and mushrooms and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and pour in the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. Remove from heat as soon as it comes to a boil.

4. Place the fried tofu pieces in a serving dish, ladle the sauce over, and top with the grated daikon and ginger. Garnish with the fried peppers and green onion.

Veal Marsala

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One of these days I’d like to eat my way through Italy. That hasn’t happened yet, but thankfully there are tons of Italian classics I can recreate in my kitchen. Veal marsala is one of the most common, and I make this with variations all the time. Sometimes I use chicken, sometimes I use cremini mushrooms instead of button – you get the idea. You can eat this with mashed potatoes but I prefer to serve the veal over buttered egg noodles.

Veal marsala with mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 pound veal cutlets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 cup beef broth
10 ounces egg fettuccine, cooked al dente and tossed with one tablespoon butter

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring frequently, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and saute, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and wipe skillet clean.

2. Pat veal dry, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil with 1 teaspoon butter in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While fat is heating, dredge 2 or 3 pieces of veal in flour, shaking off excess, then saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter with tongs and keep warm, loosely covered. Saute remaining veal in 2 more batches using remaining oil and butter.

3. Add Marsala to skillet and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Stir in broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture and any veal juices accumulated on platter, then season with salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer 2 minutes more and spoon over veal.

Dungeness Crab Cakes

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Crab cakes may be a Maryland tradition but I can’t think of a better way to enjoy them than with San Francisco Dungeness crabmeat. I’ve been making this recipe for more than ten years now – they make a perfect appetizer and are just as good in a sandwich.

I usually serve these without any sort of sauce, since the crab cakes themselves are flavored with Parmesan cheese, garlic and herbs. I know cheese usually doesn’t pair well with seafood, but there’s an exception to every rule, right?

Crab cakes

Ingredients:

3/4 pound cooked crabmeat (shelled from one Dungeness crab)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 egg, beaten
1/4 half and half or heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Break crabmeat into flakes. Place in a bowl, add cheese, parsley, oregano, garlic, crumbs, onions, egg, and cream. Mix lightly.

2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Mound two tablespoons of the crab mixture with a spoon, spreading to make a 3-inch cake. Place in pan and repeat until pan is filled. cook patties until lightly browned on bottoms, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until other side is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and arrange on serving plate. Repeat until all crab cakes are cooked, adding more oil as needed. Serve warm.

Singaporean Chili Crab

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I haven’t been to Singapore (yet), but it’s one of the countries (well, city-states) that I really want to visit. With one of the most diverse cuisines in the world, it’s a street food heaven offering Malay, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese flavors and there really is something for every palette. If that doesn’t sound enticing, well, then I might be judging you.

One of my favorite Singaporean dishes is chili crab and it’s also one the most popular dishes in Singapore’s ubiquitous hawker stalls. The best time to make this in the Bay Area is when local Dungeness crab is in season; buy two or three because these will go fast. Chili crab is messy, spicy and saucy, but well worth the trouble.

Singaporean chili crab

Ingredients:

3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 Dungeness crabs, cooked and cleaned
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 red jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 green onion, thinly sliced

1. Mix chicken broth, ketchup, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

2. Twist off the claws and legs from the crabs and crack them with a cleaver or mallet. Cut the body into 4 pieces.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic, ginger, and chili; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add crab and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

4. Add the sauce and reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring once, until crab is heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in egg and cook until it begins to set, about 1 minute.

5. Arrange crab pieces on a serving plate. Pour sauce all over and garnish with green onion.