Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ching Delivers Great Chinese


I had always assumed that Chinese cooking was beyond difficult. It’s not.

Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes

It seems like every city and town, whether large or small has a Chinese carryout restaurant. Even if there is no sizable Asian population. Americans love their Chinese carryout. And, I’m no exception.

When I lived in Chicago I had my favorite, The Dragon Inn. As far as places like this go it was pretty swanky. A nicely appointed dining room with heavy red drapes and chairs to match. It was dimly lit with Chinese screens separating parts of the room. There was a small cocktail lounge off the waiting room. An old television behind the bar showed game shows or sports depending on the time of day. But, most importantly, they served great Chinese food.

Or, at least that was my considered opinion. Granted, I had a pretty limited frame of reference. I had never been to a country where this type of food was considered home cooking. And, there were only two other Chinese places in town. It tasted delicious, so, that was my criterion.

I also had a favorite dish (and still do). Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. This was the dish that all the other Chinese restaurants of my future would be measured by. I have consumed a LOT of different versions of this dish (probably too many). So far, not one has come close to the gold standard. It’s just possible that my bar might be a little high.

I love the cuisine, but, never dared to try my hand at it. I figured the “exotic” ingredients and prep methods would do me in. But, as I have just discovered, this couldn’t be farther from reality. It seems I’ve been cooking lots of other types of dishes at home just because I assumed they would be easier. They’re not.

How could this lifetime illusion of difficulty be shattered in one moment? The answer, Ching. More specifically Ching-He Huang. It seems that all of the magic that happened back in the kitchen of the Dragon Inn wasn’t really magic at all. Ching’s Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes, lifts the curtain to reveal just how easy it is to make your own Chinese carryout. And, trust me, it’s a snap.

Beef with bean sprouts and scallions

After paging through the entire book looking for something that a beginner Chinese chef could make, I was struck by one thing. ALL of these recipes can be easily executed by a beginner Chinese chef. The word easy in the title wasn’t a come on. There being no Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (I was only mildly disappointed). I opted for the Beef with bean sprouts and scallions.

Bean Spouts

All of the ingredients are easy to gather from your local supermarket. No real super specialty items here. They had some great looking spouts the day I shopped.

Here’s How To Do It

9 oz. beef sirloin, fat removed and cut into ½ inch slices
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
5 oz. bean sprouts
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp. of water
2 scallions, chopped fine

Ingredients – Marinade
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Mirin

Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the sliced beef and mix well to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate for about 20 minutes.

Heat a wok (or large skillet) over high heat just until it starts to smoke. Add peanut oil. Remove beef from bowl and reserve the marinade. Cook beef in wok for about 2 minutes.

Add the bean sprouts, reserved marinade and the cornstarch mixture. Toss together and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the chopped scallions. Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.

Serves 2

Beef with bean sprouts and scallions
Recipe, Beef with bean sprouts and scallions. Ching’s Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes, with permission from William Morrow, copyright © Ching-He Huang 2011.

The recipe suggest serving this with jasmine rice. But, as long as I was going this far, it was impossible to pass on a little homemade fried rice. I made Ching’s recipe for Egg and asparagus fried rice. It was unbelievably easy and amazingly light and delicious.

Egg and asparagus fried rice

Not bad for a rank amateur! If I could have scooped my finished product into a couple of cardboard cartons. Stapled them inside of a brown paper bag with a few packets of soy sauce and mustard and added two fortune cookies, you would never be able to tell the difference between me and the now defunct Dragon Inn. I’m not joking.

The bottom line. Now that the secret is out and I know how easy and delicious my own homemade Chinese food is I have mixed feelings. One part of me wants to go back to believing that my Shrimp with Lobster Sauce was created using some ancient, eastern culinary techniques and obscure, nearly impossible to find ingredients. The other side of me is happy that I can now have my Sunday Chinese carryout and not have to miss part of the football game to pick it up. Thank you Ching.

BUY IT! - Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes

BUY IT! - Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese: More Than 100 Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipes

Author: Ching-He Huang
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks
ISBN-10: 006207749X

Everybody Loves Lamb

It’s easy to make and soooo good.


I never could understand people who didn’t like lamb. Let me restate. I never could understand carnivores that didn’t like lamb. If you pursue a vegan lifestyle, then I completely get it.

But, for those of us who occasionally indulge in a piece of red meat, lamb is a special treat. It’s fantastic, earthy flavor tops beef any day. After enjoying a hearty lamb based meal, beef or pork seem downright boring and nearly flavorless. Especially pork.

How easy is it to put some great lamb on your table? Plenty easy.

Here’s how to do it:

8 lamb rib chops, trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

About 30 minutes before your ready to cook, take your chops from the fridge. Brush lightly with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Preheat your grill. If you are using a charcoal grill make a two stage fire. If you’re using gas, heat one of your burners on low.

When grill is hot, place chops on cooking grate. Grill first side about 2-3 minutes. Flip chops and move them to the cooler part of the grill. Cook about 2-4 minutes longer or until done to your liking. Let stand about 5 minutes before eating.

Tip: Don’t cover when standing. They’ll continue to cook while off the heat and covering them will really keep them cooking. I like my lamb chops with garlic rosemary roasted potatoes.

Serves 2

Lamb Chops

What kind of a Cookbook Man post would this be without some handy dandy lamb resources? Well, not a very good one that’s for sure. So, in the interest of public service, here’s a bunch of great books to get you started on your own lamb-tastic dinner creation.

How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking
The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat
Sunday Roasts
Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork
The Complete Meat Cookbook (KE)
Luscious Lamb: The Ultimate Collection of the World’s Finest Lamb Recipes (KE)

Do Little Old Ladies Really Make The Best Food?


Sometime it’s hard to distinguish between the comfort and the food.

BUY IT! - Little Old Lady Recipes: Comfort Food and Kitchen Table Wisdom

Comfort food is, well, comforting. No big surprise there. But, is it really the food itself or the memories that come rushing back when we eat it? And, does it really matter?

I know when I take that first forkful of pot roast or meatloaf it makes me feel different than when I bite into a chicken Caesar wrap. When I’m eating it I can picture my Mom slathering that seven bone chuck roast with cream of mushroom soup. Or, mixing all of the mystery meatloaf ingredients together with her hands. If my sisters or I were in the right place at the right time, we would be able to steal a taste of some fresh raw ground beef before it was mixed and loafed.

It’s those memories that we have when we eat that type of food that enhances everything. Smells, sights and sometimes sounds all come together to form the comfort food experience. At times those things even outweigh the taste of the food itself.

Last week a little cookbook filled with big comfort food hit my desk. Little Old Lady Recipes: Comfort Food and Kitchen Table Wisdom. The book which measures only 5X7 is packed with comfort food recipes that will take you back in time. It’s easy to see after turning the first page that the tagline “Made with love and lots of lard” fits. Especially the love part.

Author Meg Favreau, highlights some easy to make standards. But, the real beauty to this little gem of a book is the accompanying photos. There are enough Grandmas and favorite Aunts in this book for anyone to be reminded of who really made these recipes shine. Dishing out sage kitchen advice with classic recipes is a hard combo to beat.

All this comfort food talk has made me hungry for a little taste. Why don’t we give one a whirl?

Pork Chops

Here’s how to do it.

Pork Chops

4 to 6 pork chops
Salt and pepper

Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. Salt and pepper chops to taste. If chops are lean, add a little oil to the pan. Brown chops about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat and cook until chops are tender.

Serve with applesauce (of course) or mint jelly. My family likes hash browns too!

Serves 4 to 6

Pork Chops

Recipe adapted from, Pork Chops; Little Old Lady Recipes, Meg Favreau, Quirk Books 2011. Images: Larry Hoffman, cookbookman ©2011

That’s it! Honestly. That could not be any simpler. I think in all the reviews that I’ve done here on, a two ingredient recipe takes the prize.

Tips: When I cooked my chops I used a good old fashioned Sunbeam Electric Skillet. It’s circa 1970 and I believe the original color was “Almond”. I figured it’s not doing me any good stuck in the back of the cabinet. It’s a perfect recipe to break it out.

Sunbeam Almond Electric Skillet

The Bottom Line: Winter is here. That means time to cook more meals indoors. Kids are in school and life is a little more hectic than during the summer. So, we all could use a little uncomplicated comfort food to complete our day. Meg’s new cookbook is a great place to start making new food memories for your family or bring back a few old ones for you.

BUY IT! - Little Old Lady Recipes: Comfort Food and Kitchen Table Wisdom


Author: Meg Favreau
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books (November 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1594745188