Growing up in Indiana in the middle of the last century did not produce many epicurean delicacies. Good hearty meals from the surrounding farmland were the standard. Beef, chicken, potatoes and that damn green bean casserole were found at every family gathering. If there were vegetables offered they were usually over-cooked, like the meat. Sure, that’s my opinion, and my experience. 38 years of close-hand observation assures me my descriptions were pretty typical. Mexican food arrived in the late 70s (it was horrible), and then in the 80s, fast-spreading chains, immigration, vacationers returning home and demand brought the world’s dining table to Hoosier-land.(finally)
My few ventures outside the state lines introduced me to fine restaurants. The incredible Italian food on the “hill” in St. Louis, the French/Cajon/Soul tastes of New Orleans, and ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago, especially Chinatown.
My mom loved Chinese food, and her two favorites were beef chop suey or chicken chop suey. I thought Chinese food was chop suey, until venturing into Chicago Chinatown…wow. My taste buds went wild, and I swore off green bean casserole forever.
I started cooking Chinese over 40 years ago. I found a book in the late 60s, written in 1960, called, “The Art of Chinese Cooking” and that became, and still is, my bible. I can’t believe it is still available on Amazon for $25. (I believe I paid less than $5 new)
I have purchased lots of Chinese cookbooks, but this one by Mimie Ouei is my favorite.
Whenever I cooked one of the recipes, I would enter a check mark and the date. Some recipes have 4 or 5 dates; entries from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
Most of the recipes are simple “wok” stir-fry menus. I used to have 3 woks going with a dish in the oven, if I had guests.
I doubt if I’m going to write anything else about Chinese cooking, so I want to leave you with a recipe for Thanksgiving Turkey that will make you a star. I know everyone is into “deep-fry” but if you want a moist succulent turkey try this out. You do need a large commercial-type cooking vessel to hold the turkey so that’s #1.
For Chinese turkey: (Turkey a la Chinoise) or SHAO HUO CHI
Put 12 cups water in pot and add 4 cups of soy sauce, 1 cup cooking sherry, 3Tbls sugar, 1Tbls salt, 1/4 Tbls pepper, 4 stalks onions, 8 thin slices of ginger and bring to a fast boil.
Lower the turkey into the liquid and boil, covered, for about 45 minutes.
Transfer the turkey carefully to a roasting pan and pour 2 ½ cup of the liquid over the turkey.
The pre-heated oven should be at 450 degrees and roast the turkey for about 1 hour, basting every 10 minutes.
Then turn the heat up to 550 degrees and pour 1 Tbls of sesame seed oil over the turkey and roast for another 15 minutes.
I cut off the breast whole and cut across the grain into 2 inch by 1 inch pieces and place on a bed of lettuce, skin side upward. You can also carve it Western-style and serve whole.
You read correctly…this turkey will be done in less than 2 ½ hours total cooking/prep time. It is moist, tender and sweet. Enjoy!
I’m giving out this recipe early because many of you would be scared to try to pull this off with a Thanksgiving table filled with hungry family. You have time to pick up a turkey and try it first. You’ll count the days to Thanksgiving to show off your tasty bird.
I have one other cookbook I also like; Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee’s “The Chinese Cookbook.” I’m using that cookbook tonight for “spicy braised eggplant.” YUMMY!