This article also appeared on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website:
Is it just me, or are there others out there who rank Thanksgiving at the top of the holiday list? What would your top five look like? Here’s mine:
3. Mother’s Day
4. Chinese New Year
5. Mid-Autumn Festival
Okay, maybe some explanation is in order. I chose numbers four and five because I get paid vacation with time to wander around China. Number three I chose because, well, because she’s my Mother. And I put Christmas as number two because it seems the thing to do. I actually have a rough time with Christmas, but that is grist for another article.
Thanksgiving is definitely number one, though. It’s short and sweet with good things to eat. And it’s family time without a lot of pressure. Unless you’re the cook. My normal assignment is to bring the relish tray, because my family has tasted some of my creations. How hard can it be to cut up vegetables?
Speaking of cutting up vegetables, how about a Chinese recipe for leftovers? Good luck finding a turkey if you’re actually in China. They’re scarce as hen’s teeth. Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Chinese LOVE duck. But then they also prefer tofu to cheese.
Anyway, here’s a Turkey Chow Mein Recipe. Pair it with a nice white wine from the Walla Walla Valley where I grew up.
Vegetables: celery, carrots, red onion, garlic, mushrooms, bean sprouts, bell pepper, any other fresh vegetables you have left over and need to get rid of!
Sauce: 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
Leftover turkey, chow mein noodles, cooking oil.
Wash the vegetables and cut them into fairly uniform, bite-size pieces. Not too big, not too small. Set them aside.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients, cornstarch last. Set aside.
If you’ve never cooked stir fry before, here’s the secret: Everything is stir-fried separately and then mixed together at the last moment. Okay, the other secret is you need to use good judgment about which ingredients take longer to cook.
Put your wok on medium to high heat and add a little oil. If you don’t have a wok, use a large pan. When the oil starts to ripple, toss in your aromatics. That’s your chopped onion and garlic. Start with them because it makes the kitchen smell like you know what you’re doing.
Toss in your peppers with the aromatics, stir fry and then set aside. Stir fry the rest of your vegetables in some sort of logical order and set them aside. It’s better to have the vegetables on the slightly crisp side, so taste as you go along. Hold back your bean sprouts for later, though.
Wipe out your pan if it is dirty and then add a little more oil. Next, it’s time for your turkey. I hope you cut it into small enough bits. Big chunks won’t do. Heat it up in the oil and then add back in your vegetables.
Let the meat and vegetables get friendly, but not mushy. Add in the sprouts and sauce and heat to a boil.
Toss in the cooked chow mein noodles, mix it all up and then serve while it’s hot.
Some people like soft noodles, some like those crunchy kind. For soft noodles, cook until al dente. For crispy noodles, don’t stir fry, just serve out of the package. You can lay down a bed of crispy noodles or sprinkle over the top. If you’re having a hard time finding chow mein noodles, you can boil up some Top Ramen noodles and use them.
Chow mein is a great way to use up leftovers. Make small batches until you’re ready to try it out on your family. Other possible ingredients include water chestnuts and almond slivers. Hey, what about fresh cranberries? I wonder…