Anyone who was unfortunate enough to ask me yesterday how I was doing got a response like "better tomorrow." On site before nine, everyone had this about-to-the-storm-the-beach look of dogged determination. ( Except for Merlinia, who was jetting about like a chipmunk on speed. ) My shell shocked answer was untrue, I had a lot of fun yesterday. Of course, today I feel like a truck ran over me and backup up again to see what made the thump noise.

Everything seemed to go well. I didn't get any negative feedback; a lot of people said wonderful things. During "show time" I did what all of us were doing in our own way, running about making sure the table was stocked, people were happy, and nothing bad happened. Before that, I did "soup." Probably the least glamorous thing on the table, but it's what I got, so here's the recipe and story of it.

Way more on onions and lentils than most would care for )

Recipe, after I'm done running off )
Velveting is a technique found in a lot of Southern Chinese cooking. It's used to cook delicate meats at high temperatures. For example, cooking small bits of chicken in a wok without turning them into the consistency of rubber chew toys. A full description of the method are can be found elsewhere. Basic elements include starch, egg whites and oil.

Fresh from a visit to the Japan mart, I was asked to make some chicken for dinner, with "rice or barley or something." I wanted Teriyaki. No, I wanted crisp velveted chicken, blacken with some sweet. In Teriyaki, the basic element is some kind of sugar that will caramelize on a grill.

Barely... how would a European who'd only heard rumors of a velveted caramelize dish served with rice do it? Make a barley pottage. A dish that requires egg yolks and usually produces some extra barely water. Barley water is basically water with starch in it. And egg whites are used for velveting...

Reduced barely water, eggs whites, and cider vinegar are my Euro velveting base. I'd like to tell you how marvelous this was, but it kind of didn't work.

There is a trick for Chinese velveting. You have your wok good and hot and throw in the oil cold, followed by the meat. This works fine for the deep salad bowl shaped wok; for my humble little steel saute pan, not so much. My oil caught fire! I suspect a wok avoids this due to it's shape and the amount of O2 at the bottom. My shallower tool achieved ignition.

On a side note, what to do when your pan catches fire? If you think about it, it's really not that dangerous unless you poke it. It's a fire in a heat resistant container with a limited amount of fuel. If you ever see flames and don't know what to do, keep this in mind and relax. A pan fire usually doesn't have much life to it and goes out pretty fast. If the flames bother you , drop a lid on top. Moving things quickly or adding lots of water is considered poking and should be avoided.

In my case I had a bowl full of food that wanted to go in anyway; oil fire gone. Unfortunately, my experimental velvet mixture failed it's job. The eggs and starch hasn't gotten friendly enough, probably too much water. There was some excess "stuff" (congealed whites) in the pan. However, the sauce was nice.

My Euro "teriyaki" sauce was honey and balsamic vinegar. Alas, the pan was too wet for this to give me the crust I wanted, but the flavor was quite good. Indeed, the sweet with the chicken was so nice that a sweet, rather than savory, pottage would have been good.

Hmm... a Moroccan chicken barely dish. Cinnamon, honey, ginger, black pepper, garlic. I know, sounds odd, but all those things can be found in some tagines. They're good, too. Oh, and saffron, coriander, lemon juice. Yep, this will get made some time.


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