Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moo Shu and Pancakes, yes, it's true.

I Moo Shu.  Do you?

I did a trial/tasting day for a new family on Monday.  I had had a long (very long) day before I even showed up to their house, but once I was there, I was sure things would go smoothly.  They are a really nice family with an absolutely gorgeous kitchen, great kids, and cute pets.  What could go wrong?

Like any trial/tasting day, I wanted to show my best work, yet stay relaxed and not be uptight.  For some reason, I always end up planning a menu that is easy in my mind, but something always happens that sends the day in the other direction.  Whether it is a crucial specialty ingredient that is nowhere to be found or some sort of kitchen disaster, an easy trial day is often anything but.  In the last decade I have been bitten by dogs, broken full, expensive bottles of olive oil on marble countertops, been 2 hours late due to NYC traffic, had to re-vamp an entire menu due to Chilean Sea Bass shortage, have been presented with broken stoves, been to homes without saute pans, accidentally de-koshered precisely 2 kitchens,and almost sliced my finger off and so spent the workday holding my right hand up in the air trying to stop the throbbing. Ohhhh, trial meals.

So what happened Monday?  The garbage disposal backed up.  It didn't just clog, it bubbled and gurgled and gross food bits swirled around as the level rose up and down.  It looked as disgusting as a clogged toilet that someone threw up in.

It doesn't sound like a huge deal except it had, apparently, never happened before.  AND the plunger wouldn't budge the clog.    AND they live in an historic building that doesn't technically allow garbage disposals so they didn't want to ask the super to help because he would find out that they had one.  AND they had to call in an outside plumber that made a huge mess that lasted through dinner.  The plumbers were still there and working amidst blackish-blue greasy sludge all throughout dinner and were still busy when I left (almost 2 hours later than planned.).  AND I couldn't properly clean up because I had no sink.  AND she was so nice about it.  When I return, I better make it good, that's all I can say.

So, what, you may wonder, did I make for this kind and appreciative family?  I had planned a menu by request--Moo Shu Chicken and Tofu, Scallion Pancakes, and Steamed Dumplings.  Also, a batch of blueberry muffins just for fun.  Well, the Moo Shu is something I have made a thousand times, the muffins were a new recipe, but straightforward, but the pancakes?  I usually buy them frozen and fry them up, as needed.  Guess what.  Whole Foods no longer carries them.  I learned this the hard way.  In a time crunch.

Good thing my Moo Shu recipe has a Mandarin Pancake recipe adjacent to it.  Never read it.  Never made it before.  Why not try it in a kitchen I have never cooked in before and serve it to a family that I just met?

I made them amidst the disposal debacle and must say that they are delicious.  Not just pretty good, but excellent.  The frozen kind and take-out version (likely one and the same) are greasy and heavy, but still taste good.  At least they did.  Now, I know that flour, boiling water, sesame oil and my addition of scallion is all it takes.  Try these because they will become a family favorite. The Moo Shu is my own simplified version.  The pancakes are based on a Moosewood recipe.  The results are overwhelmingly YUM. 

Make the Moo Shu whatever you like.  It can be chicken, veggie, tofu, shrimp, beef, pork.  I like to do a combo of two or three different things for a deluxe Moo Shu experience.

Moo Shu


1 cup Hoisin Sauce (Kikkoman makes an msg-free version now)
1/2-1 cup rice wine for cooking
a little tamari
a little Sriracha

Canola or Sunflower oil for stir-frying

1 T ginger, grated on a microplane
1-2 T garlic, grated on a microplane
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cups thinly shredded cabbage
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly into 2"strips
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks or grated
1 cup mung bean sprouts (opt. only use if you can find them really fresh)
2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch scallions, washed and thinly sliced at an angle

CHOOSE 1-3 options below to equal about 3-5 cups or omit and just do veggies
(opt.) 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced into 1/2" strips and marinated in a dash of soy sauce & ginger
(opt.) 1 lb cleaned shrimp, marinated like above chicken
(opt.) 1 package baked sesame tofu or plain tofu (marinated like above chicken)
(opt.) 1 lb strip steak, sliced into thin strips and marinated like above chicken
(opt.) 1 lb pork tenderloin, sliced into thin strips and marinated like above chicken

1 recipe Scallion Pancakes (below)

Prep ingredients by chopping as instructed above and transferring ingredients to separate small prep bowls.

Heat a large wok or frying pan.  Add a quick splash of high-heat oil (canola or sunflower) to coat the wok.

Stir fry in batches on high, adding a splash of fresh oil as needed and de-glazing each batch with a little rice wine, a dollop of hoisin, and a little tamari and a little Sriracha sauce to taste.  Cook each batch until veggies are tender and beginning to brown with sauce, mixing combos of veggies with ginger, garlic, and onion.  Make sure batches of chicken have been cooked through and don't come in contact with the veggies or other stuff until cooked.  Try to be conscious of the beef and pork, as well.

As you stir-fry, transfer each batch to a large oven-safe serving dish.  Toss together when all is stir-fried and reheat in an oven, if needed.  Serve wrapped in Scallion Pancakes.

Scallion Pancakes

4 cups unbleached white flour+ extra for rolling
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3 large minced scallions
toasted sesame oil

Beginning to stack the pancakes!
 Measure flour out into a large mixing bowl.  Pour in boiling water gradually and mix with a spatula, adding scallions as well.  Mix the rest of the way with clean hands and knead until uniform.  Continue kneading 4-5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  Cover with a damp towel and rest for about 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, knead dough about 50 times.  Divide dough in half and shape into two cylinders.  Cut each cylinder into 12 equal pieces.  Flatten each piece into a little circle and roll out into a circle about 5-6 inches in diameter.  Repeat with a second piece.  Brush each with a bit of sesame oil and place one circle atop the other with oiled surfaces facing in/facing each other.  Roll them out with a rolling pin together, making sure surface is well-floured--the oil can make things sticky.  When you have roughly a circle about 8-10" in diameter, it is ready to cook.  Set aside.  Repeat with remaining pieces.

Heat a cast iron pan till very hot and turn on an exhaust fan.  Spray a little high-heat oil on the pan.  Cook each pancake about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned and bubbly looking.  Transfer to a plate.  Continue till all are cooked.  These can be covered and reheated or served immediately.

Serve on their own or with Moo Shu like above.