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Talk Takeaway: Cooking with Lucinda Scala Quinn

Posted on Apr 22, 2013 10:45am

Lucinda Scala Quinn shows us her healthy and tasty Chinese "takeout" made at home, including Sesame Chicken, Pork Fried Rice, Stir-Fried Watercress with Garlic and a Lychee Martini.   

All recipes are excerpted from "Mad Hungry Cravings" by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Artisan Books), Copyright 2013.

Sesame Chicken

serves 4

The thick crust and cloyingly sweet flavor of the typical take-out version of this dish turns me off. My kids disagree, brainwashed as they are by our local Chinese restaurant. But they also love this recipe. Skip the deep fryer and the thick batter, add some vegetables, and keep that delicious sesame umami-filled flavor.


¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing) or sherry

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into ½-inch-wide strips

2 tablespoons peanut oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger

1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste

6 ounces snow peas, trimmed

One 8-ounce can bamboo shoots,
drained and rinsed

One 8-ounce can water chestnuts,
drained, rinsed, and halved

3 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil


1. Combine the soy sauce, wine, cornstarch, sugar, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the chicken and marinate for 15 minutes.

2. Place a wok or a heavy skillet over high heat. When it smokes, add the peanut oil. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and add to the wok. Stir-fry, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned in places and just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

 3. Stir in the chili paste and snow peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until the snow
peas are shiny and bright green. Stir in
the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts and stir-fry until heated through, about
1 minute.

 4. Remove from the heat, stir in the scallions, sesame seeds, and sesame oil, and serve immediately.



Pork Fried Rice

serves 4


This is easily my husband's favorite Chinese take-out choice. Onions, pork, and scrambled eggs—greasy and satisfying. When you make it at home, you get the flavor of the Chinese joint but with fresher ingredients and minus the grease slick, thank you very much.

12 ounces pork tenderloin, cut into ½-inch dice

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce

¾ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

2 tablespoons peanut oil

½ large white onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped

3 cups cooked white rice

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup frozen peas, thawed

3 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

 
1. Combine the pork, hoisin, honey, soy sauce, and five-spice powder in a medium bowl. Marinate for 15 minutes.

 2. Heat a wok over high heat. When the wok smokes, add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Drain the pork, reserving the marinade, add to the wok, and cook, stirring, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

 3. Add the carrots and rice, along with the reserved marinade, and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes.

 4. Create a well in the center of the wok, pour in the eggs, and scramble. Add the peas, scallions, and sesame oil to the wok and stir until incorporated. Serve immediately.


Stir-Fried Watercress with Garlic

serves 4


Watercress is usually eaten raw (or plopped on a restaurant plate in place of parsley to dress it up), but this Chinese-style preparation calls for cooking it in a wok over high heat. You can also use a large skillet, but the cooking must be hot and fast. It's all in the technique of adding ingredients gradually to build and layer flavors. Many greens can be cooked this way, like spinach, shredded cabbage, bok choy, and pea shoots.


2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese cooking
wine (Shaoxing) or sherry

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons safflower oil

6 garlic cloves, sliced

2 bunches watercress, washed, dried, and thick stems removed


1. Whisk together the soy sauce, wine, sugar, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.

 2. Heat a wok over high heat until smoking. Add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and stir constantly for 15 seconds. Add the watercress and stir-fry until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture and stir-fry for 1 minute more. Serve immediately.


Lychee Martini

serves 2


This drink was inspired by A Single Pebble, one of the best Chinese restaurants I've ever eaten at, in the unlikely location of Burlington, Vermont. The syrup from the canned lychees is put to good use as part of the shaken mixture of vodka and vermouth.

3 ounces vodka

1 ounce dry vermouth

¹⁄3 cup lychee juice (from canned lychees)

2 lychees for garnish


1. Shake together the vodka, vermouth, and lychee juice in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into glasses, garnish with the lychees, and serve.




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