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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Simple Stir Fry

As I as walking home from my lesson today, I stopped by my local fruit and vegetable shop. When I saw that they had fresh snow peas, I knew a stir fry was in order. The secrets to a great stir-fry (in my humble opinion) are the following:

1. Have all your veggies cut up into similar sizes so they all cook at the same time and to the same degree.

2. Choose veggies for texture, shape and color. Strive for a balance in these three categories. (Wow this sounds Confucius-ey).

3. Slice the meat on the thin side, then marinate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Have some cornstarch slurry ready on the side. Make with 1 T. cornstarch and 3 T. water. Stir before using.

5. Cook everything with a bit of peanut oil.

A Simple Stir Fry
Serves 4

½ red pepper, sliced thinly and on the bias
½ yellow pepper, sliced thinly and on the bias
1 carrot, sliced into large matchsticks
½ small onion, sliced (yellow, red or white)
3 slices of ginger, julienne
Handful of sugar snap peas, cleaned but whole or sliced in half
4-6 oz of sliced meat (chicken breast or thigh, beef such as flank steak, pork or even shrimp), I used veal.
¼-½ C. broth

Marinade for meat:

1 t. soy sauce
½ t. sesame oil
1 pressed garlic clove
1 slice ginger minced
½ t. rice wine vinegar
Few drops of chili oil
½ t. cornstarch
Pinch of sugar
Fresh pepper

Other possible ingredients:

Baby corn
Broccoli florets
Eggplant cubes (salted a bit and pressed to remove some of the excess water)
Zucchini matchsticks
Water chestnuts
Firm tofu
Shredded red cabbage
green onions

For the actual cooking:

1. Heat a wok or large skillet with a bit of peanut oil until just smoking. (Cook veggies in two batches if you do not have a large enough skillet.) Stir fry the veggies until they are crisp tender about 2 minutes. Set aside.

2. Heat wok or skillet again, add a bit more oil and then stir fry meat for 1-3 minutes, stirring constantly until just done. Add meat to veggies.

3. To make a light sauce, add broth to skillet, if you have a favorite condiment such as oyster sauce, chili paste, now is the time to add it to the broth. Reduce a bit then slowly add the cornstarch slurry until the sauce has thickened and become translucent. Pour over stir-fry.

4. Serve stir-fry immediately with yakisoba noodles, rice or my new favorite, my whole-wheat capellini that taste a lot like soba noodles. Garnish with chopped green onions, black and white sesame seeds or chopped cilantro.

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At 5:35 PM, Blogger H. (aka. NC_State_Gal) said...

I think that is the first time that I read to "strive for balance" in a recipe (hehe), but I think that it definitely works with everything that you make. Every photograph makes my mouth water...YUUUUMMMMMYYY!

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Two comments: 1) I always thought you should cook the meat first (in my case the tasty whatever) so that the "drippings" remain in the pan to flavor the veggies. Add meat back in the end to heat up everything again. 2) No need to cut all the veggies into similar sizes. If something cooks longer, toss it in the wok first, followed by more quickly cooked items. This way I can get small chopped tomatoes, green beans, bean sprouts and tofu all in one go with minimal chopping.

(I'm on a blog posting kick tonight. I usually try to avoid your cooking posts since the hand-chopped beef thing.)

At 1:42 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Hey Sara,

I know you make a lot of stir fry's and so your advice is good too. Here's a retort to your comments:

When you cook the meat at a high enough temp. to really sear and brown there will be no meat "sauce".

Also I find adding all the stuff back together is not necessary, and can overcook some veggies.

Sure some stuff you don't have to cut up at all, just add to the stiry fry at different times, but not many folks know that those times are. In reality I use your method.

What hand chopped beef thing are you talking about, link me.

At 6:08 AM, Anonymous island girl said...

Yummy! I love stir-fry... too bad my hubby doesn't like it. Maybe I'll make some this weekend and he can just fend for himself...

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Sara said...

This hand chopped beef thing: http://gia-gina.blogspot.com/2006/01/lunch-in-cuneo-osteria-della.html#

Re: "meat sauce," If you're marinading meat (or the tasty whatever) some of the sauce and spices will remain in the wok even at high heat. Adding veggies afterward will add moisture to the wok, which will then reactivate the marinade (like a deglaze). The marinades I use involve fresh garlic and ginger, soy sauce and other spices. Some of that is always left behind. Add veggies and they pick up on that flavor.

Re: "adding stuff back together." So you've got cooked meat (or tasty whatever) on the side. Your veggies are almost done in the wok. You toss the cooked meat back in for a mere 30 seconds or so, let all the yumminess mingle and warm back up, then plate.

I'm lucky that Chris dislikes overcooked veggies. I try and keep everything crisp, like you do - to keep the character of each ingredient.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

I did not make the hand chopped beef thing but it is a famous dish in Piemonte, usually it is done with a special beed of veal or cow. Don't get grossed out by it since you used to love mom's beef kelaguen.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Sara said...

This is true. I did love the beef kelaguen. Though, seeing the beef in a pulpy, pink mass affected me. And I'm not usually sqeamish but I've been away from the land meat for 10 years now. It looked like... well, I'm not going to say.

And I was kidding. Your blog is a lot of fun.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Laurel said...

Hi Gia. I saw your post over on Maona and would love to know how you go about candying ginger. I love ginger in all forms, but Japanese gari and candied are my favourites. Please share your recipe/tenchnique if you would. I glad I found you site thru your comment; it looks like fun!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

See the December archives and you will find the candied ginger recipe.

At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your recipe. I'm sure that I will enjoy my self cooking it. Since this is my first time to cook a stir fry, I hope that I can cook it better.

Stir Fried Chicken


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