Monday, August 30, 2010

a stir-fry: king crab, asparagus, corn...

What is a stir-fry? (FYI: I'll be using a pan vs a wok!) Stir-fry is the process of adding ingredients to the super-hot pan with oil one at a time, in specific cooking order. Serially. Sequentially. Foods that take the longest to cook, like carrots, should be put in FIRST. The pan should be wide enough for the food to have as must surface area contact to the hot pan (and space between) so that each item caramelizes. If the pan is too crowded, moisture will build up, consequently, resulting in mushy, soft and unattractive food! Sooooo, fast cooking using a really big, super hot pan, will take about 5 minutes on the heat.

Mise en place (MEEZ en plahs), French for "everything in its place," allows the cook to work in a state of constant readiness without having to stop to find or assemble basic items. For stir-frys, EVERYTHING must be prepped ahead of time with the mise en place in tidy order nearby. The foods must be dry (they can be moist and cold, but should be dry as possible) to prevent explosive food when it hits the hot oil (yikes!!).

*King Crab Stir-fry w/ Asparagus, Corn, Tomato*
2 large king crab legs, deshelled
2-3 tablespoons of Oyster Sauce (depending on how saucy you like it)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch of salt
cracked pepper
a bundle of fresh asparagus, cut into 3-4 inch segments
cooked Corn, cut from 2 cobs
4 cloves of Garlic, smashed
Oil to coat the pan, about 1-2 tablespoons
a handful of teeny grape tomatoes, cut in half
roasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds
pinch of crushed red peppers (pizza peppers)

(1) Heat a pan. When the pan is HOT, add oil.
(2) Get out splatter screen. Add Asparagus, Garlic, Oyster Sauce, Sugar, Salt and Pepper. Use a spatula or jerk the pan to flip over the pieces after a few seconds. The Asparagus should be lightly browned on some edges and the Garlic should be golden but not black. Do not move around the ingredients too much or the result will be wet and soggy, versus crisp and seared.
(3) Add the de-shelled Crab (which should be cold and moist, but not wet). Quickly...
(4) ...Add the Corn. Toss.
(5) Turn off the heat and add Tomatoes.
(6) Serve immediately on a platter or individual plates. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds. If you have chopped Scallion, add that too!!

Oyster Sauce. Oyster Sauce is a staple in Cantonese cooking and is now one of the most familiar bottled sauce-condiment in Asian cooking around the world. This is a distinctly flavored sauce containing salty oyster extract that is thickened with cornstarch and darkened with caramel. Its unique savory taste goes beautifully with all vegetables and most proteins. Lee Kum Kee invented oyster sauce in 1888 and has always been the leading (and the best tasting!) brand for oyster sauce.

Fresh Asparagus. For long skinny vegetables like asparagus, cut segments on a diagonal, aka "bias" cut or "Asian" cut. This simple cut turns a rather boring long vegetable into interesting geometric pieces. This cut also creates a much greater surface area, allowing a shorter cooking time. 

Garlic. 4 cloves of garlic, smashed. Lay the garlic on a cutting board. Using a BIG knife, press the side of the the knife down on the garlic and SMASH the side of the blade with palm of your other hand. Lift the knife off and peel the garlic.

King Crab. If you don't live on an Alaskan King Crab Fishery, most likely the freshest king crab you'll have access to will be frozen, as most grocery stores receive frozen king crab legs and claws and display them at the counters to thaw. Use kitchen scissors to cut through the shells for fast results. I use nonlatex surgical gloves to protect my hands from the sharp spiky shells. Throw away the shells (or use them creatively as a garnish!).

Corn. Use frozen corn or fresh corn on the cob. Since corn is in season, we'll use the cobs. Cook the corn by boiling or grilling. Using a sharp knife, cut down the sides. Do we call this de-cobbing?!
1. Hot Pan! Add Oil. Once all your mise en place in order, you can start cooking! First, heat the pan. When the pan is very hot, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to generously coat the pan. Put in the cut asparagus and smashed garlic. Keep the heat on High.

2. Add Asparagus, Garlic, Oyster Sauce, Sugar, Salt, Pepper. Leave the food alone to heat up and sear, about a minute. Use a spatula or jerk the pan to flip the food over to cook the top side. Quickly and immediately, add the oyster sauce, sugar, and a dash of salt and pepper. Moving it around too much will prevent it from caramelizing properly. If it doesn't caramelize, the veggies will be soft and mushy (not good). See how golden brown (not black!) the smashed chunks of garlic are? Delicious!

3. Add the Crab. Make sure the Crab is cold and moist, but dry as possible (not wet). Add more oil if the pan appears dry, just enough oil so that the crab does not dry out. Do not add too much oil or everything will turn into a saucy, wet stew.

4. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes. Jerk the pan again (or use tongs) to distribute the food evenly around the pan. Try to keep some space between the individual pieces of crab, asparagus and garlic. (Again, we want each item to have its own flavor, not to be bunch up into soft mush!) Add some crushed red pepper flakes, the dry kind that you sprinkle onto pizza.

5. Add Corn. Next add the cooked cut corn.

6. Sear! Jerk the pan and let it sit for a few seconds, still on HIGH heat.

The corn will add a beautiful sweet crunch.

7. Add Tomatoes and Serve. Turn the heat off and add the tomatoes last. (Or if you want your tomatoes crunchy and less cooked, add the tomatoes at the very end after plating.)

8. Garnish with Sesame! Transfer this pan of delicious stir-fry to a plate or platter. Add sesame seeds. If you have scallion, add some chopped scallion to top it off. YUMMM!!!

Look - YUMMY!!!

Cool off the spice on your lips with a modest riesling....

Think about how you want to serve this. Were there big pieces that require a fork and knife or will chopsticks do?

PS: I know what you've been thinking, "Wassup with all that YELLOW tone?! Get your color saturation right..." Sorry if the yellowish glow was a buggin you more than it was buggin me!
Song of the day, vibe of the day: Nas and Damian Marley, 'Patience.' 

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