Change-up

Just to remind you that it’s only haute cuisine a few times a year at the Nomnivores’ house, here’s tonight’s dinner. It’s -15’C outside, but we’re still feeling louche and gluttonous, post-holiday feast. Time for something paradoxical: light but filling, warm but bright, smooth but spiky.

Hot and sour soup fits that bill. It also has the advantages of being healthy, cheap, easy, and – as Nigel Slater might say – “delightfully moreish.” In other words: you always want just one more spoonful.

Uncharacteristically, Epicurious (channeling the dearly-departed but undead Gourmet) comes to the rescue with the best recipe we’ve found for this often-abused classic. We present tonight’s version, with our own ingredient adaptations. For the cooking instructions, refer to the recipe.

5 ounces boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips (2/3 cup) Tonight, that was 3 tiny, organic pork loin chops
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
4 small Chinese dried black mushrooms We had dried shiitakes on hand
12 small dried tree ear mushrooms We had this in the form of “dried black fungus” – well worth the trip to Chinatown for a $1.99 bag that’ll last you a year – this is essential to achieve that slippery crunchiness you find in all good hot and sour soups
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar Chinese black vinegar is better, if you have it
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil Or grapeseed, or canola
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth We used half leftover roasted pork-rib stock, and half, frozen, organic chicken stock – it ended up being almost too rich
3 to 4 oz firm tofu (about a quarter of a block), rinsed and drained, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper The single most important flavouring
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens We had chives in the fridge, so in they went
2 tablespoons fresh whole cilantro leaves

Duck Sticks, Five Times Fast

Lol.

We’ve been cooking from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s (hereafter: JGV) Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges. It’s cool in that it stretches us just a bit beyond the usual Euro-cuisine that dominates our cooking, without moving into full-on Asian cookery.

One of the highlights so far has been Duck Sticks: spring rolls filled with a duck-confit-based mixture.

Yes, I KNOW... but it tastes good, okay?

To my shame, I didn’t have time to confit duck. So, we bought some good quality prepared confit and mixed it with daikon, garlic, carrots and scallions that had been sauteed in 5-spice powder. It was a good compromise.

You make bath-time so much fun!

Oddly, JGV does not serve this with his duck mustard, the recipe for which is in the same book. We did. As adapted by us, the duck mustard went a little something like this:

1 cup Apricot jam
2 Tbsp sweet horseradish jam (optional – we had it on hand)
2 Tbsp dry mustard
5 inch section of fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp nam pla
1 Tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar

Reconstitute the mustard in 1 Tbsp of warm water for 10 minutes. Add it to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopper blade. Process until smooth. You’re done.

We accidentally improved the duck stick recipe by forgetting to include the pickled ginger in the filling, serving it alongside instead. All diners were confident that this was a better way to go.