Yes, those are Christina Aguilera lyrics (and no, I totally didn't learn the entire dance from the video in high school).
So yeah, the point of all that was: I LET SOMEONE ELSE COOK. I wrote the rules; I can break 'em.
Aron, Jeff, Julie, Janice, Josh, Jess, Karen, Mark, Liz, Rich, me
Menu (drafted by Aron):
Hot and Sour Soup
Sho Chiku Bai sake (unfiltered and sweet to offset the hot and sour)
Vegetable Egg Rolls with Honey Mustard
Chinese Steamed Buns with Custard and Bean Filling
Green Tea Ice Cream
Ginger Szechuan Ice Cream from Bon Appetit, July 1987 (courtesy of Aron's grandma's recipe-clipping habit)
2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies
Learning that Shania Twain's real name is Eilleen Regina Edwards
Chewing on Szechuan peppercorns simmered in milk--makes your mouth tingly!
I have to be honest: I was a little sad today when I realized I was painting my nails instead of making soup. For one thing, I'm no good at painting my nails, so that's a joyless venture. For another, I was giving up a little control.
But guess what! Turns out that's a good thing. I got a night off, and we all ate delicious soup anyway!
Aron has an amazing collection of vintage soup bowls from his grandmother. Mine said "Borrrrrrrsssssscccccttttttt" on it (not sure about the number of consonants there, but it was something like that):
The soup was really filling (although I admit I went back for a few extra bites because it was just such a nice taste)--Lots of protein and just the right amount of sour. There were expressions of Yum coming from every mouth in the room.
I'm always worried when I try Asian recipes, as I feel I won't be able to make them taste as good as they do at a restaurant. But Aron went all out with authentic ingredients, a good recipe, and his own intuition and made a darn delicious pot of soup. Maybe next time I'll be brave enough to do the same! Thanks for the inspiration, Aron (and the full stomach).
Here it is, as written by Aron:
Adapted from the Help! My Apartment Has A Kitchen Cook Book
The cookbook version serves 4 as a meal (6 as an appetizer), so I roughly tripled the liquids and doubled the hard ingredients to serve 12.
8 Shitake Mushrooms
4 Green Onions
2 10.5oz cans of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 Can fulls of water
1 8oz can of bamboo shoots, drained
1 14oz package of firm tofu, drained
¼ Cup rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons cornstarch or ¼ cup flour
¼ Cup cold water
1 Sheet of Nori (seaweed sushi wrapping) cut into strips
1 Handful of “black white fungus” strips from the Asian grocery
1 Handful dried lily buds
Sriracha Hot Sauce to taste
Wash the green onions and cut off and discard the root tips and the top 2 inches of the green ends. Cut the remaining part in ¼ inch pieces and set aside.
Wash the fresh mushrooms and cut off the bottom ¼ inch of the stems. Slice the mushrooms thin and set aside. Cut the bamboo shoot strips into 1/8 strips.
If you’re using them, soak the dried lily buds, and dried black white fungus strips in warm water for 20 minutes. Do the same with the mushrooms if you’re using dried shitakes. Discard the water and separate the lily buds into thinner strips.
Heat the broth and water in a large pot over high heat. When it comes to a boil, add the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, lily buds, and black white fungus. Turn down to a medium heat and cook uncovered for 5 minutes.
The recipe says to save the eggs for the end, but I think they’d probably work better when the soup is thinner and hot without lots of stuff in it yet. I added them at the end, so this is your call to try my new recommendation or not. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Pour the beaten eggs slowly through the tines of a fork into the soup. The tines help separate the eggs so they cook in thin strands instead of clumps. This is where I think more heat is good too.
While the soups cooks, cut the tofu into half in cubes. Add the tofu, nori strips, vinegar, and soy sauce to the soup. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
Mix the cold water into the cornstarch in small bowl until it becomes a thick paste. Add it to the soup and stir until the mixture boils and thickens slightly.
If desired, add in Sriracha and add more soy sauce and vinegar to taste.
Serve in bowls and garnish with the green onions.
As a bonus, here is the ice cream recipe, since everyone seemed to like it.
Ginger Szechuan Ice Cream
Bon Appétit Magazine, July 1987
Makes about 1 Quart
¼ Cup Szechuan peppercorns (also called prickly ash) available at Asian groceries
2½ Cups half and half
1 Cup water
¾ Cup sugar
½ Cup fresh peeled ginger cut into ¼ inch cubes (about 3 ounces)
8 Egg Yolks
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Pinch of salt
½ Cup whipping cream
Toast the Szechuan peppercorns (Wikipedia says they are actually a seed from a berry) in a small skillet over medium low heat until aromatic, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. The peppercorns are pretty aromatic as soon as they come out of the bag, so it’s a good thing they give a time suggestion. Transfer the peppercorns to a bowl.
“Scald” the half and half in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. The internets say that “scalding” is an out of fashion cooking term, but basically means heating milk shy of boiling and stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add the peppercorns to the milk and let it cool.
Cook the water, sugar, and ginger in a medium saucepan over low heat, swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat until the ginger is tender, about 20 minutes. From my experience, the ginger stayed a little chewy, but that just added some good texture.
Use a strainer to remove the peppercorns from the half and half mixture. Side note: This is the point where you can chew on half a dozen or a dozen of the peppercorns and then spit them out. They make your mouth, lips, and tongue, turn numb for 5 or 10 minutes.
Add the ginger and syrup to the strained half and half. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk yolks, vanilla, and salt in a medium-large bowl. Gradually whisk the hot half and half mixture into the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir over a medium-low heat until the mixture starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. Do not boil the mixture. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream. Bon Appétit says you should strain the mixture now. I strained the peppercorns out early and didn’t strain here. That meant the ginger cubes stayed in to give the ice cream some extra texture.
Refrigerate the mix until it’s well cooled. Transfer it into your ice cream maker, following the instructions from the machine. Freeze overnight in a covered container.