Asparagus Chicken in Spicy Black Bean Sauce

When you are tired and hungry, some days its nice to just have Ms. ChinaNob do all the work.   Especially if it involves busting out the wok and clay pot.  In spite of Ms. CN’s protestations that “cooking with a wok on an electric stove SUCKS!”, this dish still came out gobbledy-good, that belly-filling comfort food that is so yummy you have gobbled it down before you knew what happened.

Asparagus Chicken

1 pound chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, slice into 1-inch strips
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. canola oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 lb. asparagus, cut into two inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs. black bean sauce
1 tsp. oyster sauce
1/8 tsp. chili oil

Marinate chicken in soy sauce, garlic and ginger, half-hour minimum up to overnight.

Heat canola oil in wok over medium-high heat.   Saute onion until tender.   Add chicken and saute for 5 minutes.  Remove chicken and transfer to bowl.

Add asparagus and water, cook for 2 minutes.   Add back chicken, black bean sauce, oyster sauce, and chili oil.  Stir fry for 2 minutes or until chicken is cooked.  Serve over rice.

Classic Manhattan

Some nights you just need a classic.   Martini, Old Fashioned, Daiquiri, Aviation, Manhattan…  Tonight was a good night.   Got into the office early at eight before the phones started ringing, even got hit sideways after lunch with a firedrill project – those projects you get when its 2 PM and you are told it needs to be finished by the next morning or else.    Took it all in stride, logged a good productive 10, and called it a day.

Even mangaged to gobble down my lunch in 10 minutes so I had time to run across the street to the booze nerd liquour store.   I had recently discovered that vermouth – as a fortified wine – spoils.   Not as quick as regular wine, since it IS fortified, but it will spoil.  Especially if you don’t know this and leave it in your liquor cabinet and neglect to use it because you are too enamoured with your other recent booze purchases.   Ahem. Way too old vermouth = N.A.S.T.Y.

Doing some research (AKA seeking the Oracle at Mountain View), it turns out that the best means to prolong your vermouth is to treat it just like wine.  This means reducing oxidation – whether with a wine pump or injecting inert gas or the simple decanting to a smaller bottle.    Refridgeration also helps as well – combined with reducing the air in the storage bottle, it can take a shelf life of a month or two and prolong it up to six months.   Of course, drinking more frequently is another method!

This whole ramble is just prologue to an excuse to splurge a bit and pick up a bottle of Carpano Antica, the original sweet vermouth, which I had been dying to try.   It sure as heck looked fancy.  Came in a metal tin.  Big heavy glass bottle.  Even had a foil seal with a cork.  Boo-zwa-zee.    And the taste was 100% whoa – not too cloying sweet, orange peel scents, herbal, long finish.  Drinkable straight, on ice, with a little orange twist.   OK, Italy – you win.   You know how to make an aperitivo/digestivo.

All of which meant that what I needed at the end of this day, for vermouth this tasty, was good old American rye whiskey.

Classic Manhattan

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica, or Carpano Punt y Mes for a twist)
a couple of dashes of your choice of bitters (Angostura, Peychaud’s, peach, rhubarb, cherry…)

Stir with plenty of ice.  Strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with homemade brandied cherry.  Because you can.

Raspberry Flip

Another one from Jamie Boudreau, this one sounds good for summer berry season.   Having made flips before – my favorite being a rye flip – I was suprised at how light it tasted.  Its possible I overshook this one, leading to a wee bit over-dilution.  The framboise I used was Aqua Perfecta, a completely divine ambrosia, but also quite delicate.  It might require a more intensely sweet liqueur like Chambord.  This calls for further experimentation…

Raspberry Flip

1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. raspberry liqueur
6 raspberries
1 whole egg
2 dashes peach bitters

Combine all with ice and shake like the dickens.  Strain into coupe and garnish with raspberries.

Ginger Rogers

No story behind this one, besides straight ahead deliciousness.  This is a straight up lift off of a cocktail from the Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in San Francisco.  (Trivia for Top Chef dorks, this is the restaurant Jamie from Season 5 cooked at.  And sorry guys, she’s a lady who likes ladies. Damn.)  But I’ve seen this drink on enough menus of other bars around town and across the coasts that my shame level barely registers above Impulse Speed.  Even the Chronicle had the recipe at one point!

1 1/2 oz. gin
8-12 mint leaves
1/2 oz. ginger syrup(*)
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
ginger ale

Combine the mint leaves and ginger syrup in a tall glass and muddle mint until you smell the aroma.  Add lime juice and gin.  Fill glass with ice and top with ginger ale.  Stir from bottom to top.

For this I used a ginger beer, as I like my ginger drinks with kick.  I prefer Bundaberg, an Australian ginger beer that has the right balance between sweet and heat.

* Ginger Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2-inch piece ginger, sliced into thin strips
2 tsp. black peppercorns

Dissolve sugar & water.  Simmer for ten minutes with ginger and peppercorns.  Remove from heat and steep for 2-3 hours.  Strain and bottle.

Ginger Rogers

Sitting Limbo

This one is all Catherine’s fault.  Catherine is a lawschool chum from Section MNOP.  Yes – as an entering lawschool n00b (AKA an 1L), you are assigned a section of about 80-90 of your fellow 1Ls, with whom you will spend the entire first year attending all the same classes together.  Kind of like an English boarding school except without the ritual beatings, sweaty buggery, debating societies, and school uniforms.   Hmmm…come to think of it…ritual beatings? Check.   Sweaty buggery? Check.  Debating societies? Check.  School uniforms? Check.    I guess it was like an English boarding school but with better dentistry.

Like me, Catherine was also a bit of a stranger in a strange land – that is, a law student who somewhere knew they weren’t going to be lawyer after it was all over.  (Although Catherine figured that one out somewhere after first semester; it took me until a year after graduation.)  Also, like me, Catherine is a functioning alcoholic with an indie-nerd’s taste in mixology.  She recently nursed her problem at The Violet Hour, which looks like a booze geek’s paradise in Wicker Park.  She asked for my suggestions based on the menu on their website.   And from her report back, her tipples were tasty.  So trusting her taste, (in part because she went to Michigan Law, yet knows who Built to Spill, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Andrew Bird are.), this is my attempt to create one of her drinks from the list of ingredients on the menu combined with her report that it was “good and not too sweet”.

Sitting Limbo

2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Campari
1 oz. pineapple juice
1 teaspoon St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1 dash grapefruit bitters

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with grapefruit twist.

The available recipe for this included Luxardo Bitter, an Italian bitter orange apertif. I have not tried it, but based on a little research, it sounds like the Luxardo Bitter is similar to Campari, but a little bit less bitter and with more cherry tones.  I substituted Campari and dialed it back.  I think if you use the Luxardo, going up to 3/4 oz. would be worth a try.  In addition, I threw in the grapefruit bitters on a lark.  I imagine some bitter orange bitters and an orange peel would be nice too.

I’ll leave it to Catherine to make this at home and tell me if I am close to the original or not.