Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Full Color Chinese Cooking - 30 Recipes" & "Fowl Cooking...Chicken, That Is" - a chicken soup and a chicken casserole for the Chinese Year of the Rooster!

Date I made these recipes:  February 19, 2017 – Belated Chinese New Year—the year of the Rooster!

Full Color Chinese Cooking – 30 Recipes by Constance D. Chang
Published by Shufunomoto Co., Ltd. Tokyo, Japan
© 1969; fourth printing August 1970
Purchased at Goodwill
Recipe:  Chicken Noodle Soup – p. 25

Fowl Cooking – Chicken, That Is by Virgo Paynter Miyamoto
Published by Mutual Publishing Company
© 1989
Purchased at Kona Bay Books, Kona, Hawaii
Recipe: Cock-a-Doodle-do-da Casserole – p. 144 (Chicken with a veggie mix of artichokes, olives, pimento, green pepper and onion, topped with soup, sour cream and cheese – yum!)

Thank goodness the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Rooster – lasts the entire year because if not for that, I might not be able to do what I am doing which is to finally get around to telling you in the month of March what I made (late) in February. 

As always, life gets in the way of me making other plans!

So the Year of the Rooster – woo hoo!  Unlike the zodiac calendar we're all familiar with - Aquarius, Pisces, Libra, etc., a Chinese zodiac calendar is broken into years and each year is assigned an animal.  The animal signs are: rat; ox; rabbit; tiger; dragon; snake; horse; goat; monkey; rooster; dog, and pig, and these animal signs repeat every 12 years.

So, for example, if you were born in 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972 and so on, you are a rat – ha!  If you were born in 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and (coming up), 2029, you are a rooster! And just like the zodiac signs we are familiar with, rats and roosters and the other animals have lucky numbers, unlucky numbers, lucky colors, personality traits, other "animals" to avoid and so on.

Here's an example: People born in a year of the Rooster are "very observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented.  Roosters are very confident in themselves."  Rooster lucky numbers are 5, 7, and 8 and red is an unlucky color.

I have to say, much of this amuses and so every now and then, I do a deeper study into these signs although I often disagree with what I read.  One thing I read while "researching" these "year of" signs almost made me spit my coffee onto my keyboard and it was a chart titled "Famous Dogs." Ha!  Hahahahahahaha.  Let me assure you that this list did not include Lassie or Rin Tin Tin (but did include Winston Churchill so that's cool).

It should go without saying that celebrating the Chinese New Year means making Chinese food and I did that by cooking from one of my Chinese cookbooks, but I also had to – just had to - make something from this hilarious cookbook I purchased in Hawaii last year:  Fowl Cooking...Chicken, That Is.  There's a reason why this book was so fitting and so let's get to it.

You may not know this, but the island of Kauai has a poultry problem.  Many islanders raise chickens (and roosters) but when Hurricane Iniki roared through the islands years ago, those chicken coops were destroyed and the chickens went rogue and then multiplied, such that you cannot go anywhere, and I mean anywhere, on the island without tripping on a chicken. 

So we should not have been surprised, and yet were, when at 5:00 a.m. on the first morning of our most recent stay, we were rudely awakened by a rousing "Cock-a-doodle-doo" by a you know who! I wish I was able to capture that Kodak moment i.e. the look on our faces when we heard it.  I remember commenting that I felt like we were in an episode of the TV show, Green Acres!  Later that day, while relaxing by the pool, I heard a "cheep, cheep, cheep" and looked down in time to see a mama chicken and her little chicklets strolling by my beach chair on their way to the...pool?

Fast forward then to last year when we were on the Big Island and once again, on our first morning there were awakened by a rousing "Gobble, gobble, gobble" of a wild turkey, not to be confused with the alcoholic beverage, Wild Turkey which we drank after this happened.  After folks.  Once again, the look we gave each other was priceless more so because good lord, are fowls on the move?  Have they grown tired of the overcrowded Kauai and are now looking for more space in which to grow and raise their families on the Big I? (Think House Hunters Chicken [version]:  "Well, Kauai's chicken coops are 'a little small' so we're looking for more space.  We'd like to stay in the same neighborhood but would move to the bigger island if need be...")  At any rate, we shall just have to go back soon to monitor the situation.

Okay, so, with all that in mind, it was time to pull some recipes and I had no trouble finding recipes containing chicken.  These recipes don't go together at all but they contain our "secret" ingredient and that's all that matters.  By the way, unless you own a chicken farm (my paternal grandparents did), you will not find rooster (as in the Year of the "Rooster") in a grocery store, likely because it's a pretty tough bird and I don't mean "street" tough, I mean tough to eat.  So roosters are out and really, we should redub this year "The Year of the 'Hen.'"  I may need to send a letter to the Chinese government.

And so folks, let's review my two dinner selections – Cock-A-Doodle-Do-Dah Casserole from Fowl Cooking...Chicken, That Is, and Chicken Noodle Soup from the Full Color Chinese Cooking cookbook.  Think of these as a Tale of Two Chickens and by all means, feel free to make and serve these separately lest your palate and your family members get confused.

Now I could have made something Chinese-related from the Fowl Cooking cookbook, but given our experiences in Hawaii, I just could not pass up the opportunity to make the hilariously and appropriately named Cock-A-Doodle-Do-Dah Casserole.  This dish is what my mother would call a "company" casserole, not that my mother ever served any guest in our home a casserole as she favored company classics like a beef roast or Swiss steak or baked chicken. This was a yummy casserole though because in addition to the requisite chicken, it contained ingredients we casserole lovers cherish:  cream of chicken soup, sour cream and parmesan cheese.  It also includes artichoke hearts, noodles, and a few other ingredients.  We quite liked it.

As to the [Chinese] Chicken Noodle Soup, it was easy to make, the vermicelli noodles were a fun addition, but it fell flat on flavor. (Well, did I find my "f" key on the keyboard, or what?).  The recipe called for three "spices" – salt, pepper and MSG.  Now most of us know that MSG has been dubbed the evil empire of seasoning since it can trigger migraine headaches and I sure didn't want that, but I think of an appropriate substitute and I wish I had because it needed a little extra "something" to liven it up a bit.  I suppose one could use soy sauce but maybe something like star anise?  Or maybe fish sauce?  Well, play with it.

This then, concludes my post on the Chinese New Year – The Year of the Rooster.  I hope it's a good year for you all but just know it will be a while before I get around to making another dish in honor of the occasion as next year is the year of the dog and....no.  Nope.  Enjoy your chicken!

Cock-A-Doodle-Do-Da Casserole – serves 8 to 10
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
¾ cup dry white wine
2 cans (10 oz. each) cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 pkg. noodles, cooked and drained
2 cans (14 oz. each) artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 can (14 oz.) pitted ripe olives, halved
½ cup chopped pimento
½ cup slivered green pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix wine, soup, and sour cream and set aside.  Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. 

Starting with the noodles, layer the noodles, chicken, artichoke hearts, olives, pimento, green pepper and onion.  Add the wine, soup, and sour cream mixture.  Top with the Parmesan cheese.  Refrigerate overnight if desired.  (Ann's Note:  Nope, not desired!)

Bake in a 350F oven for approximately 45 minutes.

Turkey cubes may be substituted for the chicken.  The casserole can be made ahead of time and frozen.

Chicken Noodle Soup – 2-6 servings
2 oz. vermicelli or noodle
2 ½ oz. chicken breasts (Ann's Note:  I wasn't sure whether to use raw chicken breasts or not so I erred on cooking the chicken separately and then adding it to the dish at the very end to warm it up.)
12 snow peas
¼ cup dried mushroom, soaked and shredded (Ann's Note:  dried mushrooms are expensive so I used fresh.)
1/3 cup caned bamboo shoots, cut into strips
¼ cup carrot, cut into strips
7 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup ham, cut into strips
1 tablespoon salt
MSG (monosodium glutamate)  (Ann's Note:  see discussion of MSG above)

Cut chicken, snow peas, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots and ham into thin strips.

Drop vermicelli into boiling water and boil for 5 minutes.  (Ann's Note:  this is less time than normal for fully-cooked vermicelli.) Drain, rinse and drain again.  Set aside.

Bring chicken stock to boiling point.  Add chicken meat, ham, snow peas, mushroom, bamboo shoots and carrot.  Cook for 2 minutes. Add seasonings and cooked vermicelli and boil for 1 minute over medium heat.

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