Chinese for the Holidays – Kung Pao Turkey

There is a stereotype that all Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve, well…. my family either ate Chinese at our favourite restaurant or we had Texas barbecued brisket from Ft. Worth, Texas’ famous Cousin’s Bar-B-Q , Greenberg’s smoked turkey from Tyler, Texas and the fixins: homemade mustard coleslaw, Mom’s baked beans, etc.  I can’t eat it anymore because it is not kosher, but Cousin’s make some of the best damn barbecued brisket I have ever had. One of these days I am going to try to make my own.

So, in keeping with the family tradition, I made a non-traditional Kung Pao Turkey by torchlight. No, it is not a family  tradition to cook by torchlight on Christmas Eve: the power went out right as I was finishing chopping the vegetables. Mr BT helped me finish the meal by holding a torch over the stove top. Luckily, I have a gas stove top, so I could continue cooking in the dark. The power didn’t come on until halfway through dinner, so we ate by candlelight. Awwwww, how romantic.

Mr BT and I wish you and yours a very happy holidays!

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Kung Pao Turkey
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 4
Author: Baroness Tapuzina
Ingredients
For the Kung Pao Turkey
  • 250 g 1/2 lb skinless turkey breast, cut into cubes
  • 100 g cashews or peanuts toasted
  • 2 whole red fresh chilies
  • 3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions chopped
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 small courgettes diced
  • 1 small container white button champignon mushrooms, sliced
For the marinade:
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking wine
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking wine
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water or chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Roast the cashews in a 160C (300F) oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.
  2. Mix the water, rice wine, salt and cornstarch in a medium size bowl, add the chicken and marinate for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients of the sauce together.
  4. Heat oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat and stir fry the chicken until opaque and half cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Stir fry the chilies, garlic and ginger for a few seconds and then add back the chicken and give it a good stir. Add the mushrooms and the courgettes and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add the sauce and the bean sprouts and stir until the sauce thickens. Finally, add the cashews and the green onions and stir until mixed through.
  6. Serve immediately with a bowl of steamed rice.

All You Really Need is Soup

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup”
Beethoven

Winter is a good excuse to make hearty soups, something that is true in my house. Mr BT is a world class soup maker. His repertoire includes: chicken soup, lentil soup, onion soup, vegetable soup and cauliflower soup. He always makes a big pot for us to enjoy throughout the week or he freezes some of it to enjoy whenever we want. As the lovely quote from Beethoven states, Mr BT puts his heart and soul in his soups. I am a lucky woman.

Like most of Mr BT’s creations, the recipe for this soup can vary according to what vegetables are seasonally available. You can also substitute lentils or barley for the chickpeas. You may find turkey soup a little unusual: Mr BT decided to start using turkey as a partial or complete substitute for the more common chicken because it has a stronger flavour and has much more meat that similar cuts of chicken.

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Mr BT's Turkey and Vegetable Soup
Servings: 10 liters (2 gallons)
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried medium chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large yellow onions thinly sliced
  • 6 large cloves garlic chopped
  • 8 large carrots quartered lengthwise and sliced 6mm (1/4 inch) thick
  • 1/2 head celery dark green leaves removed, sliced
  • 20 juniper berries
  • 3 large sprigs fresh oregano
  • 6 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 4 turkey wings separated or 2 turkey necks, cut into 8cm (3-inch) sections
  • 500 g 1lb beef soup bones
  • 1/2 head white cabbage cut lengthwise into six pieces and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium courgettes zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 red and 2 yellow peppers cut into small chunks
  • 3 large tomatoes cut into small pieces, keeping the pulp
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of chicken soup powder mixed with a little hot water
Instructions
  1. The night before making the soup, place chickpeas in a medium sized bowl, add baking soda and cover with enough warm water to leave 4cm (1-1/2 inches) above the chickpeas.
  2. Gently heat enough olive oil (not extra virgin) to saute the onions. Add onions and stir as they saute. After 10 minutes, add the carrots, the celery, juniper berries, thyme, oregano and bay leaves. Cover the pot and saute gently for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they do not stick to the bottom.
  3. Add soup bones and turkey, and continue to saute gently for another 20 minutes, covered. Add the cabbage, and continue to saute, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
  4. Add water (hot, if you have a kettle) to within 2.5cm (1 inch) of the top of the pot, bring to a boil, and then lower the flame to a rolling simmer. Add the chickpeas. Leave to simmer for at least 2 hours.
  5. Add the courgette, peppers, tomatoes and the soup powder mixture. Continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve piping hot.
  6. This soup is better on the second and third day.

"Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated"

This was my Uncle Alfred’s slogan for his restaurant, The Annistonian. My 96-year-old beloved great-uncle died two weeks ago, two days after his birthday. Uncle Alfred was born in Berlin, Germany to a family of butchers. Instead of becoming a professional boxer (he was a junior champion semi-professional boxer in Berlin), he decided to follow in the family footsteps and became a Metzgermeister (master butcher) in 1928.

In June of 1938, Uncle Alfred volunteered to report to the local police station, where he and other men were taken to Sachsenhausen. His family was worried when he did not come back that evening after reporting to the police station and his mother went to the police station to find out what happened to him. She saw a school friend of Alfred’s, who worked at the police station and he promised to find out where he had been taken. Six weeks later, and thanks to his school friend, he was released from Sachsenhausen. When he returned home, his mother told him to leave the country right away. He listened to her and a few days later, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Europe (HICEM), he went to Belgium, stayed two weeks, and then made his way to Paris. He eventually went to Marseilles, and started looking for a country that would give him citizenship. He found out that Colombia was accepting immigrants and he obtained passage to Colombia in the fall of 1938.

He worked in gold mines in Colombia for one year and became very sick and almost died. He decided dying of malaria was not going to be his fate and he moved to Bogota, where he worked in various restaurants and then eventually opened a restaurant and butcher shop. After the war was over, he found out that his parents, two brothers and one sister died in Auschwitz. One sister came to Bogota and raised a family and another sister immigrated to the US.

He went to New York in 1951, met my great-aunt Helen at Grossinger’s and in 1953 came to my hometown where he opened a fine-dining restaurant called the Annistonian in 1958. From 1958 – 1976, people came from near and far for his hand-cut steaks, seafood, fish and his pièce de résistance… Wiener Schnitzel.

I wish I had taken the time to learn more about cooking from him. I really regret this now. One of his most amazing feats in the kitchen was that he could carve a turkey and put it back together and you wouldn’t realize it had been carved until you got up close to it. He also made very good strudel and Black Forest cherry cake. When I tried making both of these desserts, he gave me his good housekeeping seal of approval. I was honored.

When I decided to move to Israel, Uncle Alfred called me “his hero”, but he was my hero. He survived the Nazis, moved to a strange country where he had to learn how to work in the gold mines for survival, survived the loss of most of his family, triumphed in Bogota and made a family and a career in the US. To honor his memory, I made a meal.

Uncle Alfred, I will always treasure your great humor, your amazing charm, your delicious food and your great dancing.

The menu was as follows:

Appetizer

Tapenade

Main Course

Wiener Schnitzel

Bratkartoffeln (Home fries)

Spinach

Wine: Wuerttemberg Edition Gourmet Kerner 2004

Dessert

Fig Galette

We began the evening with my husband’s tapenade. He adds just the right amount of garlic to give it that kick. In addition to the usual ingredients he added a little fresh rosemary and oregano. It was delicious.

I have a confession to make, and please do not send me any cards or letters in protest, but my husband hand-cut and pounded a whole turkey breast instead of veal. The veal was 15EUR/20USD per kilo and is just over our budget right now. If you do happen to make this with turkey, do not marinate it in lemon juice.

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Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

The trick to making good home fries is to use waxy, firm potatoes. Do not use baking potatoes. Peel them and parboil them either the day before or earlier in the day.

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Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

Fresh from Oven

The fig galette was easy to prepare, but make sure that you place the tart on a rimmed cookie sheet, otherwise you will have a mess in your oven.

Print
Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.
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