Breaking Technique: Recipes that are Revelations

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by phatch, Mar 25, 2015.

  1. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

    Likes Received:
    I Just Like Food
    After the French Food discussion, a particular recipe came to mind, a recipe for Stir Fried Spinach with Garlic. 5 simple ingredients but two of them are mishandled, or at least handled at odds with traditional proper technique. 

    First off, traditional wisdom:

    Stirfrying with Grace Young, among other instructions, keep the vegetables dry:

    Normal Stir Fried Spinach with Garlic, wilting the spinach with the aromatics.  

    The color is muted, the spinach lumpy and intertwined. 

    When you stir fry spinach this way, even if done perfectly, the spinach will release a dark green-brown bitter liquid if it stands for even a few minutes, usually on your plate or in the wok itself. 

    Blanching spinach, blanch, shock, wring out or it's too wet

    This recipe is from Barbara Tropp's excellent book, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. When I first read it I wondered what she was thinking as it seems contradictory to blanch the spinach, only lightly pressed and to purposely scorch the garlic. Burned garlic and too much liquid quickly came to mind as the unpleasant result. But her recipe works wonderfully and the result is surprising. 

    1 pound fresh spinach, washed and chopped quite coarsely

    2 tablespoon oil for stir frying

    2-3 large cloves of garlic, lightly smashed and peeled

    1//4 teaspoon kosher salt

    1/4 teaspoon sugar, to taste

    In generous boiling water, blanch the spinach briefly for 1 minute, remove to a colander and shock with cold running water. Lightly press to remove excess water. Spinach can be blanched up to a day ahead of cooking. 

    Heat the wok over high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the garlic. Toss and press it to the bottom of the wok to char and scorch. Add the spinach and and stir fry for 30 seconds to flavor the spinach with the seasoned oil. and becomes evenly glazed. Season with salt and sugar, serve. It's equally good cold as hot. 

    The color is more vibrant, the leaves more distinct and much more chopstick friendly. And the blanched leaves release no obvious liquid to the stir fry which is quite surprising. 

    What other dishes surprise you with great results but seemingly break the rules of good cooking along the way?
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015