Your best of 2020--food focused


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Joined Mar 29, 2002
Some of mine will carry over from past years, but these are things that were impactful to my 2020 kitchen/cooking/eating experience. Tell us your own things whether like my list or not.

Best Recipe
Cantonese Fry-Roast Chicken --Chinese Cooking Demystified
I've mentioned this one another time or two here on Cheftalk. But this is good, fast, easy and requires nothing particularly special.

This is also easily adaptable to other vegetables, just cut them to match the cooking time at the end. And seasoning variations are easy too. I've started off with some doubanjiang in the pan to shift it around, or finish with some oyster sauce or a garlic sauce. I've used pork as well.

Best Ingredient.
Chicken Bouillon powder-- Knorr is what I like so far.
I've known for a long time that powdered chicken base played into Chinese cooking with a history as Chicken MSG. I just never really gave it any attention, thinking it was a cheat. But the above recipe requires it and so I began exploring its use more and more. It's a worthy seasoning ingredient, just adjust down on your salt use if you add some of this. A savory umami kick that's different than more common choices.

Best tool
12" non-stick skillet--mine's a Tramontina
I've always had one of these around. But this year, I found myself using it more and more. Pan roasted vegetables, frittata finished in the oven, searing off sous-vide meat. I've long made vegetable sides like carrots in them and I continue with that. The basic technique is to cut the veg, season, add butter and water to come 1/4 inch up the veg. Cover. Turn to high, steam for 5 minutes. Uncover, toss through every now and then while the water the steams away, then more often until your desired finish is achieved. Works great with many fresh veg, adjusting water as needed for veg type and time. j

I've had this one a few years now and the surface is showing some wear. Soon a replacement must be found. America's Test Kitchen dissed my particular Tramontina as having too long of a handle. It's a great value and the handle is fine. I'd buy it again.

Best Book
The Chinese Kitchen, Deh-ta Hsiung
I've had a hard time picking out the book that influenced my cooking the most this year. I picked up one of Deh-ta Hsiung's older books as it was mentioned in a bibliography of another book I was going through. The Chinese Kitchen, is out of print but can be found used fairly easily. Thematically, the book is ingredient focused. Some sections are obviously simplified such as noodles. But every ingredient gets a few recipe examples where that ingredient shines. I turn to this book as I'm reading other books and need an explainer about a particular ingredient. I can't say this was the most impactful book of the year for me, but it's one I've referenced more than others. An author I'll be looking for more of.

Pandemic eatery
Little Saigon
We've patronized Little Saigon since it opened. It's fairly close, not too crowded and the food is good. Their pho, noodles, banh-mi have been our meal solution more than usual and we're glad to have contributed to their continued operation.

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