Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Kung Pao Chicken, at Home January 7, 2015

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I’m working on becoming a better cook, with a goal of conquering some Asian cuisines.  My first effort, was Indian Butter Chicken, which turned out great, so now I’ve turned my sights on Kung Pao Chicken.  This happens to be one of my dad’s favorite Chinese dishes, so he will act as my test taster.

I chose one of the easier recipes I found, from Food & Wine Magazine, online. (link above)  I was looking for a recipe that didn’t venture too far astray from my eating philosophy, which is eating seasonally and using produce and proteins I can get from my local farmer’s market.  Although I grew peanuts last year, I had to purchase the ones I used here.

The main ingredient is chicken, and I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Smith and Smith Farms, which I got at the Mueller Farmer’s Market.  This chicken was beautifully trimmed and incredibly fresh.  (Learning to properly debone a whole chicken is also on my lists to conquer, but I’m dreading that one).

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

The first part of the process is to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and marinate the chicken in Soy Sauce, sherry and Cornstarch. (I bought Tamari for the soy sauce and Bob’s Red Mill Cornstarch.)

Once the chicken was cut marinating in the fridge, I chopped the onions and Bell Pepper.  The recipe didn’t call for Bell Pepper, but B5 Farms at the farmer’s market, had some beautiful bell peppers, grown in the greenhouse.  I couldn’t resist.

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

I cut one bell pepper into the same sized pieces as the chicken, and separated the green onion whites and greens and set those aside.

Next, I made the sauce, which consisted of Tamari, Rice Vinegar, Sherry, Sesame Oil, Water, Cornstarch and a little sugar.

Ingredients

Ingredients

The Sauce

The Sauce

I wisked the sauce to get the cornstarch incorporated and set it aside. At this point I made the rice, and set it aside as well.  I could tell that the next steps would happen quickly.

Time to start cooking.  First, I poured a Tablespoon of Avocado Oil, (recipe called for Peanut or Vegetable Oil), into my wok, and let it get hot.  Once hot, I quickly cooked the raw peanuts until they were golden brown, then set them aside.

Cook the Peanuts

Cook the Peanuts

A little more oil into then pan, and I quickly cooked the scallions, bell pepper and chili flakes.

Cook the vegetables

Cook the vegetables

To the vegetables, I added part of the chicken.  It was clear the amount of chicken I had cut up (doubled the recipe), would be more than should go into the wok.  It was still crowded, which made it take longer to cook, and caused some sticking to the wok.

Cook the Chicken

Cook the Chicken

Once the two batched of chicken were mostly done, I put them back into the wok with the sauce and stirred as it thickened.

Add the Sauce

Add the Sauce

At this point, I tasted the sauce, and wanted more heat, so I chopped up a garden Serrano Pepper and added it to the mix.  I then turned off the heat and threw in the peanuts.

Once the sauce had reached what seemed like the appropriate thickness, and the chicken was done, I plated some up for myself, then bundled the rest to take to my parents up the street.

Serve over Rice

Serve over Rice

I enjoyed this dish, but felt as it it lacked some complexity.  While I would make it again, I would like more heat, more onions and peppers, some ginger and perhaps some garlic.  I’ll also revisit some of the more complicated recipes I looked at, to see how it could be made more interesting.  It was very easy and fairly quick to make.  My taste tester called after finishing his dinner to give the recipe an A+.  My mom liked it as well, and she is the pickiest eater I know.

 

No Mystery Meat Here! February 26, 2013

I am aware that other cultures eat horse meat, but I choose not to, having grown up with horses as pets and companions.

The recent (and widening) scandal about horse meat making it’s way into the food supply, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21569645)   has people up in arms and wondering “how can this happen?”  Hopefully, like the major egg recall a few years ago, that sent many people to their local farmer’s markets in search of safer eggs, this will have people paying closer attention to their meat supply.  I have a friend living in London, where lots of the horse meat disguised as beef, showed up in the local food outlets.  She reports that people are flocking to their local butcher shops for safer cuts of real beef.

If you buy your meat at a local supermarket, you can get to know the butcher there, and ask about their sourcing, and if they grind their own meat in-house, and what not.

If you’d like to take it a bit further, we Central Texas folks are so lucky to have so many of local sources of all variety of meats available.  You can meet the farmers, ask them about their practices, visit their farms and see for yourself how the animals are raised and what you are going to get.  This way, the chain of control is diminished and the chance of shenanigans is next to zero.

Here is a list of some, certainly not all of our local protein purveyors, all from whom I purchase meat.  I have met all of these farmers, ranchers and purveyors and trust them 100%.

I’ll attempt to list all of the locations where I know they are available, but this will not be exhaustive either, so click the name and it will link to their site.  Many on this list are available for delivery through Greenling and Farmhouse Delivery.

Richardson Farms, Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, chicken, turkeys (seasonally), and sausages.   SFC Farmer’s Markets downtown, Sunset Valley and at the Triangle, Barton Creek Farmer’s Market, and Waco Farmer’s Market, (Jim Richardson is a veterinarian, which gives me great comfort in how their animals are treated) (they also sell eggs, popcorn, wheat and sorghum flours, cornmeal and sesame seeds)

Hausbar Farms  Freedom Ranger Chickens – Boggy Creek Farm Farmstand

DearRun Land and Cattle Longhorn Beef – Boggy Creek Farm, Farmstand – All cuts of beef as well as Summer Sausage

Dewberry Hills Farms, pastured chickens, (and they are delicious) – SFC farmer’s market downtown and Sunset Valley

Thunderheart Bison, All cuts of grass-fed bison (including the hump!) –  SFC Farmer’s Market Downtown, Pearl Farmer’s Market, San Antonio

Full Quiver Farms, Grass-fed beef, whey fed pork – Barton Creek Farmer’s Market (they also make yogurts and some of the best farmstead cheeses I’ve ever had)

Windy Hill Organics, Goat, Beef, Lamb – HOPE Farmer’s Market

Countryside Farm, Duck, Guinea, Chicken – SFC Farmer’s Market Downtown and at the Triangle

Smith and Smith Farms, Chicken, Lamb, Eggs – SFC Farmer’s Markets downtown, Sunset Valley, Triangle, Cedar Park Farmer’s Market, Mueller Farmer’s Market  and Barton Creek Farmer’s Market

Peeler Farms, Chicken – HOPE Farmer’s Market

Bastrop Cattle Company – All cuts of delicious beef – HOPE Farmer’s Market, Mail Order Delivery over a certain amount, Bastrop Producer’s Market

Madrono Ranch  Bison – Boggy Creek Farm, People’s Pharmacy

Broken Arrow Ranch, Broken Arrow Ranch sells wild game such as boar, antelope, nilgai, and quail, online and ships

Salt and Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria  Austin’s newest brick and mortar butcher shop, which also specializes in-house cured salumis

Dai Due Butcher Shop  Dai Due doesn’t sell cuts of meat, per se, but makes delicious things with them, charcuterie, sausages, pates terrines and lots of other wonderfulness.  SFC Farmer’s Market downtown, and Mueller Farmer’s Market

Now days, you can buy all of the same cuts of beef, pork, chicken, lamb and goat that you’d be able to buy at the store, directly from the farmers/ranchers.  They come in plastic vacuum wrap, without the styrofoam and “juice catcher” pad underneath that you’d see in the store.  The meat is normally frozen as soon as it is processed, for maximum freshness.   Less packaging leads to less waste in the landfill, which is an awesome added bonus.

Consumers have choices, and hopefully, if you are looking for local proteins for you and your family, this will be a help.  Is it more expensive?  Yep.  Is it important enough for you to pay more?  That’s for you to decide.

Just so you know that I practice what I preach – a sampling from my freezer:

Thunderheart Bison

Thunderheart Bison

Bastrop Cattle Fajita Beef

Bastrop Cattle Fajita Beef

IMG_2971

Smith and Smith Lamb

Smith and Smith Lamb

Richardson Farms Ribs

Richardson Farms Ribs

Richardson Farms flank steak taco

For dinner last night, I quickly defrosted a slab of Richardson Farm’s Flank Steak, seasoned it with salt and Springdale Farm’s smoked pepper mix, seared it in a screaming hot cast iron skillet, for about 3 minutes on each side; let rest for 20 minutes, squeezed some lime over it,  then sliced thinly, and served on  Blanco Valley non-GMO corn tortillas, with some Full Quiver Cheddar and my own pickled jalapenos and pickled onions.  So easy and good.