P.F. Chang’s Oriental Sweet Chili and Garlic Eggplant

Today I am making an absolutely delicious eggplant recipe, “Oriental Sweet Chili and Garlic Eggplant.” It is inspired by a similar dish which we ate our local P.F. Chang’s restaurant over the Christmas holidays. We have a family tradition of eating at a P.F. Chang’s Restaurant some time during the winter break and have been going there, off and on, for about 10 years. It has become a challenge for me to order one of their menu items and then reproduce the dish at home. This year we tried P.F. Chang’s “Stir-Fried Eggplant” which was an entree. Of course, it was outstanding. It used an Indonesian-type chili paste in the recipe which gave a unique flavor to the dish. The eggplant was flash fried in a wok and then tossed with the sauce — I guess this is a “Asian-fused” menu item. Since it includes elements of Chinese cuisine, I am featuring this recipe during the Chinese New Year holiday.

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Crock Pot Pork Loin Roast with Potatoes, Apples & Sauerkraut

Last fall, I cooked a delicious recipe of “Pork Loin Roast with Potatoes, Apples & Sauerkraut” in my crock pot. This was in honor of Oktoberfest, that great beer-drinking festival which is celebrated every autumn in Munich, Germany. Although Octoberfest has long since passed, my slow cooked pork roast with all the fixings makes for a satisfying winter meal. Every now and then, I’ll get out my crock pot. It is the perfect way to cook a large roast which needs moist heat and time to cook and tenderize it. And I love sauerkraut and potatoes; we usually have a jar of sauerkraut in the refrigerator — just because. This is such an easy recipe; simply add the ingredients to the crock pot, turn the setting to high, and leave it alone. In three hours, supper is ready. In the meantime, I became curious about German heritage in New Orleans after a friend shared the story of her great-grandfather. He was a German immigrant to the city in the late 1800’s and became the beer master at the Weckerling Brewing (now the site of the World War II museum). After researching the subject little further, I discovered that New Orleans was quite a German beer-brewing and beer drinking city at one time. I’ve shared my eclectic “discoveries” on that subject at the end of my blog post. It is for the folks who like history in addition to cooking!

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Lament to Summer Tomatoes: A Savory, Silky Tomato Soup & Air Fryer Croutons

“Savory Tomato Soup” is a soup which I made this past summer using canned tomatoes just because I just couldn’t find juicy, fresh ones. I’m making it again this winter — what is better than hot soup on a cold winter night. My summer garden crop of tomatoes flopped; the price of tomatoes in grocery stores was extravagant. I apparently missed the market for those delicious Creole tomatoes which I love so much. To spite the situation, I decided to make tomato soup using canned tomatoes rather than fresh ones. But move over, fresh tomatoes. This soup turned out to be quite delicious and can be made any time of the year, even when tomatoes are not in season. Here’s what I did.

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Oriental Marinated Petite Sirloin Steaks with Garlicky Braised Pak Choi

Marinate and then sear a petite sirloin steak in a garlicky, oriental-flavored concoction along with pak choi, and the result is a delicious, elegant evening supper. Petite sirloin steak is so juicy and flavorful. When prepared properly, this cut of meat can be tender, too. Petite sirloin steak is definately a cut of meat for bargain seekers. However, the real charm of this dish is the pak choi, a type of Chinese cabbage, which compliments the oriental flair of this dish. The white stems of pak choi are crunchy, like celery, and can be eaten either raw or cooked. The dark green leaves need only a minute or two to braise and wilt. The steak takes just a few minutes to sear, so this recipe is quick and easy to prepare. And, I am loving this sweet and sour oriental-type marinade with plenty of “pop” from the garlic and red pepper flakes. This dish is great!

About Petite Sirloin Steaks

If you don’t mind a slightly tougher cut of meat, then petite sirloin steaks are a good bargain compared to more expensive roasts and steak options. Any cut of steak is pricy these days, I’ll count my pennies when I can. These steaks were “on sale” and I quickly purchased them. I can work with a bargian! The trick to preparing a petite sirloin steak for tenderness is to marinate the meat, don’t over cook it, then slice the meat thinly across the grain. Medium rare to medium doneness is best. The result is a flavorful, fairly tender steak.

Sirloin steaks/roasts are divided into top sirloin and bottom sirloin sections. The petite sirloin steak comes from the bottom sirloin, closest to the rump of the animal and round steaks. The petite steak meat gets a workout as the cow moves and lumbers along, making this cut of meat slightly tougher. Petite sirloin roast/steaks, also know as ball tip cuts, are actually cut from multiple muscles around the hip of the animal. Thus, they tend to be smaller pieces of meat than top sirloin steaks. Often kabobs and fajitas come from this cut of meat.

Pak Choi

This pak choi is one of the stars of my autumn garden. At the plant nursery in September, I picked out a “mesclum” blend of tiny garden salad greens containing pat choi. The pak choi quickly took over my garden. They grew so quickly, that I was caught off guard. Time to harvest these pak choi plants and use them in some oriental dishes.

Pak choi does not form heads like a cabbage plant, as you can see. They are a cluster of green leaves with long, white stalks. Pak choi is a member of the brassicae or cruciferae families, along bok choy, mustard greens, cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, Pak choi is very similar to bok choy. Both can be used in the same manner in culinary dishes — served raw, stir fried, braised and added to soups.

Recipe and Oriental-Style Marinade

I like to make American dishes with an oriental flair — I certainly don’t qualify as an expert in oriental cooking — but I do know what flavors I like. The contrast of ingredients in this marinade makes this dish unique. The marinade is sweet, yet sour plus a little salty. The ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil all give an oriental flavor and the red chili flakes make the dish “pop.” Plus, the marinade contains lots of garlic which give balance to the meat and pak choi. I love garlic!

The recipe for this steak and marinade was adapted from one used by Ree Drummond. She’s the “Pioneer Woman” on the Food Network television cable channel and she also has at least one internet cooking site. Although I rarely watch the Food Network channel, I happened to have it playing in the background one morning. When the Pioneer Woman mentioned “Skirt Steak with Pak Choi,” my attention took notice and I wrote down the link for the recipe which I used as the basis for my adapted recipe. Ree Drummond claims that this is one of her favorite dishes to cook when she is home alone. Skirt steak is so, so expensive; that’s not my average “stay at home” meal. More power to the Pioneer Woman!

Here are the ingredients for my marinade. For simplicity, I’m using minced garlic from a jar. As an interesting note, this marinade doesn’t contain oil — except for a bit of sesame oil. I like the flavor of rice vinegar in this marinade. Soy sauce, brown sugar are a must. I used ground ginger — that’s always available in my kitchen cabinet.

To make the dish, mix al the ingredients for the marinade in a small non-metallic bowl. Reserve three fourths of the marinade. Add the petite sirloin steak pieces to the marinade in the bowl, turn to coat with the marinade. (Make sure that you have added most of the garlic pieces to the bowl.) Cover and refrigerate for one hour to overnight. Then set the meat on the kitchen counter to bring to room temperature for at least half an hour. Heat a cast iron steak to high, add oil. (Add little butter just prior to adding steak.) Remove the steak from the marinade, let excess marinade drip off. Cook over medium high heat, turning to cook both sides. I like to use my cast iron skillet for pan recipes such as this one which call for searing the meat. This skillet holds the heat well and cooks evenly. Cook until nicely browned and to your preference for doneness — about 5 minutes for the first side and a few minutes for the second side.

Move the steak to the side (or remove from the skillet). Add the pak choi. Cook until slightly charred; only about one minute per side. The pak choi will cook and wilt quickly. Pour some of the remaining marinade over the pak choi and steak. Spoon and toss over the meat and pak choi.

Remove the petite sirloin steaks to a cutting board and let set about 10 minutes prior to slicing. Then arrange the steak, pak choi and remaining drippings in the skillet on a plate. Pass any remaining marinade.

Delicious. Since we are in Louisiana, I served this steak with some rice and sprinkled on green onions for garnish!. This is a great recipe including the marinade and it is an interesting way to use my garden-fresh pad choi. It is worth saving and a dish I’ll be making again. And if skirt steaks are ever on sale, you can be sure I’ll stock up on the bargian!

Oriental Marinated Petite Sirloin Steaks with Garlicky Braised Pak Choi

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 lb (3 pieces) petite sirloin steak
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp minced, jar garlic, drained
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 1Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 6 to 8 pad choi leaves, or 3 small pad choi heads
  • hot cooked long grain rice
  • 4 green onions, sliced

Method and Steps:

  1. Rinse steaks, trim off fat or tendons, if needed. Pat dry. Place in bowl large enough to fit steaks.
  2. In medium-size bowl, mix marinade ingredients: soy sauce, light brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, minced jar garlic (drained), red pepper flakes and sesame oil. Stir well to combine. Reserve 3/4 of the marinade. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Add remaining 1/4 of the marinade to steaks and stir to coat. Make sure most of minced garlic is added to steaks. Cover bowl. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least one hour to overnight.
  4. When ready to finish steaks, remove steaks from refrigerator and set on counter for half an hour to come to room temperature.
  5. Heat canola oil in heavy, cast iron skillet or other large skillet to medium-high. When heated, add butter to melt.
  6. Remove steaks from marinade and let excess drip off. Discard the rest of this marinade. Add steaks to hot skillet and sear on each side until grilled and cooked to medium rare to medium doneness– about 5 minutes for first side and 3 minutes on second side. Move steaks to side of skillet (or remove to carving board).
  7. Add pok choi to hot skillet. Braise on first side for about one minute, moving leaves of pok choi around in skillet until all are charred. Turn leaves over and braise for a few minutes on second side.
  8. Pour on some of the reserved marinade, toss to combine coat steak and pad choi.
  9. Remove steaks to carving board, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve crosswise into thin slices and place on serving platter.
  10. Place braised whole pak choi leaves on serving platter along with steak.
  11. Mound on hot, cooked rice.
  12. Garnish with sliced green onion, if desired.
  13. Serve remaining marinade in a separate bowl.

I had to pick all of my pak choi before the pests devoured the leaves. What will I do with all this pak choi? Give some away to friends. I’ll clean the leaves and stalks well, let them dry and then place in large zip lock bags for more recipes!




Pluck, Pluck, Fried Chicken Fingers a.k.a. Raising Cane’s Chicken Tenders

It is January and we’re into football bowl season. What televised bowl game can proceed without fried chicken fingers at the watch party. Here in Louisiana, every mom & pop grocery store lunch counter claims bragging rights to the “Best Fried Chicken.” We love fried chicken here — Popeye’s Fried Chicken is from New Orleans as well as newcomer, Raising Cane’s. I have my own “favorite” fried chicken fingers recipe and bragging rights, too. My chicken fingers are incredibly tender and flavorful. My recipe is based on the one from Raising Cane’s fast food restaurant chain. Although I’m sure their recipe is a secret, my chicken fingers are a pretty close match. I am proud of this recipe; I worked long and hard to get it perfected. And my team-player husband had to sample all those chicken batches!

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