Bring your Sunday Best by Lauren
The challenge (even though I choose the theme) of bringing my Sunday Best stumped me. Up until the day before the Ghetto-gether event. (And if you don’t know about the Ghetto-gethers, click HERE) I really didn’t know what to make. In America Sunday is all about Brunch, but to be honest, I’m not even that big of an egg fan and I certainly couldn’t cook any brunch items. Or its the day to take your time and go to the markets and cook an all out Sunday night dinner. But there wasn’t one dish that I could remember standing out as a Sunday dinner. So I called my mom to have her help jog my memory about what we used to do on Sundays as a family.
So being from Texas, a lot of Sundays congregated pool-side, with some sort of BBQing going on with hamburgers and hot dogs or going to the Sunday night buffet at the Glen Eagles Country Club. Doing hamburgers and hot dogs seemed a bit remedial for this event, given I know the skill and techniques the Ghetto- guests have displayed at the past Ghetto-gethers. So I decided against that. I had to at least try to meet the bar raised by the guests!
One cuisine kept pestering the back of my mind. Chinese. As a kid I remember going to the Ming Garden sometimes on Sunday nights for the all you can eat buffet. Stuffing myself full with noodles and rice, moo shu, chicken and broccoli, general tsao’s, anything I could fit on the plate and if I couldn’t I’d just go back for seconds (OK, let’s be honest, and thirds and fourths). As I got older and had my own place in NYC, we used to always order Take Out chinese on Sundays. And I would always get the same thing: Sesame Chicken, and egg roll, and wanton soup. It became my go-to Chinese dish. The crispy chicken swimming in dark sticky sauce peppered with sesame seeds and broccoli strewn throughout. I loved the sweet and savory of this dish. This, this is what I will make for the Ghetto-gether. It’s not something I’ve ever made before so it also builds on past Ghetto-gether themes. But you can’t eat Sesame Chicken by itself so it must be paired with something. That something is my favorite chinese noodles of Vegetable Lo Mein.
This Ghetto-gether was hosted by The Kitchen, so we had the opportunity to cook there and use their stoves and burners and equipment. I ended up pre-making the Lo Mein since it just seemed easier and then frying up the chicken at The Kitchen. I start my chicken endeavour and realize I have actually left the chicken at home! I swear sometimes I would lose my head if it wasn’t attached to my body! As the organizer I can not provide a dish as well, and just serving Lo Mein seemed a cop-out! So my amazing boyfriend Stefan rode all the way back to our house to get the chicken for me! He saved my day!
So what would you bring as your Sunday’s Best? What’s the cultural relevance associated with your dish? What story would you tell? Once again the Ghetto-guests raised the bar. I am constantly impressed with the amount of thought, skill, creativity and culinary talent that is demonstrated at these events.
With two Brits in the room we had British Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding from Jason at Lovefood, then to Zero Cooking’s Hong Kong Chicken Congee which is a common Sunday hangover cure. Onward to America where the typical brunch in thee States were represented with home-made bagels and French toast with Berries and Eggs Benedict. Further over in India, we were graced with two curries, a fish curry with lime rice and an egg curry eaten on a typical Sunday. For dessert we had carefully constructed fruit tarts from the French Marta from The Kitchen and delicate mini cupcakes with salted Carmel creme icing from Amanda at Nomzilla Cupcakes.
But for me it’s the stories we tell about the food. The why we cook what we cook. The Ghetto-gether was on father’s day and we heard stories of childhoods, of Dads, of memories of days gone by. My personal favorite was from Karen, where this Father’s day was the 15th anniversary of her Father’s passing, so she made for us what she used to make for her Dad. And we were lucky enough to have Jason’s parents in attendance with us that night and they usually don’t get to spend Father’s day together. Or stories of simbling rivelry over creating the best taco recipe. The food is just a vehicle for the human interactions that take place at these events. It’s the stories that give it all heart.
Sesame Chicken Recipe as adapted from Blogchef
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
2 green onions (sliced)
1 teaspoon chicken base
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sesame oil
ground white pepper (to taste)
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or any fruity flavored wine) 2 tablespoons Shoyu
½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg (beaten)
½ cup water (or as much as needed to make batter smooth)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar
salt (to taste)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
a sprinkle of ground black pepper
Step 1: Cut chicken breasts into 1” chunks and in a glass bowl combine all of the marinade ingredients and mix well. Add the chicken and coat evenly. Cover and marinade for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Step 2: Meanwhile, in separate bowl combine all of the batter ingredients and mix thoroughly. The batter should be thick enough to coat the chicken but thin enough to flow around the pieces. Set aside.
Step 3: Using a fork or tongs remove the pieces of chicken from the marinade and dip them into the batter to coat evenly (one by one). Deep fry the chicken in batches in your deep fryer for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. (or you can fry in hot oil at about 325 degrees in your wok for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown) Step 4: In your wok combine the sauce ingredients and warm over medium heat. Bring to a boil while stirring and simmer until sauce slightly thickens.
Step 5: In the wok or in a serving dish coat chicken with the sauce and garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.
Vegetable Lo Mein from Whole Foods Cookbook
3/4 pound lo mein noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
Sesame oil (start with a small amount)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1/3 cup sliced scallions (green onions)
1 cup julienne carrot (2 large)
1 cup thinly sliced celery (1-2 stalks)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 medium)
3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Cook the lo mein noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. Cool. Toss lightly with sesame oil to prevent sticking.
Combine the hoisin and soy sauces in a small bowl and mix well.
In a wok or a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and quickly sauté the ginger, garlic and scallions until they release aroma, then add the carrots, celery and red onions and briefly sauté before adding the bean sprouts, about 2 minutes.
In a separate medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and sauté the noodles. When they are hot and look pan-fried or lightly browned, add them to the other sautéed ingredients in the large pan. Add the soy-hoisin mixture and stir to coat. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve.
Below are links to the Ghetto-guests recipes of the dishes that were created for the Sunday’s Best Challenge: