April 10, 2019

Dear friends,
I am not shopping and I’m barely cooking. My life is on hold while I try to meet a writing deadline that’s bearing down on me. I retired to get away from these horrid deadlines. So why am I doing this? To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, I don’t enjoy writing, but I like having written.

I am among a group of former Beacon Journal reporters and editors who are writing a history of the Beacon Journal. Former columnist and editor Stuart Warner (now editor in chief of the Phoenix New Times) is editing the book, which will be published by the University of Akron Press. Coming soon (but not too soon) to a book store near you.

My chapter is about the newspaper’s food coverage from the 1800s until now. The historical research was interesting, and it has been fun talking to former editors, food writers and restaurant critics. But now I have a mountain of information to organize and whittle down to size.

All of this is one big excuse for not creating an original recipe this week. Probably not next week, either. I did cook something new and yummy two weeks ago, though, with this deadline in mind. The dish is a crisp roast chicken that is cut up and doused with a simple but luscious garlic-ginger sauce before serving.

The sauce is from Momofuku chef David Chang. He uses it on chicken wings and octopus and calls it “octo vinaigrette.” I suggest making a big jar of it and using it as a dipping sauce for Asian snacks such as egg rolls, skewers and lettuce wraps. It will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.

ROAST CHICKEN WITH GARLIC-GINGER SAUCE

1 whole broiler-fryer chicken, about 3 lbs.
Oil
Salt, pepper
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes (Chang uses 1 fresh bird’s eye or serrano chile, chopped)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
Fresh-ground black pepper

Trim excess fat from chicken and wash it inside and out. Pat dry. Rub the skin with oil and season it with salt and pepper. Place on a rack over a roasting pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 60 to 75 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh not touching the bone reads 170 degrees. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

While the chicken roasts, combine remaining ingredients in a jar and shake well. The sauce may be made even earlier — the day before is ideal — as its flavor improves as it sits.

After the chicken has rested, cut it into serving pieces, arrange on a platter and splash with about half of the sauce. Pass remaining sauce at the table. Serves 3 to 4.

Note: I served the chicken on a bed on stir-fried kale. The sauce dribbled down and flavored the greens. They were delicious.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Pumpkin pie; mushroom and potato soup with sherry and wilted spinach; cornbread; sugar-free yellow cake with chocolate-peanut butter icing for Tony’s birthday.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Thai chicken skewers, spring vegetable salad from Earth Fare; Indian tomato soup, vegetable pakora, chicken curry, rice, naan at Bombay Grill in Fairlawn; hot tea, tom yum soup with seafood and pan-fried pork dumplings with garlicky dipping sauce (yeow!) at House of Hunan in Fairlawn; fennel-crusted skirt steak over fingerling potatoes, wilted spinach, banana peppers, onions and tomatoes with a glass of red wine at Wise Guys in Akron; a hot dog with Stadium Mustard and onions, peanuts and a beer at Canal Park in Akron at a Rubber Ducks game; two egg rolls from China Star in Akron.

THE MAILBAG
From R. C.:
Loved your column on Akron-area Chinese restaurants. I have struggled to find tasty Chinese food in our area, also. We were great fans of China Gourmet on West Market Street in Akron before it became a Starbucks.

Two questions: Do you have favorite dishes at Chin’s? Can you tell us about your favorite Chinese restaurants in Cleveland? Thanks.

Dear R.C.:
OK, those are tough questions because I have a hard time remembering from trip to trip. I know that Elaine Chin’s father, chef-owner until he retired and passed the business to Elaine, was a Cantonese-style dim sum chef in China. So I usually stick with the Cantonese dishes, although I have had good Mongolian beef there. I often order the moo shu pork.

In Cleveland, I usually go to Vietnamese restaurants with Tony because he loves pho. I like the dim sum at Li Wah. I wasn’t impressed with ballyhooed Noodlecat (not Chinese but Asian). A restaurant on my radar that I haven’t tried yet is Han Chinese Kabob in Payne Commons. Next trip.

You didn’t ask, but I have to put in a plug for Basil Asian Bistro in Canton, which has modern pan-Asian dishes that are delicious. I’d go once a week if it were closer.

From Christine R.:
I have heard people rave about Ming Hing in Orrville.

Christine:
Thanks. Any visitors have an opinion?

From Nancy H.:
I just read your latest newsletter and wanted to share a black bean sauce tip from the late, great Barbara Tropp. In her “China Moon” cookbook she suggests soaking the black beans in some xiao xing wine (or dry sherry) for about 20 minutes before adding to the dish. Strain the liquid and save it to add to your sauce ingredients. It really amps up the good flavors and textures of the dish.

Dear Nancy:
I would trust anything Barbara Tropp says. I actually got to dine at her China Moon restaurant in San Francisco years ago, and I had her cookbook. She was sweet and talented, and I lamented her death in 2001. I remember being blown away by a terrific dessert she made, ginger ice cream with hot fudge sauce. I made it several times. It is time-consuming but so worth it.

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