We will pretty much take on any holiday or celebration as inspiration to whip up a feast and even more so if it pushes us to try some recipes we've never tried.
So Chinese New Year 2012, The Year of the Dragon, fit the bill perfectly. The first day of Chinese New Year started on January 23rd. I read that in China it's not uncommon for people to take a couple weeks off to celebrate. Now that's what I call a celebration. We were liberal with our interpretation of the celebration but we did have the color red in check, a traditional color used to celebrate the holiday.
I have to tell you as I sit here writing this post, a day later than this feast originally occurred on, I end a day that did not include much celebration but instead included some real sadness and very tough news for my family. And it was good to know that we still all came together to share this fabulous food that we had lots of leftovers to share. The meal served as celebration for one night and consoled the next.
For this post we'll stick to the celebration part.
We started by scouring recipes for the best ones to add to our feast. We started first with this recipe for Shrimp Won tons found on Return to Sunday Supper's blog. They just looked too delicious and easy to not be made.
We make lots of potsticker type recipes in our kitchen.They are a personal fave for both of us. Here's a few we've posted about recently; Lobster & Shitake Potstickers, Chicken & Lemongrass Potstickers. But I have to tell you I don't know that we've ever made one quite this simple that was also incredibly tasty.
First you start with some beautiful shrimp. Clean and devein them. Chopping them and adding a swig of sesame oil, salt & pepper and some green onion. That's it.
Then prep your won ton wrappers, brushing them with an egg wash before filling them and folding them in a triangle.
A triangle how simple!
You finally boil them, 3-4 minutes and serve with a red-chile sauce.
They were scrumptious. Really fresh, tender and simple. With good ingredients simple is great.
For our next course we made Mu-Shu Pork from a Fine Cooking recipe. Mu-Shu is G's favorite item to order on a Chinese menu these days.
And we've never ventured to make our own version so this was an exciting recipe for us.
First we started by making the Mandarin Pancakes. Still can't get over what can be made out of the same ingredients that make the paper mache' paste that I used over and over as a first grade teacher. (The second night we served the mu-shu pork I have to confess; we ended up making a more traditional crepe recipe for the pancake. The first night's version was just a bit tough.)
We weren't adventurous enough to search for cloud ears or golden needles as the recipe called for on this blustery Sunday afternoon. So we went with some oyster mushrooms in their place.
G prepared the mu-shu pork mixture while I made the Mandarin sauce that is spread on the pancake.
This dish was probably the hit of the menu of our Chinese New Year feast. We both loved it night one and everyone loved it night two as well.
Our main course was Mongolian Beef and Spicy Noodles.
I found a recipe for Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef on All Recipes that sounded perfect because it could cook in the crock pot while we prepped everything else.
I even got brave enough to fry up some those crispy rice noodles that they serve on top at our favorite Chinese restaurant.
Finally we made Spicy Sesame Noodles with Peanuts and Thai Basil that we found on Epicurious.
The flavor of the Mongolian Beef was spot on to the version we love. Night one I misread the directions and cooked it too long which sadly turned into more of a "pulled beef" mixture, not exactly the result I was looking for. But the flavor was fantastic. Although after reading the reviews I cut the amount of brown sugar I used by half. And on night two I remade the beef totally. We skipped the crock pot and did it on the stove top and used even less sugar.
We served our feast with a bottle of 2008 Robert Mondavi Fume' Blanc.
Robert Mondavi winery in Napa was breathtaking and serene last August. We actually fell in love with some of the smaller producing wineries on our trip. But this vineyard was worth the trip. And we've fallen in love with this Fume' Blanc. We tried it Friday night and G went back to the store on Sunday and picked up a few more bottles. It was perfect with our meal.
Making Chinese food at home is not a quick task. It involved lots of prep, organization, team work and time. But the result was amazing. We knew our meal was free of MSG, extra sugar and oil. And the taste revealed it clearly. Each dish was fresh and clean.We will make all of these recipes again in the future I'm sure.
Links to all 4 recipes enjoyed in our feast:
Return to Sunday Supper's Shrimp Wontons
Fine Cooking's Mu-Shu Pork
All Recipe's Mongolian Beef