Sunday, June 27, 2010

Midwestern "Chop Suey"

When I was growing up, before the first Chinese take-out place opened in our little town, this is what I knew as chop suey. This is my mother's chop suey. Or, it was my mother's chop suey until I tossed out most of the canned goods and chopped up more vegetables.

And while mom's chop suey was something she made purposely, I make it with leftover roast pork. It's a great way to make a completely different meal, and it's something to look forward to when the roast is almost gone.

I usually put bok choy in my chop suey, but the bok choy I thought I bought at the farmer's market was actually napa cabbage, so I used that. It worked just fine. And I usually use fresh bean sprouts, but I couldn't find any, so I had to settle for canned. Yes, I could have grown my own, and I've done that before, but I thought I'd be able to buy 'em, and they weren't there. Sometimes you have to go with what's available.

There are other vegetables that I could have added (and often do) like snow peas, fresh mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots or celery. As far as amounts, it's a leftover dish, so I always improvise. Use as much as you want or as much as you have. By the time I'm done, I usually have about 1/3 meat to 2/3 vegetables, but you can do whatever you like,

I cooked this in my slow cooker, but it works just as well in a pot on the stove or in a dutch oven in the oven.

Eh, might as well give you both recipes

Mom's Original "Chop Suey"

Pork, cut into cubes about 1-inch square
1 can bean sprouts
1 can chop suey vegetables
1 can water chestnuts
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can mushrooms
more soy sauce than anyone should consume in one meal
cornstarch for thickening

The pork was cooked first, possibly with some added onions and/or celery, and the vegetables were added towards the end, since canned vegetables are pretty much cooked. It was thickened with cornstarch and served over rice. And for no reason I can think of, it was also served with brown 'n serve rolls.

Mom's "Chop Suey" revised, fresher version

Leftover roast pork, cut into approx 1-inch cubes
1 onion, sliced
Napa cabbage, (or bok choy) fluffy greens separated from the stalk and all if it sliced
2 small zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can bean sprouts (I prefer fresh, but settled for canned)
Soy sauce and/or Braggs Amino Acids
Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
5-spice powder

Put a bit of oil in the bottom of your slow cooker and set it to brown (or the highest setting it has) and sweat the onions and napa/bok choy stalks until they are soft. (If your slow cooker doesn't get hot enough for sweating vegatables, you can do this in a pan on the stove, or skip this step, It's not crucial.)

Reduce the heat tbo low on the slow cooker. Add the pork and bamboo shoots, then add a teaspoon or so of Kitchen Bouquet, if you're using it. Add soy/Braggs and mirin to taste.

You need enough liquid for the meat to be able to braise, so if there's not enough liquid to cover about 1/3 of the pork/vegetable mixture, you can add water or stock, or even a bit of white wine to make up the difference. Add a teaspoon or two of the 5-spice, depending on how much you like it.

Cook on low until the pork is almost tender. Add the zucchini and continue cooking until the zucchini is tender.

Taste for seasoning and add more 5-spice and/or soy sauce, as needed. Add the bean sprouts and greens and cook until the greens are done.

You can thicken the sauce with some cornstarch mixed into cold water. Add add the mixture the chop suey and heat and stir until it thickens.

Serve over rice.