When I hear a weather forecast on the radio for “a beautiful day”, I already know they mean sunshine and warm temperatures, because our society has got something against rain and snow and cold. But I have lots of good reasons for loving precipitation! The most obvious is the skiing, but recreation aside, our snow pack and rainstorms provide much-needed insurance against out-of-control wildfires in the mountains as well as water for all of the flat-landers downstream. Other bonuses include mushrooms (oh, the mushrooms!), wild berries, and wildlife that rely on moisture to survive and thrive. Don’t forget those stunning wildflower displays at the height of summer, or refreshing waterfalls and alpine lakes that are a joy to hike. Besides, rainy days make sunny days all the more delicious.
So yes, we are getting some belated April showers, at last! Sometimes it falls as snow, sometimes it falls as rain. At this point, I am happy with either one. Sure, I’d love a few more backcountry ski days, but I’m already four weeks into my trail running season. I could go either way and it’s all good. The longer days also mean more time for outdoor puppy play and training!
rain can give you rainbows
those clouds can create magic
neva wanted to show me her new favorite toy
i met an adorable 3 1/2 month old golden retriever, penny
I’ll be honest. My main desire for rain right now is so the mushrooms flush instead of petering out in another drought. Despite hitting the jackpot a couple of times, last summer was a crap season for mushrooms overall in Colorado. It was simply too dry. So you can imagine my delight when it rained for two days last week. Erin and I met shortly after sunrise to wade through freezing cold streams, carefully picking our way through mazes of branches while spotting and avoiding poison ivy. The conversation meandered from topic to topic, much like our path which wasn’t a path, but a series of points of interest that led us further into the woods and tall grasses.
plum blossoms – these will be good for plums come end of summer/early fall
picking wild catnip for the kitties (and dodging lurking leafless poison ivy stalks)
a pretty cluster of perfect oyster mushrooms
harvesting some more good finds
Despite her protests, I made Erin take all of the oyster mushrooms home. Part of the reason was because I know Jay, her husband (and also my friend), is crazy about wild mushrooms. The other part was because I had accumulated so much psychological freak out over poison ivy contamination with each hour we were foraging that my brain was about to explode. I’m just a little OCD… When we got to the cars, I told her I wanted her to keep the mushrooms as I began shedding my outer layers, turning them inside out, and stuffing them into plastic bags (to take home to wash). I wouldn’t have the time to clean and cook the mushrooms anyway.
I had plenty to get done at home like baking a batch of cookies to mail to my dad. Mom had pneumonia for the past couple of weeks and Dad took great care of her, so I felt he deserved a treat. Plus, he gave me this “recipe” for Chinese shrimp and sizzling rice. I put recipe in quotes because it was conveyed to me via phone conversation with a lot of shouting and hand-wavy quantities. A little bit of this. Some of that. Maybe some peas. I don’t want peas. Okay, no peas. I can only imagine if my parents had a food blog.
After some research, I did find a couple of recipes for homemade sizzling rice which involve steaming rice, then baking it low and slow, then deep frying it. I took the easy way out this time and bought Chinese sizzling rice cakes at an Asian supermarket. I’m showing you the packaging because that is the only way I can find it. It’s usually tucked somewhere among the dried noodles, but one time they moved them and I spent a half hour scouring the aisles before I located the rice cakes.
straw mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby bok choy, shaoxing wine, vegetable oil, chicken stock, white pepper, shrimp, rice cakes, egg white, salt, cornstarch, water, green onions, fresh ginger
The shrimp should first be mixed with Shaoxing wine, a half teaspoon of salt, and a little bit of egg white. Don’t use too much egg white or else you’ll wind up with a lot of cooked egg in the pan. You just want enough to coat the shrimp. The cornstarch should be mixed in last. I let the shrimp marinate for ten minutes on the counter, then I pop them in the freezer for another ten or fifteen minutes per my dad’s instructions. The freezing is just to get the shrimp cold and not to actually freeze them through. This probably keeps the shrimp from overcooking.
shaoxing wine, egg white, salt, cornstarch, shrimp (peeled, deveined, and butterflied)
add the shaoxing wine
toss with egg white
mix in the cornstarch
While the shrimp is chilling, you can cook the vegetables. I’ve chosen baby bok choy, straw mushrooms, and water chestnuts. There are no hard and fast rules. If you like peas, by all means, use peas. Snow peas, asparagus, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, whatever tickles your fancy.
baby bok choy, water chestnuts, straw mushrooms, ginger, green onions, broken rice cakes
sauté the bok choy until the ribs wilt
add the water chestnuts and straw mushrooms
When the vegetables are just underdone, remove them from the pan to a large bowl. If there is any liquid in the pan, wipe it clean with a paper towel. We’re trying to minimize the number of dishes we’ll have to wash. Next, it’s time to sauté the shrimp. Shrimp cook very quickly and you want to take care not to overcook them. I gave mine about 2 minutes and removed them from the pan (adding them to the vegetables) while the shrimp were just slightly underdone.
sauté the green onions and ginger in a little oil
add the shrimp and stir-fry
add the cooked shrimp to the vegetables
The final step is to make the sauce. If you reduced the liquid considerably, you would have a basic stir-fry. But we want a lot of sauce because that is what makes the rice cakes sizzle. The sauce is chicken stock and seasonings, thickened with a cornstarch slurry.
mix cornstarch and water
bring the stock, shaoxing wine, salt, and white pepper to a boil
stir in the cornstarch mixture
When the sauce thickens, it will have a consistency of a thin gravy. At this point, you will add all of the shrimp and vegetables into the pan. Let the ingredients heat through before ladling everything over the rice cakes. Hopefully, you’ll hear some sizzling.
add the shrimp and vegetables to the sauce
let it all heat through
pour everything over the rice cakes
As a kid, I’ve had a similar version of this made with chicken and snow peas over sizzling rice, but I think the shrimp version with bok choy is so much better. The dish is best eaten as soon as the sauce makes contact with the rice. Sizzling rice takes on that delightful duality of crunchy and soggy when served in soups or sauces. It follows the same concept as tempura or tonkatsu in ramen soup. There is no need to serve this with steamed rice as this dish can be a stand alone meal or part of an ensemble of dishes. [Note: If you use a Shaoxing wine that is certified gluten-free, then this dish is gluten-free.]
topped with green onions and bok choy flowers
great for entertaining
chinese shrimp and sizzling rice
Chinese Shrimp and Sizzling Rice
from my dad
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and butterflied
2 tbsps Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1/2 tbsp egg white (half of a large egg white)
2 tsps cornstarch
4 cups baby bok choy, washed
8 oz. whole water chestnuts, drained and sliced into quarters
15 oz. straw mushrooms, drained
2 tbsps green onions, sliced thin
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cups chicken stock
3 tbsps Shaoxing wine
1 tsp salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of your stock)
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 tbsps cornstarch
2 tbsps water
12 sizzling rice cakes
Pat each shrimp dry with paper towels. Toss the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon salt, Shaoxing wine, and egg white. Mix in the cornstarch. Let the shrimp marinate for 10 minutes. Then move the shrimp to the freezer for 10 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the bok choy. Season with a few pinches of salt. When the ribs of the bok choy begin to soften, stir in the water chestnuts and straw mushrooms. Cook for 1 minute. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl. Wipe down the sauté pan or wok with a paper towel.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the same sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the green onions and ginger. Sauté until fragrant. Add the shrimp to the pan and stir fry until the meat begins to turn white, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp to the same bowl as the vegetables.
Return the pan to the burner over high heat. Pour in the stock, Shaoxing wine, salt, and white pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir until uniform. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the boiling stock and allow the sauce to thicken (a minute or two). Add the vegetables and shrimp to the sauce and let them heat through. Season with salt to taste.
Break the rice cakes into pieces and arrange them on a shallow bowl or platter. Pour the contents of the pan or wok onto the rice and serve hot. Serves 4-6.
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