On Saturday, February 9th my family and I celebrated this years’s Chinese New Year Eve, the Year of the Snake, by cooking a storm. Nothing particularly new about that generally except our menu has changed slightly compared to last year. As always, dishes cooked or baked during this holiday have a symbolic meaning to it, generally about happiness, bringing good fortune and health.
There’s the traditional fat choy (髮菜), dried scallops, dried oysters, dried shiitake mushroom soup that has a whole range of umami, musky seafood flavors. This dish’s significance is about bringing wealth into the new year.
We had Pat LaFrieda New York strip steak sliced and briefly deep fried and stirred in with broccoli. Interestingly enough, the texture of the beef was so tender and light – almost like a marshmallow. There were large prawns with broccoli that was sublime (and shrimp symbolically means happiness). And of course, we must have pork – siu yuk (燒肉) or roast pork belly that has the coveted extra crispy, blistered skin.
Other traditional, symbolic foods are what is pronounced as gao (糕) or cake that would bring a “higher” (or better) new year (since gao in Chinese means high or up).
These are essentially rice flour-based foods that may be sweet (like the nian gao (年糕) or New Year Cake) or savory like the familiar daikon turnip cakes or lo baak gao (蘿蔔糕) or taro cake (芋頭糕). They are first steamed, cooled to set, then pan fried. The easiest of the bunch to make is the sweet, chewy, nian gao (the recipe I posted last year).
The different, admittedly upscale dishes we cooked this year were braised Australian abalone with shiitake mushrooms and roast foie gras and black Perigord truffle chicken set in my shiny, new, and very red (which brings luck) Revol Happy Cuisine chicken roasting pan. (The recipe for the abalone will be post on the bottom of this post.)
The chicken was inspired by my birthday dinner at The NoMad in November. What I did with the chicken was to stuff a compound butter made of black Perigord truffle shavings and foie gras underneath the chicken’s skin and on the surface of the skin to flavor, add moisture, and color (the butter on the surface caramelizes) the chicken.
To finish this meal with a sweet ending, I baked mung bean paste flaky pastries (綠豆蓉酥). The crust is a mixture of flour, lard, and butter. The green mung bean paste is made from scratch. These pastries brought back memories of the numerous delectable Hong Kong style pastries I ate in Hong Kong that I miss dearly.
Happy (belated) new year! Gung hay fat choy! 恭喜發財!
To view more photos of this meal, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE for my photo set):
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Braised abalone with shiitake mushrooms
Makes 4 servings
4 large frozen abalone, about 5 ounces each, defrosted and cleaned (ones from Australia are considered the best and be sure to clean the abalone of grit)
15 ounces chicken stock (homemade, preferred)
1 pork shoulder bone, optional
5 thin slices of fresh ginger
3 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
1 sprig of fresh cilantro
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cold water
Fresh ground black pepper
1. Place all of the braising liquid ingredients from the second section of the ingredients list in a large heavy saucepan to a boil. You may add some pork bones, I added shoulder, to add another dimension of flavor to the liquid. Once it does come to a boil, add the abalone. Simmer for about 3 hours then add the shiitake mushrooms. Braise for at least an extra hour or until the abalone is tender.
2. Once abalone is tender, add the oyster sauce. Make a slurry by having a small bowl filled with the cornstarch and water mixed together. Add the slurry into the abalone and stir constantly so the sauce will not have any lumps. Add a few cracks of freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.