Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stop 6 -- The Chinese Express with a Twist

my older son, nicholas, and i could live in a chinese restaurant and never get bored. truly. it's actually kind of a morris family trait, my family, and something nicholas inherited -- brandon, not so much. he's more of a pizza and whatever he contributes to kind of guy. when my family travelled through thailand and nigeria when i was a kid, one of the restaurants that saved us on occasion was something called cafe de chine... in both countries. no shit. there were two cafe de chine's and they happened to be in the same spots we stayed in. both were exceptional, both made us want to eat there every night, which we sort of did, and both made me forever and always a staunch chinese food advocate. so, for dinner on monday night, my goal was to make us a great stirfry and homemade egg rolls to really sink our teeth into. i was going to make a chicken and shrimp stir fry with some of the bok choy i still had left over and some bean sprouts, some other stuff, then some egg rolls from my well-worn, much beloved cookbook, THE THOUSAND RECIPE CHINESE COOKBOOK by Gloria Bley Miller. this is one of those marriage gifts that i always thank my ex-husband for. oh, man. so that was the plan, until i get a call at about 4:30 from nicholas as i'm finishing up work, rushing to leave so i can get home in time to get them both to football practice that he "made you dinner, mom, so you don't have to." nicholas is 12 and he had stir fried the chicken and shrimp in his own way, tossed them with some leftover noodles and had this feast for me when i got home. i heard that and just about cried, it was so sweet and when i did see what he had done, i was blown away.

both my sons love to cook, a lot. it's fun for them, they learn new things and they love that we're SERIOUS about it. the following recipe is the closest estimation i can make of what my amazing kid did for me and while, yes, i love him and, yes, i would appreciate anything he does for me, it did taste GREAT. so here it is:

nicholas smith's stir fried chicken and shrimp with noodles
1-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp chinese 5 spice powder
1 lb spaghetti noodles
3 boiled eggs
olive oil

what he did:
nicholas is a lover of all things pasta and olive oil, so not understanding the asian vs. italian vibe, he stir fried the chicken and shrimp in a hot skillet with olive oil and the soy sauce until it was cooked through and he made sure it was cooked through. he then added the cooked noodles -- which were multi-grain, high protein noodles -- and tossed it. when we reheated it, i sprinkled on a bit of the chinese 5 spice powder and added some bok choy i had stir fried with the olive oil to keep it uniform with taste and boiled 3 eggs to add to our bowls. it's an old habit with spaghetti for me, something i learned when i was a little girl, and i love it. the addition of the olive oil gave a delightful fruitiness to the dish that went well with the soy sauce. i could swear nicholas did more than just season everything with soy sauce, but he swears he didn't and i realized it was the olive oil that had changed the structure of what could have been this one note thing to something new and exciting. it really was incredibly yum and he cooked the chicken and shrimp perfectly. unbelievable. it was great.

a little note: when i was little, my father worked on a television show and every once-in-awhile he would come home with these amazing italian dishes one of the crew members' mom would make for us. he would bring home authentic lasagna, chicken cacciatore, veal parmesan, chicken parmesan and spaghetti sauce with sausages and boiled eggs. he told me that the boiled eggs were sicilian meatballs -- mrs. minagucci (and i pray i'm remembering her name and spelling it correctly, because she was incredible) was sicilian. he said that when times were lean, they used the boiled eggs instead of meat and that was what they called them. it changed me forever with spaghetti and as i perfected my own sauce, i have never made it without boiled eggs. i make my own meatballs now and my own sauce, but i always, always have my spaghetti with boiled eggs, even when i was single and i was just doing a quickly spaghetti with olive oil. i recommend it highly and will keep the memories of how much this meant to me and what my father and i shared because of it always.

tonight, we're doing just a basic steak kind of deal -- a little garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme then grilled -- but our side dish will be POTATOES BAKED WITH PARMIGIANO (Patate al Forno col Parmigiano) from BIBA'S TASTE OF ITALY by Biba Caggiano. Nicholas is grating the parmigiano reggiano right now -- i always keep that, fresh mozzarella, ginger root, garlic bulbs and a really good olive oil around my house, splurging on that and a few other things for my kitchen without fail -- so i'll let you know how that goes.

cheers and bon appetit, everybody!

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