Throughout this project of mine, Brady has cheerfully eaten at least a few bites of everything I’ve put before him. Every once in awhile, say with aspic or cold avocado soup or raw ahi tuna, I can tell he’s putting on a brave face. But then, every so often, I can tell that he’s really excited about what’s on the menu. This week, I went two for two on that front, first with the pot stickers, and then with this homemade variation on a Chinese takeout classic.
Sweet and Sour Snapper
1 pound red snapper, boned and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 egg, beaten
1/2 t. salt
1 T. dry sherry
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 cups oil for deep-frying
Sweet and Sour Sauce
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks in heavy syrup (drain off and reserve syrup)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 T. soy sauce
2 ounces Chinese pickles (optional – available in Asian food shops)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
Dry snapper with paper towel. Mix together egg, salt, and sherry. Dip fish in egg mixture, then roll in mixture of flour and cornstarch. Deep-fry fish in a wok over high heat. Drain on paper towels, transfer to serving dish, and keep warm in a 250-degree oven.
To prepare sauce: Mix together cornstarch and water, then combine with reserved pineapple syrup, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Add pineapple chunks, pickles, and green pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add tomato wedges, and pour around fish just before serving.
There were many reasons I enjoyed this dish. It only took about 45 minutes to make, the fish was surprisingly light and fresh for something deep-fried, the peppers had that just barely cooked crispness that is secretly my favorite part of a takeout carton of sweet and sour pork or chicken, and best of all, the sauce was not neon red. I omitted the Chinese pickles because I could not find them, and the tomatoes because their inclusion in the recipe horrified me, but otherwise, I did just what the ladies of the Junior League of Seattle said to.
The three sauces from this week’s cooking, the sweet and sour sauce, the gyoza sauce, and the sweet and sour plum sauce were a high point, and worth making on their own even if you don’t necessarily have the time to make pot stickers from scratch, or don’t feel like negotiating 6 cups of spitting hot oil. We used the leftover sauces on some pot stickers and chicken from the freezer section at the grocery store, and were pleased with the results.
It was a fun week of cooking, and I got to make a few recipes that were outside my cooking comfort zone, but surprisingly doable. Next week, I’ll be cooking a meal from the Junior League of Abilene, Texas’s racily name Best Little Cookbook in Texas, which was a gift from my friend, Alex. What a Junior League cookbook from Abilene, Texas was doing in a Madison, Wisconsin thrift store, I’ll never know, but I’m glad it found a loving home.