By Jolene Lamb, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Christmas morning at our house is relatively calm. Our children are grown. Long gone are the days of little feet running through the house at or before dawn, heading straight to the Christmas tree to find out what treasures await them.
Now our Christmas celebration takes place before Christmas and consists of a large family gathering that more closely resembles Thanksgiving than Christmas. We gather to enjoy a big family dinner with all the classic dishes and many, many desserts. In addition to cooking large dinners, I also do more than my fair share of baking between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I go overboard; I can’t help it, I love to bake! So after a month of cooking and baking, I look forward to a more relaxed cooking routine. No more turkeys to roast or hams to bake. No more whipping up potatoes, casseroles and practically every other heavy starchy holiday side dish to feed a crowd. No more pots and pans, stand mixers, food processors, rolling pins and every other kitchen gadget you’ve needed for the last few weeks. And best of all, the number of dishes dirtied finally returns to a pre-holiday level.
After today, I return to no-recipe recipes or simple meals made from pantry staples with no list of steps or ingredients. If you’re anything like me, you’ll miss the traditional holiday cooking a bit, but at the same time you’ll be thankful it’s over and look forward to using one pot, tossing in ingredients you already have on hand, and enjoying dinner in less than 30 minutes.
about 1 cup of cooked rice (white, brown, whatever you have) per person
a bag of frozen mixed vegetables or fresh, or whatever combination you have on hand
your choice of meat. Thin sliced leftover chicken, steak, bacon, frozen shrimp, or skip the meat altogether
a few eggs
some ginger – see note below
Note: I don’t regularly keep fresh ginger on hand, and ground ginger is not an option in this dish, so I use a ginger paste. It is sold in the produce section of most stores. It is fresh ginger in a paste form, no additives. It is sold in a tube, like toothpaste packaging. It lasts much longer than fresh ginger.
Make a sauce with three parts soy sauce to one part sesame oil. Add some sriracha if you want a little heat. You’ll need about 1/3 cup sauce for a serving for four.
Grab a large skillet, wok if you have one. Turn up the heat, you want a searing hot pan. Add neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as grape seed oil. DO NOT use olive oil, it will scorch and break down at high temps. Cook the meat first. Keep your pan hot and stir food, keep it moving as to not burn it. Once the meat is seared, which only takes a few minutes at that high of heat, remove it from the pan. Add some garlic, ginger and green onion. Cook for a brief minute then add vegetables. Again, keep the food moving around the pan so it doesn’t burn. Cook vegetables for a few minutes, or until al dente. Return the meat to the pan with the vegetables, make some space in the middle of the pan and crack an egg or two in there. Cook for another minute or so, stirring to scramble egg. Add sauce and rice and mix together until everything is nice and hot. Serve immediately and garnish with more green onion.
Pasta with Browned Butter and Mizithra
a box of pasta, noodles if you have them, but really any shape will do
1 pound of butter
mizithra cheese, grated
cracked black pepper
Boil pasta in salted water. While it’s cooking melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it foams. Ladle off the foam with a spoon. Continue cooking until brown and nutty smelling. Pour browned butter over drained pasta, grate some mizithra cheese over pasta and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper. That’s it, dinner is served.
Note: Mizithra cheese can be hard to find in Springfield. I know The Corkscrew Wine Emporium sells it.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.