Monday, October 13, 2014

Chef Michael Smith's Family Meals

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend.  On Saturday, I went to Chapters and met Chef Michael Smith, who was there for a book signing.  His newest cookbook is called Family Meals and I grabbed a copy to check out.  I chatted with Chef Smith for a few minutes and he was telling me about a few of his upcoming projects.  For a celebrity chef, he seemed quite down to earth and genuine.  I took a few photos, and man he is tall!  I am 5’11” and next to him I look very short.

I decided this week I would do a review on the cookbook Family Meals and try out one of the recipes.  The cookbook itself is a large softcover book, with easy to read print.  The layout is attractive and colourful, with large glossy full page photos of the finished meal on every second page.  Ingredients are listed on the side of the instructions for easy reference.  The meals themselves are fun, easy recipes that would suit a family restaurant, or a bar and grill as they would a family dinner table.  With recipes such as “Moroccan-Style Cinnamon Cumin Lamb” and “Street Tacos”, there is definitely a recipe for everyone in the book. 

As you may know, I am a diehard fan of Chinese food and Chinese style cuisine, so when the recipe “General Tso’s Chicken Wings” caught my eye, I decided to try it out as my first meal from the cookbook.  The instructions were simple and easy to follow and the chicken wings came out crisp and the sauce was tangy and sweet just as I would expect from one of my favourite take out places.  One thing I noticed in the photo in the book is that there was a brush with the sauce on it, and the instructions described tossing the wings in the sauce.  I decided to do both for my photo; I first tossed the wings in the sauce, I then brushed some of the left over sauce in the bowl onto the wings, to appear like the photo in the book.  It is not necessary to do this when preparing them at home.  The wings were decidedly a success as my wife and guests were raving about them all night.  I was impressed with this recipe as it turned out the way it was intended, and the photo of my wings looked very close to the wings in the photo.  I recommend this book for easy to follow fun meals.  The meals are not overly artistic or “fancy” but they are good for everyday enjoyment.

General Tso’s Chicken Wings  From Chef Michael Smith’s  Family Meals

For the baked wings:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) sea salt
  • Lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 24 whole chicken wings or 48 assorted flats and drums
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cornstarch

For the finishing saucy touches:

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) ketchup
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) your favourite hot sauce
  • 2 inches (5 cm) or so of frozen ginger, grated (about 2 tbsp/30 mL)
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) sesame seeds
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). Turn on your convection fan if you have one. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.

Get the wings going. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour baking powder, salt and pepper. Thoroughly whisk in the eggs. Tumble the wings into a large bowl and sprinkle evenly with the cornstarch. Toss evenly, coating every surface, nook and cranny with the powder. Pour the egg mixture over the wings and gently toss with your fingers, evenly coating the works. Neatly array skin side up on the baking sheet. Bake until the wings are tender, lightly browned and crisp, 1 hour or so.

Meanwhile, build the glazing sauce. Into a small saucepan, measure the sugar, ketchup, water, vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce and ginger. Heat gently. In a small cup of some kind, stir together the soy sauce and cornstarch until dissolved. Pour the slurry into the simmering sauce, stirring gently as it thickens into a shiny sauce. Remove from the heat.

When the wings are done, transfer them to a large bowl and pour the sauce over them. Toss lightly once or twice, add the sesame seeds, and toss until the wings are evenly coated. Plate the proceeds and sprinkle with the green onions.

Serve and share!

Makes 24 full wings.

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