STIR-FRY PORK AND SPINACH (CHINESE)
Short on time, long on garden produce (it's coming fast!) and with a bit of frozen pork tenderloin that needed some stretching, I unlimbered the wok and invented another "almost Chinese" dish last night. Thought it turned out well, and it gave me the chance to try a technique that I like: Using spinach in stir-fries without wilting it into a sodden mass.
Herewith, the details:
As with all stir-fries, the secret to success is to get everything chopped, mixed and arranged before you light the fire under the wok. In organizing this, it helps to consider a stir-fry as a collection of parts: The meat, the veggies, the sauce ingredients, the thickening agent and the garnish.
In that order:
MEAT: Slice about 4 to 6 ounces of pork tenderloin into very thin slices (it helps, as in this case, if the meat is frozen and you use a large, sharp cleaver to shave off circles that very much resemble meat potato chips.
VEGGIES: Thoroughly wash three or four cups spinach leaves. Remove the heavy stems and tear larger leaves into three or four pieces. Whack 1/2 of a large sweet onion into 6 or 8 wedges and separate them into squares. Cut 1/2 large green bell pepper into similar squares. Slice off two thick "pennies" from a chunk of fresh ginger, and smack one big garlic clove squishy.
SAUCE: Mix 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon leftover white wine or sherry, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 6 tablespoons water and a dash of hot sauce (I like Melinda's) or dried red pepper flakes.
THICKENER: Dissolve two tablespoons cornstarch in water.
GARNISH: chop one scallion (green onion).
Get all that stuff lined up within easy reach, and place the dry wok over high heat until it's sizzling. Pour in a couple of tablespoons peanut oil, and when it's almost smoking, toss in the garlic and ginger and stir for a few turns. Then stir-fry the onions and green pepper, just until they're coated with oil and starting to get hot. Add the pork "chips" and stir-fry until they lose the raw red color. Add sauce ingredients (except the cornstarch), stir, and turn down the heat to low as soon as it boils. And here's the spinach secret: Put the spinach on top of the simmering ingredients and DON'T stir. Cover the wok with its lid and walk away. Wash all the dishes you've emptied, but ignore the wok and don't remove the lid for two or three minutes. When you come back to it, the spinach will still be bright green and just starting to wilt. Stir it down, stir in the cornstarch (giving it just a moment to thicken), and dump the whole mess into a serving bowl. Top with chopped scallions and serve with steaming white rice.
It may not be quite TRUE Cantonese -- I'm certainly not -- but I don't think any aficionado of Chinese food would be offended.
It went very nicely, by the way, with the almost dry and deliciously fruity Buehler '93 White Zinfandel, but this is a forgiving dish that would go with just about any light, fruity red or white wine, pale ale or crisp pilsener.