Stir-Fried Pheasant with Brown Rice

Spring cleanup is an annual rite in many cities. Citizens can throw away items they no longer need, and public works crews pick them up on a designated week.

In our household, it’s also time to go through four freezers, so we can consolidate their contents in half the space. Often, that requires digging out some food to prepare immediately. Wild game fits that category.

Being an upland bird hunter, I usually have a good supply of grouse, partridge and pheasants after the fall season. We usually don’t get through all of the birds by the time spring arrives, so they are some of the food that’s taken out of the freezer in the spring for immediate use around cleanup time.

Yesterday, I used a few of my last pheasants from the 2011 season in a classic stir-fry. Along with some mushrooms, onion and sweet red bell pepper, I prepared them on the stove top in a large wok. I served them over cooked brown rice, along with a spinach salad.

If you’re looking for a meal that is quick and easy to make, give the following recipe a try.

Stir-Fried Pheasant with Brown Rice
1½ pounds pheasant breast cut into ½-inch strips
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
1 8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon teriyaki marinade sauce
1 low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup Vidalia onion, sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon salt
Prepare brown rice according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, heat sesame and olive oil in wok or skillet over medium-high. Add chicken, leaving any liquid on the plate. Stir-fry 3 minutes. Add vegetables and stir-fry 2 minutes.
Mix cornstarch and water. Add to wok or skillet. Continue cooking mixture until thickens.
Serve over rice.
Yield: Serves 4.
Note: Chicken could be substituted for the pheasant.

Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum

Shrimp is classic Caribbean fare. No matter where you travel, from Cuba to the Dominican Republic to the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands to the coastal areas of Mexico and Central America, that tasty crustacean rates near the top of culinary favorites of visitors and natives alike.

Some friends of mine recently returned from a trip to that part of the world and raved about the tasty fresh shrimp meals they had there. The shrimp, they said, tasted nothing like their farm-raised counterparts that people who live inland have to rely on. On the contrary, they were tender, flavorful and just impressive.

I’ve never been to the Caribbean, and probably won’t be going there for a while yet. But there’s one thing for certain: When that happens, I’m going to indulge myself in a lot of seafood, particularly shrimp.

In the meantime, though, here’s a Caribbean recipe I may try that will have to suffice.

Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum
1 pound large shrimp
Juice of ½ lime
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons dark Jamaican rum
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 large green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
Using kitchen shears, cut through the shrimp shells two-thirds of the length down the back of the shrimp. Remove the legs and devein the shrimp, leaving the shells and tails on. In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with lime juice for a few seconds. Rinse the shrimp, drain and set on a plate lined with paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, rum, soy sauce and ground white pepper.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the oil, add the garlic and the ginger, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the aromatics to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Sprinkle on the salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the shrimp begin to turn orange. Add tomatoes, bell peppers and onions and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp have turned almost totally orange. Swirl the ketchup mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked through and the sauce coats the shrimp. Stir in the cilantro.
Yield: Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish or 4 as part of multicourse meal.

Chicken Stir-Fry

The summerlike weather we’ve been experiencing the past couple of weeks has been a boon to gardeners, especially those whose produce has yet to be hit by a killing frost. And let me add stir-fry enthusiasts to that group.

Vegetables such as zucchini, yellow summer squash, eggplant, peppers and onions, all of which still can be found in a lot of backyard gardens, are perfect for stir-frying.

Just last week, I used all of those plus some sliced celery and Asian spices in a tasty stir-fry. And I can envision at least a couple of more stir-fry meals using the fresh ingredients before freezing temperatures end the growing season.

Not all stir-fry dishes are vegetarian. Beef and poultry are popular meats that can be found in a lot of entrees, such as the following, which pairs Asian flavorings and techniques with vegetables grown here and chicken.

Chicken Stir-Fry
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil, plus more if needed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece (1½-inch-long) ginger, peeled, minced
1 each, chopped: red pepper, onion
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
½ cup hulled pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted (see note)
3 green onions, chopped (optional)
Place chicken in a shallow dish; pour soy sauce over. Allow to marinate 20 minutes while preparing the vegetables.
Heat wok or large skillet over medium-high heat just until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Add oil, swirling it into the wok to coat the sides. Stir-fry garlic and ginger until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add red pepper and onion; stir-fry until the onions just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn kernels and black beans; cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.
Add another tablespoon of cooking oil to wok if needed. Drain chicken, discarding marinade. Stir-fry chicken pieces and chili garlic sauce until fully cooked, about 3 minutes. Add back vegetables; lower heat to a simmer. Cook, letting flavors mingle, 2 minutes. Stir in pumpkin seeds; garnish with green onions.
Note: To toast pumpkin seeds, heat in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until they puff up a little and brown slightly. Pepitas also are available at ethnic markets and grocery stores.
Yield: Serve 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 462 calories, 20 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 78 milligrams cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 41 grams protein, 547 milligrams sodium, 9 gramss fiber.

Pheasant Stir-Fry

A lot of people think that eating healthy means tasteless food. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

A good example of tasty, healthy eating is stir-fry. The meat, if you’re using it, generally is very lean and, of course, you can’t eat healthier than vegetables. And if you substitute brown rice for white, it’s even better. (White rice is refined, and many of the vitamins and nutrients are removing during the process.)

Whenever I go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant, stir-fry is usually my choice. I especially love the Mongolian stir-fries, where you pick out the ingredients you want and watch as it all is expertly cooked right before you eyes.

We had a wonderful example of stir-fry cooking at home the other night. Therese and I stir-fried pheasant with some freshly cut vegetables (recipe follows), and I bet if you were to count the calories and fat content, you’d be pretty hard pressed to come up with a healthier meal. Along with the pheasant, the ingredients also included sweet red bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, celery and onion.

For those of you who don’t have any pheasant in your freezer, chicken could easily be substituted, and a number of other vegetables also could be used.

Chicken or Pheasant Stir-Fry
2 chicken or pheasant breasts, sliced thinly
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Heat oil in wok. Add meat and cook on medium-high until tender. Remove meat, reserving some of liquid in small bowl. Place vegetables in wok and cook for about 5 minutes. Add soy and Hoisin sauce and continue to cook. Return  meat to wok.
Mix cornstarch in bowl with reserved liquid. Add to wok and stir into meat and vegetables. Once stir-fry liquid begins to thicken, serve over brown rice.
Note: Broccoli florets, sliced carrots or water chestnuts also could be added to stir-fry.

Perfect Chinese Broccoli Beef

One of the dishes that I really like when going out to a Chinese buffet is beef and broccoli. Actually, the broccoli is my favorite part of the dish.

The brown sauce that the beef and broccoli comes in is the key. The secret to making the broccoli to be tender-crisp and taste like broccoli, not like cornstarchy brown goop, is to cook the vegetable separately and to use a minimal amount of cornstarch – but only in the steak marinade. You then simmer the sauce to let it thicken naturally.

That’s the advice given by the people at New Asian Cuisine ( in an e-mail about the top Asian recipes of 2010. They also say the secret ingredient to the absolute best Broccoli Beef is Chinese black vinegar, which adds a mellow, sweet tang. If you don’t have Chinese black vinegar, substitute it with a good, dark balsamic vinegar.

Here’s their recipe for the broccoli beef, which looks pretty scrumptious.

Chinese Broccoli Beef
1 pound top sirloin or flank steak, sliced into 1/8-inch thin strips
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon cooking oil
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons black vinegar
1½ pounds broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Marinate the beef in soy sauce, cornstarch and the ½ teaspoon of oil for 10 minutes at room temperature.
In a small bowl, mix together the stir-fry sauce ingredients.
In a wok or large frying pan, add 1 inch of water and salt and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cover to steam for 3 minutes. Broccoli should be bright green, crisp tender and you should be able to pierce the stem with a fork. Drain.
Discard the water in the pan and dry the pan well. Heat the pan over high heat and when hot, add the 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and fry for 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the steak strips, keeping them in one layer and fry 30 seconds. Flip the strips and fry the other side.
Pour in the stir-fry sauce and stir to combine. Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat a back of a spoon, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked broccoli back into the pan and toss to coat well.
Note: To keep this dish vegetarian, replace the beef with fresh, thick, meaty shitake mushrooms (cut in half) or even portobello (cut in ½-inch slices).

Kung Pao Chicken

It’s shaping up to be a pretty good summer for peppers. My bells are well on their way, and my hot Hungarians aren’t too far behind. (See related content at

Peppers lends themselves nicely to Chinese cooking, so it was nice to see this recipe for Kung Pao Chicken on the New Asian Cuisine’s weekly digest that comes to me via e-mail. Their are many versions of this Chinese delicacy, and this one is a favorite of New Asian Cuisine food writer Grace Young. Here is how she describes it:

"This one of the many versions of kung pao chicken that I’ve eaten, and this is one of my favorites. The dark, rich sauce clings to the chicken and peppers, with just an undertone of heat and aromatic flavor from the chilies and Sichuan peppercorns."

I can’t wait to give it a try with some of my peppers.

Kung Pao Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
4 to 8 dried red chili peppers, snipped on one end
½ teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
¾ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
½ cup minced scallions
In a medium bowl combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon cold water. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, add the chilies and ground Sichuan peppercorns, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 15 seconds or until the chilies just begin to smoke. Push the chili mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through.
Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry 1 minute or until the peppers begin to soften. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through. Add the peanuts and scallions, sprinkle on the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the scallions are bright green.
Yield: Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multicourse meal.

Eggplant Stir-Fry

The past half-dozen years or so, I’ve been planting eggplant. It’s a vegetable that not a lot of gardeners I know include in their gardens. I’m looking forward to a good crop this summer after a disappointing one last year. I like to use eggplant in marinara sauces. Usually, I saute sliced eggplant in olive oil and then freeze it for later use.

The purplish-colored vegetable is used in many different cultures. The Greeks like to use it in mousakka, a casserole made by layering eggplant with a spiced meat filling then topping it off with a creamy bechamel sauce that is baked to golden perfection.

The Chinese also like to cook with eggplant. Chinese cooks usually prepare eggplant with strong seasonings, simmered in richly flavored sauces. This makes the dishes an excellent accompaniment for rice and congee. Leftovers keep well overnight in the refrigerator and may be reheated the next day for lunch.

For those who like Chinese food, the following recipe, courtesy of New Asian Cuisine, will be sure to please.

Garlic Ginger Eggplant Stir-Fry
4 Asian eggplants
3 tablespoons oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 slices fresh ginger, minced
3 green onions (scallions), finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili paste
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
½ to 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Halve the eggplants lengthwise, then cut each half into 2-inch pieces.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok over high heat and when hot, add the eggplants, garlic and ginger and stir-fry until the eggplants begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
Add the green onions and chili paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the Sauce and stir to combine all the ingredients. Add the water and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.
Yield: Serves 4.

Taste of Thai

I’m excited about the prospects of a Thai restaurant in downtown East Grand Forks.

Anyone who knows me well will attest to my penchant for hot and spicy food, so it would come as no surprise that Thai food is something that I would like.

My last encounter with Thai food was more than a dozen years ago, in St. Paul, when I was working there after the Flood of 1997 destroyed one of the Herald’s downtown buildings and severely damaged the other. I went to the Thai establishment a couple of times with a former co-worker, Jeff Beach, who shared my taste to the hot and spicy.

And although I’ve never been to any of the restaurants in the Fargo-Moorhead area, the thought has crossed my mind.

For those of you who can’t wait for the restaurant to open in East Grand Forks or who can’t make down to the F-M area, here’s a recipe for you to try at home, which looks pretty tasty and I plan to try sooon.

Thai Red Curry Beef
1 tablespoon oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, minced
1½ pounds sirloin tip steak, sliced
1 4-ounce package nameko mushrooms
½ tablespoon red curry paste
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 each, sliced: red bell pepper, onion
1 serrano chili, minced
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
Heat oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet. Add garlic and green onions; stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef; stir-fry 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms; stir-fry 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon to a bowl.
Add curry paste to wok; cook, stirring, over medium heat, 30 seconds. Stir in fish sauce. Stir in coconut milk. Add bell pepper, onion and chili. Reduce heat to low; simmer until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add the beef and mushrooms and any meat juices. Simmer 5 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve with steamed white or brown rice.
Notes: Cut the meat along its segmentations, then thinly slice each segment before cooking. Nameko mushrooms are used in Japanese cooking and may be found in Asian stores and specialty markets. Substitute with the mushroom of your choice.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 621 calories, 54 percent of calories from fat, 36 grams fat, 24 grams saturated fat, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 24 grams carbohydrates, 45 grams protein, 842 milligrams sodium, 9 grams fiber.

Shrimp Stir-Fry

Pollock is on the menu tonight when I’ll be the guest server at this Lenten season’s first fish fry put on by the East Grand Forks Sacred Heart Men’s Club. (The annual fundraiser for the Sacred Heart High School’s athletic department will continue each Friday night until Good Friday on April 2.)

For those of you interested in attending, we will start serving meals that also include coleslaw, a baked potato and homemade buns beginning at 5 p.m. I believe the cost is about $7 or $8, which is quite a bargain considering you get two nice fillets (and homemade tartar sauce).

It will be my second meal of fish this week. On Ash Wednesday, we had baked walleye and shrimp. I used some store-bought coating made by Shore Lunch. It’s pretty good, although not as tasty as the breading at the Sacred Heart event.

What I did find out, though, was that the coating worked well with the shrimp, which were baked for about 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees. (You dip them in egg first.) They came out nice and crispy and reminded me of the deep-fried version that I enjoy at some Chinese buffets. But what made them better was that the coating for the shrimp wasn’t laden with oil.

I have another bag or two of shrimp in the freezer and hope to fix them the same way shortly. It will be a good way to celebrate the Chinese New Year. (Incidently, it’s the Year of the Tiger.)

Speaking of Chinese cooking, here’s a stir-fry recipe for shrimp that also looks like it might be worth trying.

Stir-Fried Egg Noodles with Shrimp, Chili and Bean Sprouts
¼ cup vegetable oil
12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left on
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 piece (1½ inches long) ginger root, cut into 12 slices
1 16-ounce package fresh, flat egg noodles, cooked al dente
2 tablespoons each: Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, soy sauce
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 large red chili, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup bean sprouts (optional)
Heat wok or skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok; heat until shimmering slightly. Add shrimp; stir-fry until pink, about 2 minutes. Remove from wok or skillet; set aside. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil; stir-fry the garlic, red onion and ginger 1 minute.
Add the noodles, reserved shrimp, wine, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add half of the green onions, half of the chili and the bean sprouts. Stir-fry until the shrimp are just cooked through and noodles are hot, about 30 seconds. Remove ginger; discard. Serve in bowls; top with remaining green onions and chili.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 625 calories, 26 percent of calories from fat, 18 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 32 milligrams cholesterol, 94 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams protein, 700 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

Beef and Broccoli

We had one of our favorite dishes last night, something called broccoli with rigatoni, which is seasoned with a little garlic and pesto. It was a meal I’d been planning on having for a day or two.

I’m a big fan of both pasta and the vegetable a former president of ours said he’d never, ever wanted to see a spring of on his plate, whether he was on Air Force One, in the White House or anywhere else in the land.

Our grandson, Rakeem, was over for supper, and although he is a big pasta lover, he’s never been into broccoli. But I have to says he’s not like a lot of other kids. He does eat his share of vegetables, but broccoli hasn’t been one of them —not until this meal.

I did cook up a ring of elk sausage for him to eat, and along with some crusty bread and a banana. It was a fairly nutritious meal. But when Therese asked  him if he wanted to try the broccoli and rigatoni, he nodded in approval, much to our surprise.

While not eating a ton of the broccoli, he did manage a couple of good bites of it. I complimented him for his willingness to try something new, and later Therese said if you put enough garlic on something it will taste good.

That got me to thinking about other ways I could get Rakeem to eat more vegetables. The idea I came up with was to combine them with something else he likes — meat, seasoned with garlic.

Here’s a stir-fry recipe that I’m going to try out on Rakeem. I’m betting Therese’s observation will hold true.


Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce
1½ pounds beef sirloin tip, thinly sliced
1 egg white
¼ cup rice wine
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 to 6 cups small broccoli florets, about 3/4 pound
½ cup water
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 cloves garlic, chopped
Place beef slices in a large food storage bag. Whisk together the egg white, rice wine, 2 teaspoons of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch and baking soda in a small bowl; pour over beef. Seal; turn bag to coat beef with marinade. Refrigerate 1 to 3 hours.
Heat a large saucepan of water to a boil; add broccoli. Cook 30 seconds; drain. Set aside. Mix remaining teaspoon cornstarch, ½ cup water, oyster sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, sugar and pepper to taste in a bowl; set aside.
Heat wok over high heat. Add oil; heat until very hot. Add beef in batches; stir-fry until meat is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to bowl.
Discard all but 2 teaspoons of the oil; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic. Cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 30 seconds. Stir in the water-oyster sauce mixture. Add to wok, heat to a boil; cook 1 minute. Stir beef and broccoli back into wok. Cook to heat through, about 1 minute.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 317 calories, 38 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 73 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 40 grams protein, 635 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.