Sunday, December 2, 2007
Fresh Ginger Tips
During cooking classes, my students always say that they love the taste of fresh ginger, but complain that it’s a pain in the butt to peel and chop! Half of the students shamefully admit that they buy the pureed stuff that comes in a jar or tube.
Call me a ginger snob, but that jarred pureed stuff is just plain nasty and chemically tasting. There is definitely something suspicious about a food item that sticks to the roof of your mouth. Especially when it’s not chocolate, peanut butter or caramel.
So, I’m going to share with you some of my ginger secrets….
Ginger is actually a root, the rhizome of a name of a plant I can’t say 10 times fast, “Zingiber Officinale.” It’s one of the ingredients that I use in my everyday Asian cooking.
How to store ginger
- Refrigerate: I use ginger so much that I buy a big massive root once every couple of weeks. The best way to store ginger is place it in small paper bag in your vegetable crisper drawer. I used to tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, but then one day while pregnant with Andrew and HIGHLY emotional, I felt sorry for the ginger suffocating in the wrap and started crying. Don’t ask. I can’t explain.
- Freeze: When I have one of those moments at the store and forget I that I already have 2 pounds of ginger in the refrig…and end up with ginger overload, I use a the handy microplane grater to grate the entire root. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on your counter and spoon the ginger on top in a nice even line. Roll up tightly, twist the ends (hmmm….reminds me of something i used to to do when i was in college) like a piece of candy and freeze. When you need, just unwrap, snap off a chunk and it defrosts quickly. Or just regrate on your microplane grater while frozen. What a clever idea from Lunch In a Box!
How to cut?
How I want to use the ginger determines how I cut the root.
- Flavor the oil: Sometimes, I don’t want a strong ginger flavor in a dish, but I want my oil to be fragranced and flavored by the ginger. Wash well, don’t bother peeling. Cut the ginger into 1/8″ coins. With the side of your knife, “whack” the coin to break the fibers a bit and release the essence. Heat up your cooking oil in a wok or pan on high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the ginger coins (usually about 3 coins) and let the ginger fry for 30 seconds. If I want a little stronger flavor, I turn my heat to medium and let the ginger infuse the oil for a little longer. Don’t let the ginger burn! Combine the ginger with smashed garlic cloves and you have a start to a classic Chinese stir-fry. At this point you can remove and discard the ginger.
- In stir fry, sauce, dressing: There’s nothing more annoying than getting a fibrous piece of ginger stuck in your teeth. No matter how long you spend at your cutting board mincing this stubborn root, it’s never going to be as fine as the method I use. I use a microplane grater (photo above) to grate my fresh ginger. It works wonderfully and you can see that the fiber stays on the root and doesn’t end up in your dish. You’ll end up with fine, silky, clean ginger. Easy and it only takes 15 seconds to grate enough for your dish. I also have a Japanese ceramic ginger grater but it’s a unitasker that takes up space in my drawer. Simply put, the microplane grater is an indispensable tool in my kitchen, and I use it for everything, especially ginger. Hate peeling ginger? It’s an awkward affair with all those bumps, crevices and curves. Yes, you could use a spoon, but pssst….here’s a secret….I don’t always peel it. If you use a microplane grater, most of the peel stays out of the way. Because the ginger is so fine, you’ll have to take extra care not to burn. Start with a wok at medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add the grated ginger and stir fry for 15 seconds. Turn heat to high and immediately add your stir fry ingredients. Sometimes, I don’t add my ginger and garlic until the middle of the stir-fry process, to ensure that the delicate aromatics do not burn.
- As a condiment: Sometimes I love sprinkling fresh ginger threads on top of my dumplings, steamed chicken, noodle soup or vegetables. I want the fresh, crisp, tingly sensation – but if the ginger piece is too thick, it’s just too strong and fibrous. If you are REALLY good with a knife and have the patience of a sloth-watcher, slice the ginger as thin as you can. But I’m not patient, nor really that deft with sharp, pointy objects. I cut off all the little knobs protruding from the main body of the ginger. I just want a nice 3″ smooth piece (save the nubs for #1 above). Peel ginger skin with vegetable peeler. Now continue using the vegetable peeler and peel paper-thin slices of the ginger root. After you’ve got a pile of slices, line them up and use your chef’s knife to cut further into ginger “threads.” You’ll end up with fairy angel thin slices that you can use fresh, uncooked.
One of the coolest things I’ve done this month was to see the live production of PBS’ fundraising telethon. This is the legendary Jack Perkins and my friend Jen who is the producer of his Emmy Award winning show, the Gulf Coast Journal with Jack Perkins. Jen produced the lovely segment that I was featured in.
This is where all the magic happens. Look at all those buttons! I just want to push them ALL!!!!
Nice, expensive cameras that have long, thick cables, perfect for tripping 5’2″ Chinese girl with 3″ heels.
Support your local PBS and donate!
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