Kung Pao Crappie
Tried and true delicious dish
by Vernon Summerlin
China has been known for a number of killer viruses—this ain’t one of them. This is an old tried-n-true delicious dish. You’ll find a version of this on most Asian food menus served spicy hot or not.
Although Kung Pao stir-fry dishes are found throughout China, there are regional variations. The classic dish in Szechuan cuisine originated in the Sichuan Province in southwestern China and includes spicy Sichuan peppercorns. Other variations are less spicy.
Kung Pao chicken is common in westernized Chinese cuisine but you can “Kung Pao” all sorts of foods, including all veggie stir fries, shrimp, pork, beef, turkey and, of course, fish.
For this recipe you’ll want to catch some slabs so you’ll have good bite-sized, tummy-satisfying chunks of crappie.
- 1 pound crappie, cut into 1×2-inch bite-sized chunks
- 2 tablespoons fish stock (or chicken or vegetable)
- 2 tablespoons mirin*
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil**
- 5 dried red chili peppers, whole (optional – omit for a milder flavor)
- 2 dried red chili peppers, crushed
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons ginger, freshly grated
- Steamed jasmine rice
In a bowl, combine the stock, mirin, dark soy sauce, sugar, salt and sesame oil. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water. Set aside. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add grapeseed oil. Make sure the pan is hot before you add the oil; this will help create a hot surface to sauté. Sauté the crappie, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook but lightly caramelize the fish. Add the chilies, peanuts, garlic, scallion and ginger. Stir thoroughly until garlic and ginger are aromatic, for about 1 minute. Stir cornstarch mixture to make sure that it is completely dissolved and well combined. Add sauce and cornstarch mixture to the sauté pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to evenly distribute. Stir until crappie is evenly coated with sauce. Serve over your favorite rice. Jasmine rice is recommended because it’s longer, fluffy grains do a good job absorbing some of the heat from the sauce, but if you like a different variety, substitute your favorite.
*Mirin is a sweet rice wine but you substitute dry sherry or sweet Marsala. Or you can dissolve a small amount of sugar in a little white wine or sherry: a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to 1/4 cup wine. The alcohol will be cooked away.
**Grape seed oil (not to be confused with rape seed oil) is an abundant byproduct of wine making. Pressed grape seed oil has the advantage over some other oils because of its high smoke point (about 421 degrees F.) and has a moderately-high polyunsaturated fat content. It has a light, clean taste that goes well in making salad dressings, mayonnaise and is the base oil for infusing herbs and spices. Also it’s widely used in bake goods from cakes to waffles.
Last year Cathy made a kale salad I went nuts for! The best salad I’d ever tasted. And by now I’ll bet you’ve heard that kale is a “super” food.
WebMD Expert Columnist Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD wrote, “Move over Popeye [think spinach] and make room for the ‘queen of greens,’ kale. Gaining in popularity, kale is an amazing vegetable being recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits and delicious flavor.
“Eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables can do wonders for your health, but choosing super-nutritious kale on a regular basis may provide significant health benefits, including cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.
“Kale, also known as borecole, is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. A leafy green, kale is available in curly, ornamental or dinosaur varieties. It belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.”
My garden contains the curly and plain leaf varieties. It takes a keener set of taste buds than mine to discern a difference in their tastes but there’s a lot of difference in texture. It’s so easy to grow.
Go to Worlds Healthiest Foods (http://www.whfoods.com) for a long list of benefits and nutrients. These are just a few items you’ll find. Kale is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory; has cholesterol-lowering ability, especially when cooked; risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer, including cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate.
When was the last time you heard that cooking a veggie made it more nutritious? To get the maximum nutrition and flavor, cook kale by steaming it for five minutes.
The kale in Cathy’s salad was raw and I eat several raw leaves when I’m working in my garden.
- 2 bunches of kale (stems removed, sliced thinly)
- 1 large golden beet (peeled and sliced paper thin), if you can find packaged beets—go for it.
- 1 large red beet (peeled and sliced paper thin)
- 1/2 cup almonds (toasted)
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1/2 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 red onion (peeled and sliced paper thin)
- 3 oz. red wine vinegar
- 6 oz. extra virgin olive oil or grape see oil
Place kale, beets and onion in a large mixing bowl and season liberally with salt. Mix and top with vinegar. Set aside, tossing occasionally (this should be done at least a couple of hours in advance to allow the kale to soften*). Whisk together the oil and garlic. Toss the oil mixture with the kale, beets and onion. Add cheese and almonds. Mix and serve.
*If it doesn’t look like the kale is softening and becoming tender, add the oil and toss. Then, just before serving, add the cheese and almonds.