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Savor the Flavor with Jim White, The Wining and Dining Guy February 3, 2011

Posted by jwdineline in Home, Savor The Flavor with Jim White.
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Gung Hay Fat Choy

Easy for you to say! Happens to be “happy new year” in Cantonese.  At least that’s the way I learned it many years ago in San Francisco.  There are, of course, numerous ways to express this greeting, owing to the countless Chinese dialects.  But, the outcome is the same:  welcome to the year of the rabbit!  More than a billion people will celebrate “the metal rabbit”, actually, according to astrology.com (and they should know).  Quoth the rabbit:  “2011 is projected to bring peace, tranquility and diplomacy. However, the Metal element gives the rabbit a competitive, aggressive, cold and sometimes insensitive side. This is the first Year of the Metal Rabbit since 1951!” Thank you astrology.com, and quoth the rabbit “nevermore”, Mr.  Poe.  Now, what’s this have to do with wine and food you say?  Glad you asked.  We found a great recipe for Lettuce Wraps with Duck (it would have been too macabre to offer you a recipe for, say, rabbit fricassee or rabbit coq au vin), so enjoy the lettuce wraps with a clear conscience and a nice Gewurztraminer. I know, most people pair duck with Pinot Noir, but when you read the recipe which follows, I think you’ll agree that the spicy Asian dish is begging for this aromatic grape.  It’s one of the only wines that works well with Asian cuisine. Read on for the tasty recipe and to learn more about “The Year of the Rabbit”, and Happy New Year!

Lettuce Wraps with Duck

(reprinted from “Snooth”)

1 head of Bibb lettuce (though oak leaf, romaine and iceberg will do)

1/4 lb duck skin, thinly sliced

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp minced jalapeno

1 lb ground duck meat, seasoned with 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp chinese 5-spice powder,

massaged into the meat

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp dark sesame oil

1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts

1/2 cup chopped toasted cashews

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

1. Wash the whole lettuce leaves, pat them dry, and reserve. If using romaine, removing the thick center ribs makes the wrapping to come that much easier.

2. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the duck skin and allow the fat to render. Remove the skin when it is crisp, crumble, and reserve.

3. Return the pan to medium heat and add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno, stirring to prevent burning and sauté until fragrant, about 60-90 seconds. Turn the heat to high and then add the ground duck meat, stirring the blend with the aromatic ingredients.

4. When the meat is cooked through, remove from heat and add the vinegar, sesame oil, water chestnuts, cashews, green onions, and reserved crumbled skin. Toss all ingredients well to mix and allow flavors to meld.

5. Serve filling with the prepared lettuce leaves. Fill the leaves as bowls or make taco-style of rolls as the leaf allows. Topping each with a mandarin orange slice is an easy way to incorporate mandarin oranges into the New Year’s feast!

A Primer on Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, which falls on February 3 this year, is a holiday celebrated by more than a billion people worldwide, and interest is growing! With the growth in the buying power and pride of Chinese communities everywhere it’s no surprise to see this celebration spreading. I mean, come on, who is not looking for something to celebrate in the middle of winter!

In China, this celebration of the changing of the year is accompanied by house cleaning, to sweep away any trace of bad luck and make way for the good. It’s also a time to welcome family into the home, to join together and celebrate around the table, to wish all peace, harmony and prosperity — and there’s no better way to get in the wishing spirit than with a belly full of fantastic food and having a few glasses of a well matched wine or beer. Well, that’s a very happy New Year indeed!

We should take a lesson from the Chinese New Year’s traditions: forgetting and forgiving a year’s transgressions, petty and major, while wishing all a peaceful and happy year to come. Let us all join in this celebration.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!


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