December catch-up: Chinese food for four

December 10 we had our friends Stephen and Danielle over for dinner, and I broke out my wok and made a big stir-fry. Earlier in the day I made another double batch of Strange Flavor Eggplant, using the biggest eggplant I’ve ever seen:

I also spent much of the afternoon prepping, in my excruciatingly slow way, all the ingredients for the stir-fry, so that once the guests arrived I wouldn’t still be slaving away over the cutting board. I made Lemon Hoisin Chicken, another recipe from Barbara Tropp’s wonderful China Moon Cookbook, and an old favorite of my family’s. When I have made it before I left out the peppers completely (since I don’t like them), but I left them in this time so there would be some nice color contrast in the dish, which otherwise is a bit Blah Beige. I love napa cabbage, which plays a large role in this dish–I need to find some kind of good slaw recipe to use it when I make this stir-fry, since you use about half the head.
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I used a set of divided glass dishes my mom gave B a few years ago for the eggplant and some cashews:

And used the handy pasta bowls for the stir-fry (they were out of white short-grain rice at the Coop, so I used Brown…eh.):

For dessert I made caramel sauce (a recipe from Chris Kimball’s cookbook). It was very simple, though I burned the hell out of my finger. One flaw: it hardened as soon as it went on ice cream (and it was billed in the book as ice cream sauce), and not in a “oh, this fudge sauce firmed up” way, this was a solid caramel shell, nearly impossible to beat your way through with a spoon. We all ended up eating our ice cream and then sucking on the lumps of caramel at the end. It looked nice, though! I love salted caramels, so I sprinkled sea salt on before serving it.

All in all a nice casual dinner with friends. Ben thought the stir-fry was a bit too spicy but he was in the minority!

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