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Well, first of all, I'm excited to be writing tonight for WFD. I sometimes miss this series when it posts, but I've been a regular reader for a long time, even if I'm a bit late at times. I love reading about food, I love writing about food, and I love eating food above all, so it only seemed natural for me to give a WFD diary a shot. I hope I do a good enough job! :)

I thought I'd write my first WFD diary on one of my favorite ingredients: ginger. I didn't come to truly appreciate good, fresh ginger root until fairly recently in my life. In fact, growing up, I didn't even know there was fresh ginger--I thought ginger came from the spice aisle and was only used in desserts! Dabbling in Vietnamese cooking is what introduced me to this aromatic and spicy ingredient and opened my eyes to how many dishes it can improve. Now, it's a rare week that I don't have some fresh ginger in my kitchen waiting to be grated or minced or julienned and thrown into something.

Tonight, I'm just going to share a few of my favorite savory recipes featuring ginger. Follow me below this beautiful mountain of ginger root from my favorite Asian market...

I'm going to start with one of my very favorite dinners and something that has become something of a signature dish of mine when I cook for others. When I want to cook to impress, I make this, and it looks like I put a lot of effort into it even though it's actually pretty simple. In Vietnamese, it is called gà kho gừng, or chicken braised with ginger, or simply ginger chicken.

My way of cooking gà kho gừng has evolved since I first tried it, and I have kind of made it my own. Typically, the dish consists of chicken and ginger coated in a caramel sauce with perhaps a little broth. I really like the broth, and I have turned it into something of a soup. Also, despite bone-in, skin-on chicken being the norm in a culture that wastes no part of the animal, I have started using boneless, skinless thighs. It's easier to eat, the wonderful flavor is still there, and it's slightly healthier. I would definitely recommend dark meat for this, however, although my BF insists that I use chicken breast when I cook it for him, and it does work. Without further ado, the ingredients:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece ginger root, peeled and julienned
3 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
520 ml coconut water
First, combine the chicken thighs, shallot, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stick it in the fridge and let it marinate for a few hours, or at least 30 minutes.
Once it's done marinating, you'll need to make the caramel sauce. To a small pot or Dutch oven, add the oil and 2 tablespoons of sugar, spread as evenly as possible across the bottom. Then, turn the heat on medium-high and leave it alone until it caramelizes.
When the caramel is a perfect brown, waste no time in adding the chicken. Stir to coat the chicken and continue stirring until it is browned. At that point, add the coconut water. If you want to add just plain water, that is perfectly fine, but I love the sweetness the coconut water provides in contrast with the saltiness of the fish sauce.

Bring it up to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or so, or until the chicken is nice and cooked and tender. You might want to add another splash or two of fish sauce to give it a little more saltiness. Oh, and skim any scum off the top.

When it's done, it should be served with jasmine rice and garnished with green onion and cilantro. I usually like to serve it over the rice and eat it all out of one bowl. Sweet from the caramel sauce and coconut water, salty from the fish sauce, punctuated by spicy pieces of ginger...mmmmm!
Some more ginger recipes! Let's stick with Asian (and chicken) and talk about Thai ginger chicken, another one of my favorites. Here's the recipe I use:
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (see Recipe Notes)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons grapeseed, canola or other high-heat oil
8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1/4-inch thick)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1 small pepper)
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion (about 1/2 small onion)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, cut into matchstick-size pieces
Cooked white rice or brown rice, for serving

In a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Keep near the stove along with the chicken and vegetables.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Add the chicken in an even layer and let sear, undisturbed, for about 1 minute. Add garlic, stir and continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Chicken will be lightly browned, but not cooked through. Add the green onions, bell pepper, onions, ginger and sauce. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the bell peppers and onions are tender-crisp. Serve immediately, with plain white or brown rice.

Now, let's hop on over to Japan for some pork shogayaki:
½ lb. thinly-sliced pork loin (I use sukiyaki meat. See the tutorial for How To Slice Meat Paper-Thin.)
¼ onion
1 clove garlic
1 inch ginger (about 1 tsp.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. oil
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. mirin
2 Tbsp. sake
1 tsp. sugar

1. In a small bowl, grate onion, garlic and ginger.
2. Add the seasonings. We like our ginger pork to be a little bit sweeter, so we add 1 tsp. sugar (this is optional).
3. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
4. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Put the meat in a single layer (cook in batches). Flip the meat when the bottom side is golden brown. If the meat is very thin like mine, cook time is very short. Make sure you don’ overcook the pork or else it gets harder (but also be careful not to undercook).
5. When the meat is cooked through, add the seasonings and chopped scallion. Serve immediately.

And this delicious chicken and ginger rice dish: tori shoga gohan.
8 oz (240 g) chicken thigh (boneless and skinless), cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons sake
1.5 tablespoons light-color soy sauce (“usukuchi shoyu”)
1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (“nampla”)
2 rice-cups (360 ml) short grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) dashi stock (can be substituted with chicken stock or vegetable stock)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 oz (30 g) peeled ginger, sliced into needle thin (1″ long)
1 scallion, thinly-sliced crosswise
some toasted white sesame seeds

1. In a bowl, combine the chicken, sake, soy sauce, and fish sauce. mix well by hand. Cover tightly with a plastic and let the chicken marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in “Kamado-san”, combine the rice, dash stock, and sesame oil. Let the rice soak for 20-30 minutes.
3. Spread the ginger over the rice. Add the chicken with the marinade liquid and spread on the top.
4. Cover “Kamado-san” with both lids and cook over medium-high heat for 13-15 minutes, or until 2-3 minutes after the steam starts puffing out of the top lid. If you want the nice crust (“okoge”) on the bottom cook for extra 1-2 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat and let Kamado-san rest (with both lids on) for 20-30 minutes.
Uncover and fluff the rice. Garnish with some scallion and sesame seeds.

Vegetarian? This spicy ginger and carrot soup might be for you. It would be especially amazing in the a warm hug.
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, finely sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 (2-inch) knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa paste (see note above)
2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 quarts low-sodium homemade or store bought vegetable or chicken broth (see note above)
Kosher salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add leeks, onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, and harissa paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots and stir to coat in spice mixture. Add broth (see note above), season with a pinch of salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are completely tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add pine nuts, reduce heat to low, and cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until fragrant and nutty brown, about 10 minute. Transfer to a bowl. Let cool for a few moments, then stir in parsley, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.
3. When carrots are tender, transfer half of soup to a blender. Start blender on lowest speed and slowly increase speed to high. With blender running, slowly drizzle in remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Transfer soup to a clean pot, pressing it through a fine mesh strainer or chinois if desired. Repeat with remaining soup and 2 more tablespoons olive oil. When all the soup is puréed, season to taste with salt and whisk in lemon juice.
4. Serve soup immediately, topped with pine nut and parsley mixture.

Enough from me. Tell us what's for dinner at your place!
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