Homemade Caramel Sauce and Chinese Chicken Salad

Originally e-mailed February 16, 2009

Recipe Testers,

I’m actually sending two recipes this time! The first is for homemade Caramel Sauce and the second is for Chinese Chicken Salad. I first created this Chinese Chicken Salad as an appetizer for Susan Yuh and Brett Harrison’s wedding (they now have a GORGEOUS little girl!)

I learned about candy making and working with sugar when we were first married and living in Alabama. I made homemade butterscotch for a butterscotch cheesecake. Guess what ingredients are in butterscotch? Butter, scotch, sugar and a pinch of salt. The whole process of making something that you usually buy pre-made was enlightening to me. Then I learned how to make Toffee from my Auntie Sandy. (She makes the best toffee every year for Christmas gifts! I’ve shared that recipe in the past, but some of the new people on the list may not have it. So e-mail me if you need a copy of that recipe) After toffee, I learned at Roy Yamaguchi’s how to make gastriques – all kinds. The first one I ever learned was with passion fruit. Later in catering, I developed the guava one. Gastriques are still one of my most favorite kinds of sauces to make for pork or chicken. From the gastrique technique I stumbled across this way to make homemade caramel. If you have another way that works for you, then please do it. This version I make is quicker than the normal one and the sugar technique is similar to a gastrique. Just know that you will think you ruined it when you add the cream. Identical to when you add vinegar to a gastrique. I’ll write a lot of notes so you’ll know you are on the right track. The caramel is so good you could eat a bowl full.

Also, I have a request for poached pears (from a month ago!) My notes are cryptic on the poaching liquid and probably only make sense to me or one of my cooks, so I’ll try to test it and record exact amounts.

I’m going to do these recipes as kind of first drafts within the e-mail and then I’ll type up the formal versions later. So there isn’t an attachment, because I’m writing the first draft in the body of the e-mail.

Caramel Sauce

You must use a heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan and a wooden spoon.

1/2 cup of white granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream

Have your cream out and ready so you can pour it in the minute the sugar turns to a golden amber.

Put the sugar in the heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Watch the sugar melt and begin to turn brown. Use your wooden spoon to move the sugar around if one spot is browning more quickly than another. You can also kind of tilt the pan.

When the sugar is golden to dark amber, pour in the cream.

This is where you will think you made a giant mistake. The sugar will immediately harden and you’ll have this rock hard, sticky, clumpy mess. This is exactly what is supposed to happen at this point.

Keep the heat on medium and with a wooden spoon stir the cream and sugar globule mess until the sugar eventually melts back into the cream and you have delicious and smooth caramel. This takes about 10 minutes and you’ll want to stir almost constantly. You’ll keep thinking to yourself the entire time your stirring that the sugar is never going to come off the spoon or melt back into the cream. I’ve made this about 100 times and every single time it comes out perfectly. So just have patience. It’s worth the wait and is so yummy. You can make it head and it will keep for at least two weeks or longer.

Chinese Chicken Salad

You can use a variety of ingredients for the salad. These are suggestions. If you don’t have snow peas or one of the other ingredients you can still make it. (At Susan’s wedding I didn’t use snow peas because we made them as appetizers in little won-ton cups) So I’ll write exact amounts for the dressing because I actually measured that. The dressing recipe makes more than you’ll need, but it is good to have extra on hand for leftovers.

Napa Cabbage, sliced (you can also use regular cabbage or a combo or iceberg lettuce and cabbage or only iceberg. You’re choice)
Snow Peas
Green onions, thinly sliced (don’t put too many)
Roasted Slivered Almonds
Cilantro leaves

Cucumbers (optional)
Kiware Sprouts (radish sprouts, NOT BEAN SPROUTS, these are also optional)
Carrots (I have a Japanese spinner and put the carrots on those. You could also julienne or grate carrots on a grater. Thinner is better)
Chicken, Shredded. (I usually use chicken breasts, but you can use the whole chicken. I gently poach the breasts in either a court bouillon –wine, bay leaf, water, carrot, celery onion, salt and pepper—or milk with salt. Never boil the court bouillon. Boiling makes the chicken tough. If poaching milk I do that in a 350 oven and completely cover the chicken. Both of these techniques are French. You can also just buy a roast chicken and shred that.)
Won Ton Strips, Fried

Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl. Add dressing (recipe follows). Add won ton strips just before serving. Salt and Pepper if you wish. (you may not need any pepper because of the hot sesame oil in the dressing. Salt also comes from the soy!)

Dressing for Chinese Chicken Salad

1 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon hot chile sesame oil, optional (it may just be called Hot Sesame Oil. This stuff is POTENT! A little goes a long way. So add it sparingly.

Dissolve sugar in rice vinegar. Add all ingredients together, except oil and combine in a bowl. Add oil in a stream while whisking. This dressing doesn’t seem to emulsify like other dressings do, so shake well before pouring over salad.



PS In other great news Jeanette and her brother Johnny are at a Ronald McDonald camp. Jeanette’s doctor went with her, so she is well cared for. First time for them to see and play in snow. Jeanette had a second movie premiere with teachers and friends who couldn’t make it to the first one. We hope to have two more here at her middle school and former elementary school. I’ll check with the editor to see if he got the movie uploaded to youtube. I’ve been so focused on the library fiasco that I didn’t follow up on the movie. I won’t bore you with the library news, but scoundrels are being exposed and the voting public is very aware. I’ve personally found the most amazing stories of good through this whole process. I’ve met some wonderful public servants and some of the kindest and most compassionate people ever. Some of the personal stories people have shared from libraries being safe havens from gangs in poor neighborhoods to severely disabled who use the library for therapy. To people just rallying for a cause and town they care about. Think of Harold Hill in the music man. He came to exploit the city, but the community ended up uniting together for good despite his con game. This is kind of like that. The miracle is unfolding and I love watching it!

Then we are continuing to pray for another miracle for Joele. We have hope in both Brazil and Israel. Amazing that there is even hope. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to put Kara in touch with doctors at doctors at the leading medical centers and universities around the country. My special thanks to Ray Gallagher, Jennifer Burman and the woman of unending prayers, Carol Sawyer!


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