The clock is ticking. In less than three weeks, I'll be on my way to the airport with a one-way ticket in my bag and my earthly possessions on the slow boat to China (well, or Hamburg, to be more accurate). I've gone from having a wobbly lip on every blessed New York sidewalk to becoming foot-tappingly impatient. I'm ready to say goodbye, I want to start writing, I need to do this thing, you know?
But patience is a virtue, toots. That's what I keep telling myself, when the butterflies in my stomach start whirling and I think of everything over there waiting for me, everyone over there waiting for me. And besides, there are still a few things I need to do while I'm here. I need to go to Kitchen Arts & Letters, though I am prohibited by cosmic law to buy anything, anything at all, while there (that international shipping bill isn't getting any smaller, is what I'm trying to say). I need to stroll in Central Park while drinking a hot chocolate with a big, puffy, homemade marshmallow melting oozily into it. I need to go to the Museum of Natural History one last time for that Silk Road exhibit. And I need to eat some Chinese food.
When I left Berlin, in 1995, there was one passable restaurant that we went to every once in a blue moon when the urge for Chinese food got rather overwhelming and there was no where else to turn. Apparently, things have gotten a little better there now - I've heard of a Sichuanese hole-in-the-wall and a dumpling place recommended by a friend's friend from Beijing - but good Chinese food, as ubiquitous as it is here, is still somewhat of a rarity.
Thrillingly, though, as long as I can find a grocery store selling bok choy, shiitakes and good-quality oyster sauce, I should be in pretty good shape. The Minimalist's recipe was a big hit in my kitchen on Sunday night: quick, delicious and fresh, and it practically tasted like take-out! I mean this as high praise, mind you. High, high praise indeed.
And with that, lovely people, I leave you to your brining, your salting, your traveling, and your feast-preparing. This year, I'm staying put for a real New York City Thanksgiving. My loved ones are coming to me and we are going out on the town, to a late lunch at Back Forty book-ended by long walks all around this beautiful town and pie with friends. I am thrilled. And full of excitement for my own Thanksgiving next year, a German-American feast that I cannot wait to plan. Until then, I'm giving thanks every day.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Bok Choy with Shiitakes and Oyster Sauce
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 pounds bok choy, trimmed
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1/2 to 3/4 cup commercial oyster sauce
1. Soak dried shiitakes in one cup of very hot water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid. Trim mushrooms and chop. Separate leaves and stems of bok choy; cut stems into 2-inch lengths and slice leaves into ribbons.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. When oil is hot, add bok choy stems, garlic if you are using it, reconstituted mushrooms, and about 1/4 cup reserved mushroom water. Cook, stirring frequently, until stems are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil; sauté fresh shiitake mushrooms over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until they begin to brown and crisp on edges.
4. Into the large skillet or wok, add bok choy leaves and oyster sauce and toss vegetables gently to combine; continue cooking until greens wilt, about 2 more minutes. Serve immediately, topped with crisp mushrooms.