Celebrate Chinese New Year

January 27, 2009 1:11:55 PM PST
Chinese New Year celebrations begin Monday.January 26 is the first day of the Year of the Ox, one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac. Tradition says that those born in ox years tend to be painters, engineers, and architects. They are said to be stable, fearless, obstinate, hard-working and friendly. Jack Nicholson, Jane Fonda, Walt Disney, and Anthony Hopkins were all born in the year of the ox.

Chinese New Year is also known as Lunar New Year; the holiday is celebrated in Japan, Vietnam, and Korea.

The New Year's celebration lasts for 15 days and traditionally ends with a Lantern Festival. A reunion dinner is held on New Year's Eve where members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration. The New Year's Eve dinner is very sumptuous and traditionally includes chicken and fish dishes.

If you want to mark the New Year of 4707, you could make some favorite dishes of one of our favorite Chinese chefs, Jackie Shen. The popular executive chef at Chicago's Red Light, www.redlight-chicago.com Jackie has been named one of Chicago Magazine's Chicagoans of the Year chicagomag.com. A Hong Kong native and household name in the culinary industry, Jackie Shen was named one of Chicago's Hometown Heroes. Known for her charity work as well as her cooking, she is an accomplished philanthropist, who has worked tirelessly to raise thousands of dollars for several Chicago charities, including La Rabida Children's Hospital, Esperanza Community Services, and Friends of Animal Care and Control. She also organized Chicago's Taste of the Nation, the largest nationwide restaurant fund to benefit the country's hungry and homeless. For more on Jackie Shen and the other Chicagoans of the Year, visit http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2009/Bright-Nights/Jackie-Shen/ or www.redlight-chicago.com

Chinese New Year Recipes from Jackie Shen of Red Light www.redlight-chicago.com

Makes 30 gyoza, or 10 servings

For the filling:
2 tablespoons minced water chestnuts or jicama
½ pound ground pork
4 tablespoons scallions, white part only, minced
½ teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon ginger, minced
½ teaspoon garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, or as needed

30 (about 3 ½ -inch) round gyoza wrappers
Sweet chili sauce, as needed
Teriyaki sauce, as needed

For the teriyaki sauce:
½ cup Kikkoman soy sauce
¼ cup Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and stir. Before using, stir to redistribute the cornstarch, which settles.

To make filling: mix all ingredients together except vegetable oil in a bowl. Then divide the filling into 13 portions on a plate, about 1 well-rounded teaspoon each.

To make gyoza: place 1 portion of filling in the center of each gyoza. Moisten the edges with water. Fold over in a half-moon shape and pleat the edges three times with your thumbs. Then, taking the dumpling from the pleated top, press down to flatten the bottom. Spray a large baking sheet with vegetable spray, and as the dumplings are filled and shaped, place them on the baking sheet.

In a 10-inch non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add as many gyoza, bottom side down, as the skillet will comfortably hold without crowding?about 10. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Then add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and simmer until the filling is cooked and the bottom of the gyoza is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove cover and turn all the gyoza on one side and cook to lightly brown, 1-2 minutes. Repeat on the other side, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200 degree oven on a parchment lined pan.

Repeat until all gyoza are cooked, adding more oil to skillet only as needed.

To serve: put 3 gyoza on each individual plate and accompany with little dishes of teriyaki sauce and sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Lion Cub's Head Pho
Makes 8 main dish servings

For the meat balls:
I pound ground pork with fat (ground pork butt)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 scallion stalk, trimmed to 6 inches, white and green parts, minced
½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
1½ teaspoons corn starch
1½ teaspoons flour
1 whole egg

For the soup:
3 quarts basic chicken broth, or organic chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 scallions, trimmed to 6 inches long, white and green parts, split lengthwise but not cut through
1 pound straight cut medium rice noodles
Salt, to taste, about 4 teaspoons

For the garnishes:
1 pound fresh bean sprouts
1 bunch cilantro, washed, patted dry, stems trimmed
4 limes, quartered
2 Thai red chili peppers, or 2 red Serrano peppers, sliced paper thin horizontally

To make the meat balls:
Put all ingredients except corn starch, flour, and egg into a big bowl. Mix well by hand or with a rubber or silicone spatula. Add cornstarch and mix well. Add flour and mix well. Scramble egg with a fork in a separate small bowl and add. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Portion meatball mixture into 16 equal portions on a large plate or cutting board. Roll into balls between the palms of your hands. Using a thin spatula, place meatballs gently on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Reserve.

To make the soup:
In a 6-quart pot over medium high heat, add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add ginger, garlic and scallions. Return to a boil. Add rice noodles and cook for 4 minutes. Add meatballs and cook 4 more minutes. Add salt to taste.

To serve: ladle soup with noodles and meatballs in to 8 large bowls. Pass plates of bean sprouts, cilantro, limes and chili peppers so everybody can garnish their own soup.

Asian Bolognese with Egg Noodles
Makes 4 servings

For the Bolognese:
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
3 tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce
½ teaspoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon minced garlic
3 6-inch trimmed scallion stalks, white and green parts, minced, divided
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup canned tomato puree (not paste)
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
Salt, to taste
½ pound Chinese egg noodles or American medium egg noodles
1 lime, quartered

To make the Bolognese:
Mix the pork, wine, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, 2/3 of the scallion, and sesame oil together in a large bowl.

In a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, sauté the ground pork mixture, stirring, until fully cooked. Add the tomato puree, sriracha sauce and cook, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sauce reduces slightly and thickens, about 30 minutes. Taste for salt and add between 1 and 2 tablespoons.

To serve:
Cook egg noodles in boiling salted water with 1 tablespoon of salt, according to package directions. Drain. Divide noodles equally among 4 heated bowls. Top with Bolognese sauce. Garnish with remaining chopped scallion and one lime wedge for each plate. Squeeze lime over sauced noodles just before eating.

Red Light and Local Student Ian Cahr Share the Love this Valentine's Season

Cooking and Bead-Making Demonstration to Benefit Friends of Animal Care and Control

WHAT: Chef Jackie Shen of Red Light and local child philanthropist and national sensation Ian Cahr (8) are coming together this Valentine's season to "share the love," with a fundraiser cooking and bead-stringing demonstration on Sunday, February 8 at 11:30 AM. A portion of the proceeds and all sales from Cahr's bracelets will benefit Friends of Animal Care and Control.

Shen will showcase her cooking talents with a hands-on festive appetizer demonstration. Guests will have a chance to enjoy samples of their creations the appetizers along with paired wine.

Ian Cahr will follow up the cooking demonstration with a unique presentation on how to produce the one-of-a-kind beaded bracelets for which he has become famous. Cahr has appeared on The Today Show, Martha Stewart and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Participants will have an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind pieces from Ian's Bead Company after the demonstration.

WHEN: Sunday, February 8, 11:30 AM

COST: $35 per person, includes class, samples and wine tasting, a portion of proceeds and all sales from bracelets will go to Friends of animal care and control

After earning about $12 by selling beaded jewelry and accessories from a stand in front of a friend's house, eight-year old Ian Cahr decided to donate the proceeds to benefit homeless animals, thus Ian's Bead Company was born. With donations of supplies from businesses and individuals around the country and help from local stores that hosted trunk shows and sales, Ian has raised over $10,000 for animals. Inspired, more than 30 kids have asked to help and are now involved. They make and sell fancy beaded jewelry, hand drawn cards, key chains, hair accessories, magnets, bookmarks and holiday-themed items. They donate 100% of the proceeds and Ian requires that his "staff" dress up so they look professional and make a bigger impact.

WHERE: Red Light
820 W Randolph St

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 733-8880