Kitchen Accomplice


A Theme Dinner
Annually a group of our close friends gathers for dinner.  This has been going on for nearly 25 years.  This year was our turn to host.   We go to one another’s houses on a rotating basis.  One of our members is in charge of the bar and the host is in charge of the menu, table decor, and cooking.
We have not had an Asian theme before.  This year the menu was called a Taste of the Far East.  Kimonos and lampshade-looking hats were in evidence and the full bar featured the Polynesian staple, Navy Grog, as well as the more traditional beverages.  Red and white wines were paired with the courses and warm sake was served.
A welcoming table was set up on the patio featuring a Japanese Hot Pot with Tender Spring Vegetables and Sliced Pork Loin with Moo Shu pancakes and Hoisin Sauce.  It was a perfect evening and guests enjoyed seeing each other after a time away from one another.
Once inside, we sat to a table lined with orchids, votives in ancient Chinese-ware and glasses to accommodate each of the wines being offered.  The most spectacular course was the first one.  One of our guests is an expert craftsman and  --  to mirror the idea of a Bento Box filled with delicious treats -- prepared a Chinese Pagoda from balsa and paper.  This took untold hours and was spectacular.  The three “floors” of the pagoda were filled,  in order,  with miniature spring rolls, crab Rangoon, and tiny barbequed spareribs.  Sauces alongside were hot mustard and spicy chili sauce.  This was a knockout course.
The rest of the menu unfolded as follows:
Handmade Pot stickers served with dipping sauces
Wok Seared Lettuce with Szechwan-style Shrimp
Ponzu Braised Duck Leg garnished with won ton crisps and scallions
Soup of duck egg threads with baby pea shoots
Steamed citrus salmon atop spinach Goma-Ae with radish chive salad
Tea smoked sirloin with spicy shiitake mushrooms
Green tea ice cream and ginger lemongrass custard with fortune cookie
The fortune cookies at the conclusion of the dinner were a big hit.  Each fortune was prepared to match some idiosyncrasy of a particular guest.  They were on the dessert plates in random order and guests were instructed not to open them until the desserts were finished and then to wait until it was their turn.  One at a time the fortunes were opened and read -- guests had to guess which fortune belonged to which guest.  There was much screaming and no ambivalence about which fortune belonged to which person.
We then repaired to the Chinese lantern- draped lawn to have a cup of tea and to reminisce about our years of friendship.  It was very pleasant, indeed.
How To Make Your Own Fortune Cookies
This fortune cookie recipe makes about 10 cookies.
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoons water
1. Write fortunes on pieces of paper that are 3 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 9-X-13 inch baking sheets. 
2. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white, vanilla extract, almond extract and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff.
3. Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a separate bowl. Stir the water into the flour mixture.
4. Add the flour into the egg white mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a wooden spoon.
5. Place level tablespoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart.  
6. Bake until the outer 1/2-inch of each cookie turns golden brown and they are easy to remove from the baking sheet with a spatula (14 - 15 minutes).
7. Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Place a fortune in the middle of a cookie. To form the fortune cookie shape, fold the cookie in half, then gently pull the edges downward over the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue with the rest of the cookies.
These will keep, once cooled, in an airtight container for days.