Culinary Corner

Enjoying crescent moons and chicken chunks

Special to The CambrianMarch 13, 2014 

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken is garnished with pineapple, onions and peppers, served with Oolong tea.

CONSUELO MACEDO — Special to The Cambrian

How wonderful to have skies clear enough for stargazing again. Last month I was encouraging friends to observe mighty Jupiter descending and Venus rising as the morning star. But then came our welcome storm clouds, followed by the new moon, where no moon is visible.

Many people mistakenly call the crescent moon which emerges “new.” And when an interesting phenomenon occurred for two nights, they were hard put to give that a name. The dark side was so brightly illuminated by earthshine which was reflected off our planet, that some thought they were observing a full moon.

Not so — the earthshine is called “albedo,” and my friend John Brannon and I were delighted that we both knew that factoid.

According to my research, if it is clear the crescent moon will appear on April 2 and May 6; and hopefully we’ll enjoy the albedo again. Meanwhile, watch for the constellations Leo and Orion, the latter being followed by Sirius, the bright Dog Star.

Many good friends are up there for your viewing enjoyment.

For your dining enjoyment, try these recipes.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

6 chicken thighs, bone in but skin off

1 can pineapple chunks packed in its own juice

1 green bell pepper, chunks

1 medium white or yellow onion, chunks

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 tblsp. low sodium soy sauce

Oil for cooking

2 tsp. cornstarch

In a non-stick 10-inch pan, season and brown the chicken in a little oil on both sides; set aside while preparing the sauce. Toss about a third of the onion and pepper chunks into the pan drippings and sauté until tender. Drain all the juice from the pineapple into the pan and mix with the brown sugar and soy sauce.

Replace the chicken into the pan, stir the sauce over it, cover, and allow to braise or simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining onions and peppers and half the can of pineapple so they will just wilt slightly and maintain their integrity. To thicken, dissolve the cornstarch in about one-half cup of cold water and stir in until glossy. Serve with your favorite brown or white rice.

A variation of this may be made by cutting the chicken into cubes, dredging them in cornstarch, browning them and cooking them in the sauce about 15 minutes. No need to add more cornstarch, since there is just the right amount from the dredging to thicken the dish. (I purchased an economical family pack of thighs, cooked them all in various ways, and packaged them in small portions in freezer packs.)

Make a compote of the remaining pineapple by cutting into wedges, adding a chiffonade of six fresh mint leaves and six finely minced pieces of crystallized or candied ginger; no need to muddle it, as the strong flavors will meld nicely. Speaking of strong flavors, prepare this without the mint, and instead use a splash of Chartreuse liqueur. Chill well before serving in a frosted glass.

Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day to your liking and plan on a special event to enjoy the Vernal or Spring Equinox on March 20. The sun will be setting due west, and so marks equal parts of day and night.

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian. It appears on the second, fourth and any fifth Thursdays. Please send recipes and ideas to Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or email to cambrian@thetribunenews.com.

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