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Cooking With Tea
Tea is not only a refreshing, delicious beverage, it's a wonderful ingredient in cooking food. It's a marinade, a tenderizer, a condiment and, certainly, a unique bon mot for your dinner guests to savor while they wonder why the rice tastes so special or the chicken is so tender. Not only does it taste fantastic, but herbal tea can be an excellent supplier of health benefits as well. Whether you want to use a green, leaf, flower, root, seed, bark, or berry tea, you’re likely to find exactly what you’re looking for.
I champion the use of pure Camellia sinensis, aka "real tea," versus herbal infusions, fruited or scented blends or other beverages. However, I do confess that fruited or scented blends, in particular, make great flavorings to both pastries and entrees.
As you experiment drinking a variety of teas, consider using your favorites to flavor foods. Although it's always a good idea to buy the best teas for drinking, I admit a selfish caveat that the best should be drunk in its pure state rather than be married with other flavors in cooking. Does that means the "second best" (or less) is more suitable for cooking? As Confucius said, "Let your palate be your guide."
An All Tea Menu
Hors d'oeuvre:Tea- Marbled Eggs
3 cups water
8 small eggs (or 24 quail eggs)
4 tea bags of black tea or 2 tbs. of loose-leaf black tea, e.g. Keemun
1 tbs. kosher salt
Cover the eggs in a pot with cold water and bring to a boil, simmer for 10-12 minutes. Remove eggs with slotted spoon, reserving the water. Place eggs in cold water to cool and, when they're comfortable enough to handle, gently tap the eggs all over with the back of a teaspoon to make cracks. Add tea leaves to the reserved water and then place the eggs back in gently and add the salt. Simmer covered for an hour. Take the pot off the stove and leave the eggs in tea water to soak for 30 more minutes. Remove eggs and allow them to cool before removing the shells. The eggs will then have a cobweb of brown lines not unlike those found on fine marble. Halve them and sprinkle with paprika and minced parsley for added color. If using smaller eggs, no garnish is necessary.
Entree: Tea-Smoked Chicken
It's important to have a good kitchen exhaust fan for this recipe as it does "smoke". We use chicken wings, but 3-4 lbs. of thighs work as well.
16 chicken wings
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbs. grated fresh peeled ginger root
1 tbs. honey
3/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 c. cream sherry
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. loose-leaf Lapsang Souchong tea
Sesame seeds as garnish
Cut wing tip off drumstick end of wing and slice through the wings. Wash and pat dry. In a blender place chopped garlic, grated ginger root, honey, soy sauce and sherry and process only 20 seconds. Pour marinade into a 9"x13" baking pan and coat the chicken wings. Cover pan and refrigerate at least two hours, rotating wings at least one time. Line a heavy cast iron or steel roasting pan with heavy-duty aluminum and sprinkle the sugar and tea on the foil. Place a cake or wire rack in the skillet, and arrange the chicken wings on top. Cover with lid or more aluminum and turn the burner onto high, cooking chicken for 30 minutes. Resist the urge to lift off the pan, and keep chicken covered for 20 more minutes. To make their appearance browned or crisper, coat with a little sesame oil and put in a preheated 450-degree oven for about five minutes. Serve with sprinkled sesame seeds atop. Great with peanut or mustard sauce.
Side Dish: Green Beans with Garlic and Tea
1 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbs. Keemun tea leaves, brewed in two cups of spring water
Steam green beans in water. While beans are steaming, saute minced garlic in one tsp. of canola oil until opaque. Add brewed tea and simmer with garlic for a few minutes. Remove beans from steamer and put in a large bowl. Pour tea marinade over drained beans. Garnish with toasted almond slices, as desired. Serve immediately.
Side Dish: Wild Rice with Tea
This recipe is from the late, and sorely missed, Cordon Bleu-trained chef Nat Litt, of The House of Tea in Philadelphia. His daughter Jessica manages the shop which continues to offer fine gourmet teas and tea blends from around the world. When in the city of brotherly love, stop by at 720 South Fourth Street. Hours fluctuate during the year, so call for correct times: (888) 923-8327.
1 tsp. good-quality oolong or black tea leaves
1/2 chopped tomato
1 tsp. each: chopped red, yellow and green bell peppers
1 tsp. chopped onion
1/2 chopped onion
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbs. butter
2 c. wild rice
4 c. chicken stock
2 oz. demi-glaze (concentrated chicken stock), optional. If eliminated, use additional chicken stock.
Sweat tomato, peppers and onion in butter until tender. Add wild rice, tea leaves, spices and chicken stock to cover. Add demi-glaze. Bake in covered casserole dish in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf, fluff and serve.
Dessert: Orange Pekoe & Grand Marnier Souffle
From Pastry Chef Alan Gontowski, created in honor of Samuel Twining, OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), using Twinings Orange Pekoe. Chef Gonowski served this souffle in molded chocolate tea cups, made in cupcake tins with handles of rolled chocolate attached. It is just as attractive (and delicious) made in individual ramekins.
1/2 c. water
2 tbs. Grand Marnier
1/2 c. heavy cream
10 tbs. granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated
2 Twinings Orange Pekoe tea bags
Whip heavy cream with 2 tbs. sugar and refrigerate. Separate eggs and add 4 tbs. of sugar to the yolks and whip until thickened and light yellow in color. Set aside. Whip egg whites to a light foam and slowly add the remaining 4 tbs. of sugar, whipping until stiff peaks are formed. Heat water and steep tea bags, and leave to brew for four minutes. Squeeze bags to draw out all the flavorful liquor of the brewed tea. Place tea on the stove and bring to a boil; simmer at medium heat uncovered until reduced two-thirds. Remove from heat and cool. Place yolk mixture in a double boiler with tea liquid and temper over warm water until the tea liquid reaches a ribbon stage. Pour into a large mixing bowl and fold in egg whites, then fold in chilled cream. Add Grand Marnier and pour entire mixture into a souffle mold, ramekins or chocolate cups. Refrigerate.
Diana Rosen is a freelance writer for eZines, web site copy, and print magazine articles on food, beverage, and other lifestyle topics. The veteran journalist is also the author of 10 nonfiction books and the co-author of three others. For more information, write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.