Chinese-Russian fusion – why not?

So, here I am sitting at my desk and typing merrily away on my computer’s keyboard. It’s just going on 6:30 a.m., and I’ve already experienced many joys of nature.

First and foremost is the backyard neighbor’s “elephant rooster” waking up the household at 5 a.m.

I call it an “elephant rooster” as it trumpets like one starting around 5 a.m. – sometimes even 4 a.m. – and continues throughout the day.

I don’t understand rooster language, but obviously this one has much to inform the neighborhood about.

Letting the dogs out to do their morning absolutions, I prepare the food for the indoor pets and the outdoor kitty family. The kittens are already up, jumping and playing while Mama Callie looks on with sleepy eyes.

Putting down their food dish, the kittens will not eat until I pick up each one and give kisses and a belly rub, which earns me some very loud purr action.

About an hour later, the coffee – vanilla caramel flavor this morning – is brewing and the food dishes are being washed up.

Gazing out the kitchen window, I am greeted by the lovely sight of a hummingbird at the water feeder. It enjoys sipping at the sugar water (only natural cane sugar – no red food dye), its wings beating furiously, yet I can still make out the iridescent colors of its plumage.

Oh, now I have just shocked myself as I have spelled “iridescent” correctly and not even had my first cup of coffee yet.

While the temperature outside is still cool and a slight breeze sways the tree branches, I know it will be another hot, dry day.

After experiencing such joy from nature this morning, I remember the fires burning in our forests, and my heart aches. The trees, plant life, the wildlife...

Spring saw the birthing of animal babies. Were their parents able to get them away in time?

Whether by nature’s own doing (lightning), or the sheer stupidity of man (abandoned campfire), fire destroys, and the loss is heartbreaking.

But now we move to thoughts on food.

Pepper steak, a stir-fried Chinese American dish consisting of sliced beef steak cooked with sliced green and/or red bell peppers plus seasonings of soy sauce and ginger.

Sliced onions are a common addition, and bean sprouts add a little more texture.

The dish originated from Fujian cuisine, where it was known as qingjiao ròusi, the meat of choice being pork.

A similar dish, called chin-jao rosu, is found in Japanese Chinese cuisine. As Chinese restaurants began to expand throughout the United States – around 1948 – diners were introduced to pepper steak.

However, due to religious or health reasons, many could not or would not eat pork, and beef is definitely all-American.

While researching the origin, I came upon a definition of pepper steak which simply is, “strips of steak sautéed with green peppers and onions.”

However, a second definition gives this dish a French twist: “steak covered with crushed peppercorns, pan-broiled, and served with brandy-and-butter sauce.” This refers more to Steak au Poivre.

In 1961, Julia Child introduced this recipe to America when it was published in the New York Times. It is featured in her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and now it is bragging time.

She actually put out two books, Part 1 and Part 2, and I happily found a first edition of each at an antique shop, of all places.

In 2002, food blogger, Julie Powell challenged herself to cook a recipe from these Julie Child cookbooks daily for an entire year.

The movie, Julie and Julia depicts the adventure, and while it’s a well-done movie, there is no way I personally would ever take up a challenge like this.

However, I do challenge myself to come up with new ways of cooking up an “old” recipe.

Did you ever get in the mood for a dish, but wanted another one as well? Do you cook up both, pick just one, or do something unique like combining?

Well, I ended up combining ingredients that would fit pepper steak, but also Russian stroganoff, all due to not having any fresh or canned mushrooms!

Basically, I fused a Chinese dish – pepper steak – with a Russian one – stroganoff – and came up with…oh, the smell, the taste... It was all intoxicating!

I have written up stroganoff before, but as a reminder, credit for the recipe was given to three people.

The history behind this dish is vague: #1 – 1850s created by a chef for Count Grigory Stroganov who had rotten teeth and needed the meat to be very soft.

#2 – 1891 created by French Chef Briere for Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov using shallots.

#3 – 1871 Elena Molokhovets writes a cookbook for young housewives. Her recipe uses mushrooms, onions, bouillon, allspice, and mustard.

My recipe calls for the dish to be cooked in a crockpot for eight hours, the beef becoming so tender it simply melts in the mouth.

So now, I present to you, Pepper Steak Stroganoff.

2 lbs. lean beef roast, cut into one-inch cubes; 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour; 2 Tbsp. each red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; 1 cup each green and red bell peppers, cut into half-inch slices; 1 large red onion, cut into half-inch slices; 2 cups beef stock; ½ tsp. ground black pepper; 2 Tbsp. minced garlic; 1 lb. wide egg noodles; 4 Tbsp. butter; 12 oz. sour cream

Spray four-quart crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Add in beef and sprinkle flour over cubes. Add vinegar, Worcestershire, bell peppers, and onions in that order.

Mix together stock, black pepper and garlic; pour over all in the pot. Cover, set on low, and cook for eight hours.

At the seven-hour mark, cook the egg noodles according to package directions; drain, and place in bowl. Gently mix in butter until melted and noodles coated.

At the eight-hour mark, add sour cream to crockpot, mix well, and serve over egg noodles.

Makes eight servings.

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