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Pak Choi in November

Pak Choi

I needed about 10 of my homegrown, late-season pak choi plants to come anywhere close to the amount I’d have gotten from a single commercially-grown plant. Still, it made a great stir-fry.

Honestly, I thought I’d harvested my last of the season. Two or three weeks ago I brought in all the peppers and winter squash. Last week I dug the remaining sweet potatoes. I even buried most of the main planting bed under 18 inches of autumn leaves. And then there was a dinner pinch.

The full breadth of my meal-planning this month has been, “shop from the freezer.” With Christmas nigh, my wife will want freezer space to stockpile home baked cookies so I’ll try to use something from our freezer in every dinner I prepare until Christmas.

Finding a pack of round steaks sparked thoughts of stir fry. A simple beef and vegetable dish would take little time to prepare and it wouldn’t be a problem to zip to a market for some broccoli or cauliflower. But wait! What about the pak choi?

Succession Planting

After I’d pulled the onions in late August or early September, I had planted pak choi seeds in their place. Sprouts appeared quickly, but cloudy, cold weather has kept growth slow. Supposedly, pak choi (also known as bok choy, pak choy, and bok choi) matures in about 30 days. This Post Produce is at least 45 days past sowing and it took about ten of my plants to equal what you’d get from one commercially-grown plant.

Not a big deal. It’s very satisfying to have harvested anything edible this late in November. My pak choi has thrived through the season-killing frost and at least half a dozen below-freezing nights. The coldest night bottomed out at about 24F degrees but the plants look great (except for some holes chewed through the leaves).

The Stir Fry

There’s nothing amazing about the stir fry—except that it tasted great. When I prepared marinade for the beef, I discovered we had no soy sauce (I was dumbfounded); I used oyster sauce to season the dish.

Ingredients:

1 lb beef cut into bite-sized pieces

2 t grated fresh ginger (divided)

1 t onion powder

¼ cup oyster sauce

¼ cup white cooking (or other) wine

½ to 1 t Siracha Hot Chili Sauce

1 large fresh sweet pepper cored, de-seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces (I used a sweet Italian pepper because I’m still working through what I harvested, but a bell pepper would work nicely)

1 medium onion peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 mature head of pak choi or equivalent cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces (seriously: peel apart the stalks of the plants and rinse them thoroughly.)

cooking oil for frying

1½ cups chicken stock

~1 T corn starch

Procedure:

Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl or zipper-topped plastic bag. Mix thoroughly and make sure all the meat is submerged in the liquid. Set this in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but overnight is better.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or frying pan and tilt the pan to coat its bottom and sides. When the oil is very hot, fish the beef out of the marinade (save the marinade) and put the beef into the hot pan. Stir the beef to keep it from sticking or burning and cook it through—this could take 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how well your stove heats the pan.

Pour the beef and pan juices into a bowl and set them aside. Scrape the pan relatively clean, add 2 more tablespoons of oil, and return the pan to the stove. Tilt the pan to coat it, let it become very hot, and then add the onion pieces. Stir to keep the onion from burning and, when the pieces become translucent, reduce the heat to medium.

Add the ginger, stir it through, and immediately add the cut up sweet pepper. Stir for 3 to 5 minutes, add the pak choi, and stir to coat everything with the hot oil.

Pour the reserved marinade into the wok and stir to coat all the vegetable pieces with the marinade. Cook until the liquid starts to boil and add 1 cup of the chicken stock; bring it back to a boil.

Return the beef to the pan and stir it together with the vegetables until the liquid boils. In the meantime, stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into the remaining chicken stock and stir that mixture into the cooking vegetables and beef. The liquid should thicken rather quickly at which point the stir fry is ready to serve. I served mine with rice.

If we get a few more warm days, I may get another decent harvest of pak choi this year. Seems more likely this was my actual final harve

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