Matt’s Bok Choi-ce

From shareholder Matt Giraud

Bok Choi. Every day, you open the fridge and it’s there, staring sullenly back at you. A little more limp every day, to be sure, but almost defiantly limp: “I will be here long after you’re gone,” it seems to say in a weary, rumbling voice, “for I am Bok Choi” — and in a hoarse whisper — “the compost-maker.”

Last night, I called its bluff. Bok Choi has always been intimidating because of how inflexibly Asian it seems to be. Sure, you can toss it into a stir fry, but let’s be honest: you’re only putting it in there because that’s the only thing you’ve heard you can do with this vaguely sinister-sounding vegetable. I mean, if you were stir frying something and you realized, gosh, I’m fresh out of Bok Choi, would you panic and ricochet across town, shoving aside the weak and infirm until you cradled a bunch once more in your trembling hands? I didn’t think so.

So I say run roughshod over centuries of culinary tradition and repurpose it this way:

    1-2 heads Bok Choi
    1-2 heads green garlic
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    ground pepper to taste
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 cup chicken stock
    1/4 cup white wine
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh herb (oregano, thyme – see below)

First, chop off the end of the Bok Choi and dice it into bite size bits. (Some like to separate the succulent white stem bits from the green leaves — because the stem bits take longer to cook, this way you can drop them in first and put the leaves in closer to the end.) Drop the parts into a salad spinner to clean them off, and while that’s whizzing around, chop up the green garlic into itty bits.

Next, put a large sauce pan on the stove, and set the heat to high. While it’s heating up, turn to face the chefs of southeast asia and whisper “forgive me,” then quickly spin and dump the olive — not vegetable — oil into the pan. Chuckle to yourself in Italian.

As the oil gets hot (but before it smokes), toss in the garlic and saute it until it just begins to get brown, scraping it officiously from the bottom of the pan. This is where you’ll look particularly chef-like, so play it up, whistling the Marseillaise and lifting your eyebrows saucily. Then dump in all the Bok Choi, delighting in the loud sizzle.

Turn the Bok Choi to coat it with the garlicky oil, but then become pointedly casual and let the vegetables sweat it out for a minute or two. If, as you’re waiting, your thoughts wander to how sorry the Bok Choi must be that it messed with you, who can blame you? Sprinkle in the salt and pepper.

After a bit, turn the vegetables again, and repeat this drill until the bottom of the pan begins to get brown, but not burnt. The idea here is that you’re sweating and squeezing out a good bit of its water so that once you dump in the liquids, the vegetable will willingly lap it up. Cruel, yes, but choke back your tears and dump in the wine. The resulting liquidy mix will allow you to deglaze the pan, mopping and scraping the tasty brown stuff on the bottom of the pan until it shines like new again. Then file your nails as you let the vegetables absorb the wine.

Now thoroughly soused and singing off-key bits from Madame Butterfly, the vegetables are ready for their next hydration ritual: chicken stock (you can probably substitute vegetable stock here, but I haven’t tried it, so you’re on your own).

By the time the stock is gone, the vegetables are basically ready. Taste and salt to your pleasure. Depending on how you’ll be using the dish, put in oregano, thyme or another herb near the end of cooking to veer the dish toward your ultimate evil plan.

Of course, what you’ve really done here is treat the Bok Choi as greens instead of some Asian fare. I make no apologies, and you may not either, once you taste it or serve it as a side dish. Further desecrating the Bok Choi shrine, I actually used some of it in a burrito (the oregano worked well here), and with a judicious application of Laura’s arugula and mazuna, its was pretty satisfying.

…And better yet, history!

For some real information about what to do with Bok Choi from people with more imagination than me, try these links: