Remembering the legendary Leeann Chin

14 Feb

Leeann Chin became a household name in the Twin Cities back in the early 80s. A Chinese immigrant, she moved to Minnesota in 1957. Legend has it she worked as a seamstress and often surprised her clients with her authentically prepared Chinese dishes – which led to a catering business and ultimately the opening of three very popular restaurants. Reservations were hard to come back – and her buffet menu wasn’t revealed in advance. Hong Kong steak, shrimp toast, eggrolls and lemon chicken were among diner favorites. Leeann Chin’s partnership with Betty Crocker led to fast casual restaurants with her name and eventually the fine dining locations closed and the company was bought. While there are still fast-food restaurants with the Leeann Chin name, I have discovered I can recreate her original dishes better at home – thanks to the two cookbooks she published.

This recipe is a standard and a great way to start cooking from her book. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Prepping everything ahead of time helps. Betty Crocker’s Chinese Cookbook, Recipes by Leann Chin (1981)

Stir-fried Beef with Broccoli

8 medium dried black mushrooms

1 pound beef flank or tenderloin steak

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon soy sauce (light or dark)

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1½ pounds broccoli

2 green onions (with tops)

¼ cup chicken broth or cold water

¼ cup oyster sauce

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped gingerroot

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup chicken broth

Green onions, chopped

Soak mushrooms in warm water until soft: about 30 minutes; drain. Rinse in warm water; drain. Remove and discard stems: cut caps into ½-inch pieces. Trim fat from beef; cut beef with grain into two-inch strips. Cut strips across grain int 1/8-inch slices. Toss beef, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, soy sauce and white pepper in glass or plastic bowl. Cover and refrigerated 20 minutes.

Cut broccoli into 1-inch pieces. Cut lengthwise gashes in stems thicker than 1 inch. Place broccoli in boiling water. Cover and cook 1 minute; drain. Immediately rinse under running cold water; drain. Cut green onions into 2-inch pieces. Mix ¼ cup chicken broth, the oyster sauce and 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

Heat work (or large frying pan) until 1 or 2 drops of water bubble and skitter when sprinkled in wok. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil; rotate wok to coat side. Add beef, gingerroot and garlic; stir fry until beef is brown, about 3 minutes. Remove beef from wok.

Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to work; rotate to coat side. Add mushrooms, broccoli and ½ teaspoon salt; stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in ½ cup chicken broth; heat to boiling. Stir in beef; heat to boiling. Stir in cornstarch mixture; cook and stir until thickened, about 15 seconds. Garnish with green onions.

Note: I added 1 onion, roughly chopped, and parboiled it along with the broccoli. Feel free to mix up veggies – or meats!

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