Last week, my chef friend Walter (featured on this blog here and here and maybe a few other places) went all out to whip up the following meal on Sandy Hook. He had said a week earlier that he wanted to have my mom, Justin, and I for stir-fry on the beach. However, he ended up cooking it himself! He brought along two propane jets and a slew of ingredients. It was impressive. He used to run the restaurant Wildflowers in New Hope, PA. I’ve learned more about the restaurant business from him than anyone else.
He really thought of everything to pull this off. There was chicken marinating in sweet chili sauce, mushrooms, kale, pineapple, baby corns, onions, ginger, peppers, green chili, and basmati rice. He stir-fried each ingredient separately which was great because it took about an hour to cook and dragged out the evening. It was very casual to stand around drinking wine and taking in the sights and smells of a slowly prepared stir-fry. As it happens, this was also the night I learned how easily white Merlot goes down when you are hanging around outside.
One at a time they went into the hot, well-seasoned wok. First it was the baby corn, then the mushrooms. The most fragrant of all was most definitely the sliced fresh ginger. There are not many aromas on this earth more fragrant than ginger frying in a hot wok. By cooking all of these ingredients separately, the oils and wok became infused. The final addition was the chicken in a glorious sweet chili marinade. When the chicken was cooked it was removed and the rice was heated up in the sweet remnants.
Walter had even remembered to bring chopsticks “for the two wise-asses”, meaning Justin and I who told him we cannot eat Chinese food without them. However, Walter was adamant, “This is not Chinese food. It is stir-fry.” Either way, the flavors and smells were delicious. The other two shelters nearby had people grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. How jealous they would have been if they walked over and saw what we had.
At around 7:30 PM, we walked down to the nearest sandy area with wine glasses in hand to toast the setting sun. It was magical, almost surreal. (This enhanced by being buzzed from our little party killing three liters of wine and a six-pack of beer…). We then returned to our tables and scarfed down a homemade peach cobbler and chocolate chips cookies which my mom brought.
I must say, I have had an awesome summer, but this really put it over the top. There were so many times when I said to myself and out loud, “Who does this?” Walter prepped and packaged each ingredient individually and had a lot to clean up at home when we were done. I never thought I would have had an experience like this. A simple meal in familiar surroundings with family and friends it was, but there was something magical about it. Hard to describe and almost unbelievable if not for the pictures.