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Microwave

Healthful Stir-Cooking Techniques Require Little Effort

October 20, 1988|JEAN ANDERSON and ELAINE HANNA | Anderson and Hanna are nutritionists and cookbook authors specializing in microwave cookery. and

Stir-frying, for which foods must constantly be tossed and turned over high heat, makes no sense for a microwave. But stir-cooking does.

First of all, stir-cooked dishes don't require nonstop attention. Second, they can be cooked in a minimum of oil--sometimes with no oil at all and that's good news for dieters. Finally, vegetables, whether cooked solo or in tandem with meats or seafood, remain crisp and colorful with most of their vitamins intact. To make stir-cooking easier, follow these guidelines:

For stir-cooking meats and poultry, large platters work best. Browning skillets can be used if meats only are to be browned, but if vegetables are to be added, it simply takes too long to reheat the browning skillet at each recipe stage to be practical. It's more efficient to stir-cook the vegetables first in a casserole, then the meat via the platter method, adding it to the vegetables after it's browned. It's important that the platter be microwave-safe, also that it touch neither the oven sides nor door.

Toward the Center

For uniformly cooked foods, always move the more quickly cooked items from the outside toward the center during cooking as the recipe that follows directs.

Always use top-quality, tender cuts of meat for stir-cooking: loin, for example, tenderloin, rib eye or top round. And be careful not to overcook them lest they toughen. Microwave stir-cooking is so fast there's no time for such comparatively tough cuts as shoulder or rump to tenderize.

Resist the temptation to use supermarket meats cut for stir-frying. They're far too irregular in size and shape to cook evenly, so buy a piece of well-marbled rib eye or top round of beef or boned pork loin or boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breast and cut the strips yourself to the exact size a recipe recommends. Freezing the meat 45 to 60 minutes will make it easier to slice cleanly and quickly.

If you're counting calories, substitute chicken broth for sesame oil and proceed as the recipe directs. Black bean sauce, chili oil and sesame oil are all available in foreign-food sections of many supermarkets and Asian markets.

SICHUAN CHILI PORK WITH BROCCOLI

1 pound boned lean pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut across grain in 4 1/4 x 1/4-inch strips

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili oil

2 tablespoons sesame oil or vegetable oil

1 cup 1/4-inch thick celery slices

1 cup broccoli florets

3/4 cup minced green onions

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons black bean sauce, soy bean sauce or bean paste

1 teaspoon sugar

Hot cooked rice, optional

Combine pork with chili oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil in bowl and set aside. Mix remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil with celery, broccoli, green onions and garlic in 2-quart casserole at least 10 inches across.

Cover with wax paper (to prevent spattering) and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 4 1/2 to 5 minutes, stirring at half time, until broccoli and celery are tender-crisp. Cover casserole and set aside.

Toss pork again and arrange doughnut fashion, around edge of 10- or 11-inch round or oval platter. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 4 minutes, rearranging strips and moving cooked ones to center at half time.

Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, black bean sauce and sugar in small bowl. Pour evenly over pork, cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes, testing pork for doneness and rotating platter 180 degrees after 1 minute. Stir pork mixture into vegetables, cover with casserole lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 2 to 4 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Serve at once with rice.

Variation: Sichuan Chili Chicken or Turkey With Broccoli: Prepare as directed, substituting 1 pound chicken breast or turkey cutlet strips for pork.

Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.

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