An innocent question started me thinking about sacrifice, and how, growing up Catholic, we actually abstained from meat products on ALL Fridays, not just during Lent and Advent. I'm pretty sure my folks were dyed in the wool, John Birch Society (yikes, just let the oldsters in on my age) card carrying, pre-Vatican II holdouts, at least as far as fish Fridays were concerned. During Lent (the 40 days before Easter for you heathenish), sacrifices were encouraged because if Our Lord could go without food and water in the desert for an entire 40 days and nights, we could certainly live without hot dogs and Hamburger Helper one measly day of the week.
Mom was, shall we say, not a terribly adventurous cook, but she got the job done. I recall a lot of oven fried chicken (NOT shake 'n bake, do we look like we're made out of money?), spaghetti and mysterious things in gravy on toast cubes. That was termed "shit on a shingle" for reasons you would quickly discover if you ever ate it. Yes, we were poor....I remember we dined once on steak when I was a kid, but only because they found a great deal on horse meat - good thing I never associated it with the ponies we got to ride on an occasional trip to Alpenrose... Anyway, there were several different Friday meals, and they were rotated regularly so we would not rise up and revolt...or just be revolted (to revolt was confession fodder). The ones that stuck in my head the most were grilled cheese or tuna, tomato soup and popcorn, which we still enjoy to this day on those special Fridays, and the other was egg foo yung.
When I say "not adventurous", I mean making Chinese food involved soy sauce and canned bean sprouts...that is what was added to many scrambled eggs, and was made in the giant aluminum frying pan that only had the handle stub left, and was so disfigured from overheating that it sat on a point on a flat surface like a top....it had the natural shape of a wok, but it wasn't one. I vowed silently while eating that vomitus pile of steaming ova and wormy sprouts that I would NEVER EVER EVER make my family eat that crap. But shit happens and things change, and after ordering it at our fave Chinese restaurant when I had no choice (it was Friday, and Lent) and discovered that my mom's version was nothing like the dish was intended to be, I decided I had made an edict based on faulty information. So after some extensive research and a killer recipe for the gravy she neglected to realize was required to make ANY version palatable, I came up with the following - it's a little work, but so good you may not want to wait until Lent!
Moose Foo Yung
1 dozen eggs
1/2 C. cooked white rice
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Oil for frying
1-2 C. FRESH bean sprouts (if you use canned I will give you SUCH a frowning)
1/2 to 1 C. grated carrot
1 can water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 to 4 green onions, sliced
1 C. chopped mushrooms IF you want...don't be a baby
(PS...you can use whatever veggies turns your crank, I do not care)
1/2 lb. baby shrimp, or imitation krab, cut in smaller chunks
And AWAAAAY we go! Crack all the eggs and put into a blender with the rice, cornstarch and soy sauce, liquefy with the lid ON....you don't want kitchen cabinet foo yung. Pour into a large bowl and throw the shrimp or krab in (you could go without either...it still qualifies as meatless, duh) and set aside.
Cut bean sprouts ever so slightly - just try to make sure the bulk of them are cut in half-ish. Nothing more disgusting than taking a bite and having one hanging down your chin, unless perhaps it's a canned one doing the same thing...yeeeeeeech! Heat a large frying pan or wok with a little oil until SMOKIN' hot, then toss in the garlic which will burn almost instantly, then the carrots, mushroom and onion right behind to cool it off enough to not torch your garlic and start tossing. Keep flipping it around for about a minute, then throw in the water chestnuts and bean sprouts or whatever veggies you decide to use and stir fry another minute or two. Immediately dump into the egg mixture and stir quickly to cool it down fast and keep the eggs from cooking into curds. Now the fun part....
I never said this would be easy, and I added another variation of the process below to make it a bit more user friendly. I think restaurants have molds or rings to cook these in...that would be nice, but none of my pans were ever flat enough to create a seal and all the eggs would flow out from under the rings and really piss me off. So, if you want to make patties, here's how I do it: Put a half a ladle of egg/veggie mixture in a hot oiled skillet, repeat with as many as will fit in the pan. Using a spatula, immediately start corralling the egg back into each patty by pushing it into a rudimentary patty shape. They won't be perfect, and no one cares but me so don't worry about it. Let them cook until most of the liquid has set and they are slightly browned on the bottom, then flip it over and press down to distribute the veggies and let cook until a little browned on side two. If you aren't sure, press down and if any egg juice comes through the top, flip and cook another minute. Keep going and try not to curse the day I was born until the entire bowl is empty.
NEWS FLASH: For the lazy and overworked, I occasionally like to make it down and dirty - I use an egg pan (sometimes TWO), which is a small skillet, heat it up with oil and put 2-3 scoops of the egg mixture in it and make one giant patty. Like you weren't going to eat 3 or 4 of the little ones anyway...you know you were. Same process, but you can just flip the whole darn thing...I don't even use a spatula, I just flip in in the air like those Asian dudes at Benihana. Except I'm not Asian or a dude, and if you want me to flip it onto your plate you best be wearing something that does not require dry cleaning.
And there you go, a nice big steaming plate of Friday food, all ready to go - except for one last thing.....
Yes, I said GRAVY. Don't bother without it, why would you want to eat a bunch of veggies and eggs unless it had a delicious sauce to pour all over it?
1 C. chicken broth (YES, during Lent use vegetable broth or water)
1/4 C. oyster sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch....maybe
1 tsp. sugar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, whisking constantly until it boils and thickens...add more cornstarch mixed w/cold water if you want it thicker, more water if too thick. And you may want to double it....then you can just chunk up the "foo", throw it in a bowl of this stuff (just don't tell your doctor if you're on a low sodium diet) and eat it like soup. You'll be sick, but it'll be SO worth it. Just kidding.....;-p
So thanks to Alecia's question about oyster sauce, which does BTW contain oyster juice, but tastes nothing like them...and I DO know because I love them as long as I don't look at their disgusting guts when I eat em fried ONLY, you now all have something new to try for Lent. And if you dump the whole wad into a giant misshapen skillet and cook it like scrambled eggs and pour the gravy over the whole mess, I will not report you to the ACOA (Anal Cooks of America); just don't tell anyone I said to do it, and for gosh sake, at least sprinkle some green onions and maybe even sesame seeds over the top so it looks like you did it on purpose and not because you were lazy.