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Have a flaming hot New Year

Steve Pardo
The Detroit News

Good riddance Goat, this year it’s all about the Monkey.

And this year it’s not just any monkey. This year’s primate is hot, hot, hot.

The dozen animals that make up the Chinese zodiac sign, according to the Chinese element theory, each are linked with one of five elements of gold (or metal), wood, water, fire, or earth. So, come Feb. 8, we’ll transition from not only the Year of the Goat, but from earth to fire.

The Chinese New Year — also called Spring Festival — changes yearly because it’s based on a lunar calendar. It’s celebrated at the second new moon after the Winter Solstice and can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February.

The last time it was the Year of the Fire Monkey was 1956 — a year where Norma Jean became Marilyn; Elvis created scandal with “Hound Dog” on Milton Berle’s show and Fidel Castro landed in Cuba.

Close to a quarter of the world’s population will celebrate Chinese New Year, including Chinese-speaking countries such as Singapore and Taiwan, as well as countries including Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Vietnam.

Across Metro Detroit, scores of Chinese restaurants will bring out special menus for the celebration.

You can also make your own celebrations at home with special dishes. Whole fish holds the promise for a good beginning and a strong end of the year. Noodles represent a long life. Clams and other seafood symbolize wealth.

And lobsters and other foods seen as luxuries are popular. (When are lobsters not popular?) The bright red color of a cooked lobster is considered lucky.

The Fire Monkey is known as the “most active” and “bossiest” of all the other types of monkeys so, according to tradition, hold on for an interesting year.

Slow-Roasted Duck

Recipe from Sara Moulton

5 1/2- to 6-pound Pekin (Long Island) duck

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 small carrot, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup dry red wine

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons drained bottled green peppercorns, packed in brine

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the duck, pat dry and reserve. (Save the liver for another use, such as sauteing and serving on toast.)

Cut the last two joints of the wings off and reserve. Remove the excess fat from the cavity of the duck and cut off the flap of skin at the back end of the duck. (You can save the skin and fat to render into duck fat for future use.) Rinse the duck under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Using the tip of a paring knife, prick the duck all over, in 1/2-inch intervals, inserting the knife at an angle to pierce just the skin, not the flesh. Make sure to prick the skin around the leg thigh joint thoroughly, as there is a lot of fat stored there. Season the duck well with salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast on the oven’s middle shelf for 3 1/2 hours, removing the roasting pan after the first and second hour of roasting to re-prick the duck skin.

After the duck has roasted for 3 1/2 hours, carefully pour off all the fat at the bottom of the roasting pan (reserving it for other uses, such as sauteing potatoes), and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Return the duck to the oven and roast it for 10 minutes. Transfer the duck to a platter, cover with foil, then let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.

While in the duck is roasting, cut the neck and wings into 1 1/2-inch pieces. In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the vegetable oil. Add the neck, giblets and wings. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrot and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring to pick up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the celery, thyme, bay leaf, broth and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface and adding water to the saucepan if the liquid dips below the bones, until the duck is ready to come out of the oven.

While the duck is resting, strain the stock and discard the solids. Measure the liquid. You should have about 1 1/2 cups. If you have more, boil the liquid down. If you have less, add water. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and 1/4 cup water. In the saucepan, bring the duck stock to a boil, add the flour mixture in a stream, whisking. Bring the mixture back to a boil and simmer 4 minutes. Stir in the green peppercorns and mustard, then season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Carve the duck and serve each portion with some of the sauce. Serves 4.

Per serving: 980 calories; 75 g fat (25 g saturated fat; 68 percent calories from fat); 10 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 210 mg cholesterol; 850 mg sodium; 50 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Oven Roasted Chinese Spareribs

Recipe adapted from menshealth.com

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon Chinese five spice

1 1/2 tablespoons chili bean sauce (or 1 tablespoon bean sauce mixed with 1/2 tablespoon Sriracha)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

3 1/2 pounds pork spareribs

3 tablespoons honey

In a medium bowl, mix the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, five spice, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar, and hoisin sauce.

Spoon the marinade over the spareribs, making sure the ribs are coated underneath and on both sides. Cover the ribs and let them marinate in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the ribs on a baking sheet and brush them with honey on all sides. Cook the ribs until tender (a fork should be able to slide in between the bones with little effort), about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Raise the heat to 450 degrees and cook until the ribs brown on top, about 10 minutes. Serves 4.

Per serving: 664 calories; 45 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 61 percent calories from fat); 21 g carbohydrates; 17 g sugar; 170 mg cholesterol; 1,340 mg sodium; 42 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Potstickers

From allrecipes.com

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 medium head cabbage, finely chopped

1 green onion, finely chopped

2 slices fresh ginger root, finely chopped

2 water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 (14 ounce) package wonton wrappers

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon chili oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Crumble pork into a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the pork, cabbage, green onion, ginger, water chestnuts, salt, sugar and sesame oil. Chill in the refrigerator 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.

Place a tablespoon of the pork mixture into each of the wonton wrappers. Fold the wrappers, and seal the edges with a moistened fork.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium high heat. Place the pot stickers into the oil seam sides up. Heat 30 seconds to a minute. Pour water into the skillet. Gently boil 7 to 8 minutes, until oil and water begins to sizzle, then add remaining oil. When the bottoms begin to brown, remove pot stickers from heat.

For dipping sauce: In a small serving bowl, mix together the chili oil, soy sauce, and vinegar, adjusting proportions to taste. Makes 15.

Per three potstickers: 160 calories; 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 17 g carbohydrates; 17 g sugar; 11 mg cholesterol; 365 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Chinese Zodiac

Each year in the Chinese zodiac is represented by one of 12 animals. The cycle then repeats. The Chinese New Year date changes since it’s based on a lunar calendar.

Also called the Spring Festival, it is celebrated at the second new moon after the Winter Solstice. This year, Feb. 8.

2016

Year of the Monkey

2017

Rooster

2018

Dog

2019

Pig

2020

Rat

2021

Ox

2022

Tiger

2023

Rabbit

2024

Dragon

2025

Snake

2026

Horse

2027

Goat