I’m still not done with charred scallions; a fat and unruly bunch still remains from my spring cleaning of the garden prior to the new load of compost being spread around for this year’s planting. I’m going to plant twice as many this fall, and leave them unprotected and neglected all winter just so I can have even more next spring to char and chew and enjoy while I mutter insults about all the wimpy vegetables that can’t endure the intemperate hardships of our climate and still make for such sweet eating come the thaw.
Stripping the brown outer leaves under running water to reveal their bright, shiny interiors, pungent with the sulfurous tang of alliums that we love so much doesn’t feel like work. It feels like magic. Combining these nearly fluorescent stalks with gorgeous venison our neighbor shot a few miles away felt like an appropriate way to conclude a bright but chilly April day.
I love venison, but its lack of fat means you either need to cook it rare and sauce it or braise it long and slow. I cut these steaks into strips and hurled them into a spitting hot wok with a generous dollop of duck fat, followed by an armload of scallions, cut into about two inch lengths. After everything took on some of that inimitable wok hai, “the breath of the wok,” that uniquely charred yet not overcooked flavor, I poured in a beaker of sauce: chicken stock, soy sauce, cider vinegar, grated garlic and ginger, fish sauce, corn starch, and hot pepper. It bubbled, thickened, and smelled very good. Chewy, silky, fragrant, sharp: until recently, I hadn’t really treated scallions as a vegetable to feature in a dish very often. I used to cook them along with asparagus, browning them and then adding some liquid to finish, but that was about it. Now I’ll eat a bowl of them with little else. They are addictive.
Even now, hours later, as I walk through the house it smells like charred Chinese scallions. And I want leftovers. And there aren’t any.