November 20, 2010

Kung Pao Chicken with Stir-Fried Vegetables

Recently I got a craving for some spicy Chinese.  At one time it was pretty easy to find really good Chinese food in Des Moines, but that time is, sadly, long past.   Many of the better Chinese restaurants have been driven out of business by the proliferation of Chinese buffets - apparently a lot of people don't care if the food is any good as long as they get a lot of it for cheap - and most of the ones still around just aren't that great.  Even the ones that have survived the buffets are mostly past their prime (or were never very prime to begin with).

Thankfully, I don't have to rely on take-out when I'm in the mood for Chinese.  The recipe below is one I tossed together for the occasion.  Traditional Kung Pao isn't very heavy on the vegetables, but I wanted something more nutritionally balanced, so I modified things a bit to accommodate more vegetables.  We were both quite happy with the result.

Kung Pao Chicken with Stir-Fried Vegetables

yield = approx. 6 ample servings

4       boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into bite-size pieces
4       tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2       tablespoons minced garlic, divided
3       teaspoons soy sauce, divided
1/2    teaspoon salt, divided
3/4    cup unsalted roasted peanuts
4       dried chili peppers, chopped
1       one-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3/4    cup chicken broth or Asian-style chicken stock
2       tablespoons rice wine
2       tablespoons corn starch
1       tablespoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
1       tablespoon hoisin sauce
1       tablespoon oyster sauce
2       teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
4       cups fresh broccoli florets
2       carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1       bunch green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1       can water chestnuts, drained
4       cups hot, freshly-cooked rice

Combine chicken, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, one tablespoon of the minced garlic, 2 teaspoons soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  Allow the chicken to marinate at room temperature for about 1/2 hour.  

Add the peanuts and chopped chili peppers to another bowl and set aside. 

Mix the ginger and the remaining tablespoon of garlic in a small bowl and set aside.  

Add the chicken broth or stock, one teaspoon of soy sauce, rice wine, corn starch, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a bowl; stir to combine then set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat until just starting to smoke.  Add the broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts and the sliced green onions, save for a tablespoon or so of the greens.  Stir-fry until the broccoli is starting to get tender and the other vegetables are lightly browned, about 6 minutes.  Remove to a large bowl and set aside.

Heat another tablespoon of oil for a minute or so, then add the chicken mixture and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.  Add the peanuts and dried chilis and stir-fry until the peanuts have started to brown, about 45 seconds.  Push the contents of the skillet off to the side and add the garlic-ginger mix to the cleared area in the center of the pan.  Stir-fry the garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds, then stir into the chicken mixture. 

Push the chicken mixture off to the sides of the skillet again.  Briefly stir the broth mixture to recombine, then pour it into the middle of the skillet.  Stir it until it has started to thicken, then add the vegetables and stir-fry everything together for a minute or so.  Sprinkle the reserved onion greens over the cooked rice and serve immediately.

You can use this same recipe to make Kung Pao Shrimp with Vegetables.  Simply use one pound of fresh, peeled and deveined shrimp in place of the chicken.  Follow the recipe as written, except that you stir-fry the shrimp mixture only until the shrimp has just started to turn opaque (about 40-45 seconds) before adding the peanuts and chilis.

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