March 19, 2011
Probably the first type of cooking I got really good at was stir-frying, and it's still among the types of cooking I do most often. One thing I love about stir-fries is that once you have gotten down the basic techniques, you can make a whole bunch of different dishes by mixing and matching a set of standard ingredients. Substitute hoisin sauce for oyster sauce, or baby corn, peas and straw mushrooms for water chestnuts and carrots and you've got a dish that is familiar, yet different. Often, if you just switch a protein - chicken for pork or shrimp, for example - you can get a different dish without minimal or no other changes. Similarly, you can make a mild dish spicy by adding a teaspoon of chili oil, or a spicy one milder by substituting dried red peppers with a half-teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
The other thing I love is that you can use so many of my very favorite ingredients in stir-fries. Ginger, garlic, soy sauce, mushrooms, snow peas, nuts... with ingredients like that, you're almost guaranteed to get something good.
The following recipe is an illustration of these principles in action. I just decided to toss together some chicken with some of my other favorite stir-fry staples, and with a minimum of prep - this one doesn't even require you to marinate the chicken - I had a great meal.
Chicken Stir-Fry with Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Cashews
yield = 4 servings
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
into bite-size pieces
8 ounces button mushrooms, cut into thin wedges
3 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps
8 ounces snow peas, trimmed
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews, pan-toasted
Stir together hoisin sauce, water, soy sauce, cornstarch and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat one tablespoon peanut oil and one teaspoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the chicken pieces and stir-fry, cooking until the chicken pieces are lightly browned on all sides. Transfer cooked chicken pieces to a bowl and repeat with the other half of the chicken pieces.
Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil and one teaspoon sesame oil to the skillet and heat to shimmering. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry 3 minutes, then add the snow peas and cook until they are bright green and still crisp.
Clear a spot in the middle of the skillet, add the ginger and garlic and cook 30 seconds, then return the chicken to the skillet and stir to mix everything together.
Again clear the middle of the skillet. Add the hoisin sauce mixture and cook 20 seconds, then stir the contents of the skillet together to spread the sauce evenly over the chicken and vegetables. Stir in cashews and serve with rice.
Juli here. I loved this stir-fry! A definite 5-star dish, it's got the warming bite of fresh ginger, the heat of the red pepper flakes, and the sweetness of the crunchy snow peas, all blending together to create a really tasty meal. And I don't think I ever met a recipe that couldn't be improved by cashews! Definitely trough-worthy, I had to pack the leftovers up first to see if there was enough left for a second serving before I gobbled it all up. We got 4 generous servings, and if I can wangle a way to do it, I'm nabbing both of the packed leftovers for my own use. Shhhh...don't tell Jeffrey!