Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kung Pao Chicken

You’ll probably have to visit an Asian food store before making this dish. However, if you’ve never been to one, you’re in for a treat. The Chinese grocery that I frequent, in addition to being unbelievably inexpensive, has fabulous vegetables and the freshest fish around.

(serves two parents and two children)

The Chicken
2 boneless chicken breasts (about 1¼ lb)
1 egg white
1 Tbs cornstarch
large pinch of kosher salt

The Sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 tsp (or more) chili paste with garlic
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tsp rice vinegar
4 Tbs chicken broth
1 tsp sesame oil

The Rest
3 cloves garlic
3 scallions
2 Tbs peanut oil
5 (or more) dried red chile peppers
1 c roasted unsalted peanuts

1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the egg white, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well. Set aside.

2. In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the sauce and mix well. Set aside.

3. Trim and coarsely chop the garlic. Trim and cut the scallions into ½-inch lengths.

4. Heat a wok (or a large heavy skillet) over a high flame. Add the peanut oil and heat until it begins to smoke. Add the chile peppers and stir-fry until blacken, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about another 30 seconds.

5. Add the chicken and stir-fry until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the peanuts and stir-fry for another minute. Add the sauce and heat thoroughly. Serve over rice.

• In Chinese cooking, the technique of coating meat with cornstarch (usually as a prelude to stir-frying) is called velveting. I find that the easiest way to do this is to mix the ingredients with my fingers.

• Because I like my Kung Pao to have a lot of “pao,” I often hold back some of the chicken and stir-fry it separately with a little broccoli for the kids.

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