Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chicken with Almonds

Stir fries have become a big part of my life since I met my wife. Growing up I did eat sweet and sour pork my mom would make in our electric wok, but that was (I think) about it. No fault of hers, we had to trick my brother every time we had it because he didn't like Chinese food, but he liked sweet pork and rice.

Now, I break out one of my two woks every week. Fast weeknight meals, maybe a new rice dish, you can even deep fry in them (more on that later). Far and away the most common dish to come out of my wok is chicken with almonds, a fantastic adaptation from Craig Claiborne's "Chinese Cookbook" that my wife's dad shared with me.

It follows the general rule of stir frying. Fry meat, remove, cook remaining ingredients as needed, drain off most oil, add seasonings, replace meat, add sauce. Eat. You can make a lot of good food if you follow those rules. I like to serve mine with plain white rice and stir fried broccoli, which I have included below. Enjoy!

Chicken with Almonds
serves 3-4

1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg white
1 cup peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 cup blanched almonds (found in grocery stores)
6 garlic cloves, smashed
6 thin slices fresh ginger
12 dried chiles (arbol)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry

Combine corn starch, salt, sugar, and egg white in medium bowl. Add chicken breasts and marinate 30 minutes (room temperature).

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium high heat in a wok or large skillet until just starting to smoke, about 375-400°F.  Gently add 1/2 chicken and fry, stirring to break up into individual pieces, until brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Remove chicken with slotted spoon and transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain.  Return oil to temperature and repeat with remaining chicken.  After, add almonds, frying and stirring until almonds are well browned, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove almonds and let drain.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil (cool the rest in a pyrex cup, bottle, and refrigerate for future use).  Add garlic, chiles, and ginger, frying until all are well browned.  Remove seasonings and discard.  Add chicken back to wok and warm, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Add soy sauce and sherry, toss until sauce thickens. Serve immediately with almonds on side.

Stir Fried Broccoli

1 pound broccoli or other vegetable such as asparagus, snow peas, or green beans
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Trim broccoli crowns into 1 inch pieces.  Peel stems and cut into 1 inch thick strips.  Heat oil over medium high heat in wok or large skillet.  Add broccoli and toss constantly for 2 minutes or until starting to brown.  Combine sugar, salt, soy, sherry, and water in a small dish and add to wok.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Combine cornstarch with 1-2 tablespoons water and add to wok, stirring to thicken.  Serve.