Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chicken Stir-Fry

This dish was one of my go-to meals back in college, which I adapted from "The College Cookbook," (which, by the way, is a great reference for beginner cooks, in college or not.) The original recipe was only vegetables, but I wanted to add chicken so I could have nice one-dish meal that includes my protein and veggies. In college, though, I had problems with the method. The chicken would always end up either too dry and tough, and the vegetables mushy or tough and undercooked. It wasn't until I began avidly watching professional cooks on the Food Network and reading food blogs that I finally figured it out the perfect method. The trick is to cook your ingredients separately, so that each retains its own flavor. I also got some help from Jaden Hair's The Steamy Kitchen, with great tips on stir-frying meat on this page. Another trick I learned is to parboil the tougher vegetables, such as broccoli or carrots first, before adding to the stir fry, so that they won't be tough and undercooked at the end.

So the method below is basically a compendium of different techniques that I've garnered after many attempts and mushy vegetables.

Chicken Stir-Fry

Note: The ingredients are quite flexible and you can use whatever meat or vegetables you have on hand. Below is what I happened to have handy:

Chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
Red pepper
Button mushrooms (canned or fresh, I used canned)
Other vegetables that would be good: Carrots, snow peas, onions if you like them, etc., just chop everything into bite-size pieces.
1 clove of garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon of the minced garlic in the jar
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:
A couple tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of corn starch dissolved into a couple of tablespoons of cold water


1. Start by boiling water for cooking tough vegetables like broccoli or carrots. Boil these vegetables for about five minutes, drain and set aside.
2. While the water is boiling, sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken, and heat a few tablespoons of oil (I recommend olive oil) on medium-high heat.
3. Once the pan is hot, (test it by flicking a drop of water on to it. If it sizzles right away, that means it's hot enough), cook the chicken, a few minutes on each side (until lightly browned). Be careful not to overcrowd the pan, even if this means that you have to cook the chicken in batches. (click here for more stir-fry tips). Set chicken aside.
4. Add garlic to the pan. Once it start sizzling, add remaining vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Stir in broccoli and carrots and chicken.
6. Prepare the sauce by stirring corn starch into cold water and soy sauce. Slowly stir in the mixture over the chicken and vegetables so that it evenly coats everything. Allow it to cook for about a minute, until the sauce turns shiny and translucent.
7. Serve over rice.
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