Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

I periodically feel like Alex and I should make more of an effort to eat healthy.  It's not that we are terribly unhealthy eaters, but everyone could use a few diet tweaks from time to time.  Our current diet tweak is to try and eat more vegetables and maybe a few less carbs.  Don't get me wrong, I love carbs and I refuse to cut them out of my diet entirely.  What self-respecting Asian (or half-Asian as the case may be) refuses to eat rice or noodles?  I mean seriously.  But if I can substitute one or two servings of pasta or bread a week with some veggies, then why not?  The tweak actually has a dual purpose.  We end up wasting so much produce every week and I am hoping that this diet tweak will help us stop wasting produce so we can save a little money on groceries.  Groceries are expensive.  We have been pretty good this week with our squash blossoms, sugar snap peas, pea shoots, salads, etc.  And then tonight we had broccoli.  I'm actually planning on cooking more broccoli later this week because I bought two bunches.  My plan right now is to roast the second bunch of broccoli, but I will figure that out later.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young.  She had a recipe for beef with broccoli and it occurred to me that I had a massive chicken breast defrosted in the fridge.  I briefly considered just substituting the chicken for the beef in that recipe, but decided it sounded a little heavy.  The cookbook also has a bunch of recipes that call for velveting chicken (marinating the chicken in a mixture of egg white and cornstarch before stir-frying) and since I had never tried that before I decided to give one of those a try.  So this recipe is actually an adaptation of another recipe in the book for Chinese Indian Chicken Manchurian, which we tweaked a bit before adding some broccoli.  And it was a total success.  The chicken was very moist from the velveting and it had a very tender, silky texture.  It also had a surprising amount of flavor.  Chicken breast is usually the most disappointing part of any stir-fry, dry and bland.  This was the exact opposite.  Not only was the chicken delicious, the broccoli was perfectly cooked and flavorful.  I loved the hint of heat from the chili and the fresh flavors of the scallions and cilantro.  The combination of chicken stock and soy sauce made a really simple and nice stir-fry sauce.  I might use it on future stir-fry variations in the future.  We usually add sesame oil to stir-fry and some rice vinegar, but I didn't miss them at all in this recipe.  It was all a lot fresher and brighter than our normal stir-fries and made me think that maybe simple is better.  A stir-fry made of chicken and one fresh vegetable might just be better than chicken stir-fry with a variety of canned and fresh vegetables.  Just a thought.  In the name of healthy eating we served our stir-fry with brown rice.  Go us.

Recipe after the jump!

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
4 tsp garlic, minced (separated)
4 tsp ginger, minced (separated)
3 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
4 cups broccoli florets 
1/2 cup yellow onions, chopped
1-2 serrano chilis, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, with seeds
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, egg white, cornstarch, 2 tsp each of ginger and garlic and 1 tsp cold water.  Stir to combine.  Add 1 tbsp oil.  Stir again.  Allow chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

Blanch broccoli florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 minute.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat.  Add remaining 2 tbsp oil.  Once the oil is hot, add onions, chilis, and remaining garlic and ginger.  Stir-fry with a metal spatula until garlic and ginger are fragrant and onions are beginning to soften, about 30 seconds.  Push the onion mixture up the sides of the wok and carefully add the chicken mixture.  Spread it evenly in one layer in the wok.  Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, until the chicken begins to sear.  Stir-fry for an additional minute, until the chicken is lightly browned, but not cooked through.  If the chicken is sticking, add additional vegetable oil.  Add broccoli and stir-fry onion mixture back into the chicken.  Stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Add chicken stock and soy sauce to the wok.  Stir-fry briefly to evenly coat the mixture in the sauce.  Add cilantro.  Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is beginning to thicken, about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the scallions.

Serve with rice.

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