Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pow Pao!

I mentioned once before that we often have dinner at my parents' house every Tuesday night. Every once and awhile I like to cook dinner to take over there to give my mom a break. Last night I fixed up one of our favorites, Kung Pao Chicken and rice. This is such an easy meal to take over to someone's house. I just cook it up in the wok, throw the lid on and we're ready to go! This recipe comes from a book that has long since disappeared from my mother's shelves. (we just don't know where that book went!!!) But she and I each have well worn recipe cards with the ingredients recorded.

Although, I confess, I never know where my card is and often just cook it up from memory.

It goes something like this:

I dice up the chicken and marinate it in a mixture of salt, pepper, cornstarch (about a tablespoon) and sake (about 1/4 cup). There's always that thing they say about using a "non-reactive bowl" - nah, I don't know what that means either, but I comply and use a glass dish. It just needs to marinate for about the amount of time it takes you to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Chop up some fresh garlic and ginger. (about a tablespoon of each - but you know me and my garlic, I usually double or triple up on that) Another key ingredient is green onion. Chop up about 1/4 cup or more. I've made it before without the green onion and it really isn't nearly as good.

Next up are the peanuts - another valuable ingredient. Once the wok is nice and hot, drizzle in a tablespoon or so of oil and then add about 1 cup of peanuts. Then you'll throw in 6 or so dried chili peppers. Now I distinctly remember the original recipe saying something to the effect that your peanuts will be ruined if you allow the peppers to turn black. So keep stirring them around and cook only until the peanuts are starting to get a nice brown roasted look to them, then remove from the wok.

Once the peanuts are out, add a little more oil to your wok and then toss in your garlic and ginger. Almost immediately (so you don't burn your garlic), add the chicken using a slotted spoon so you don't get too much of the liquid from the marinade in there. Work in batches so your wok stays nice and hot. As a batch cooks up, I like to move it up the rim of the wok while I cook up another batch. During this time, while the chicken is cooking, you can mix up your sauce in a separate bowl.

First stir together about a tablespoon of soy sauce and a couple teaspoons of cornstarch. You want to get that mixed up good before you add anything else or you risk having cornstarch balls in your sauce, and that's just not pretty. Add a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, a couple tablespoons of sake and then 1/2 cup of either water or chicken stock. Why not throw some salt and pepper in there too?

Once the chicken is all cooked through, add your chopped green onions and stir fry for a minute. Then add the sauce mixture. I like to push the chicken up against the rim, again, and let the sauce start to bubble in the middle. Once it comes to a boil it will start to thicken up. Stir it up and then add the peanuts. I remember the recipe saying you should toss out the peppers, but I personally like the way they look mixed in there and everyone I know is well aware that they should not be eaten. (but if you leave yours in, it'd be nice to remind your guests not to bite into one!) I also like to wait until I'm just about to serve it up to stir in the peanuts. This way you can be sure they'll still have a crunch to them.

I got the kung pao and white rice all cooked and loaded up on a tray ready to take over to my parents' house. It's one of our family favorites. We have it here about once a week. Sometimes I'll change it up and use pork instead of chicken, walnuts instead of peanuts, add veggies. But the old classic is still the best, in my humble opinion.

No comments: