Soaking chicken breasts for about 15 minutes in a dilute baking soda solution helps to relax the proteins and leaves the meat a bit more tender, covering with a light dusting of cornstarch helps the chicken to brown - even in a non stick pan.
So, since Madame wanted a chicken salad (I could tell from hints like, "I bought these grapes at the supermarket today, they would be really good in chicken salad" were clues. But I also wanted to try a stir fried preparation with lots aromatics and a thick Asian flavors inspired sauce.
Yeah, I know Asia is a large continent(!), so there is not a single style. These flavors were sweet/sour/hot using dark soy sauce, US "srirarcha", fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, dark sesame oil, scallions, celery, red peppers. Note the chicken itself is unseasoned. There's plenty to come in the sauce.
It turns out you can do these simultaneously - well kind of. A lot of the prep is in common at least. I cooked the chicken for both dishes before adding the ingredients for the Asian flavored version
Asian style chicken
Ingredients2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts sliced into 1/4" strips
3 cups water
1 t baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
3T cornstartch (corn flower) (divided use)
2T vegetable oil, divided use
2 ribs celery sliced lengthwise into three strips each, cut into 1/4" pieces on the bias
10 scallions, white parts only cut into 1/4" pieces on the bias (reserve green parts)
6 cloves garlic sliced thinly
1T fish sauce
3T dark soy sauce
1T Palm sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
2T habanero vodka (or substitute dry sherry + minced hot pepper)
3T "srirarcha" - the brand with the chicken on the outside
1t dark sesame oil
- Soak the chicken in the baking soda/water solution for 15 minutes
- Rinse, drain and pat the chicken dry
- Coat the chicken lightly in 1T cornstarch
- Make the sauce by combining the last 7 ingredients + 2 remaining T of cornstarch and set aside.
- Heat 1 T of oil until wisps of smoke are visible in a large non-stick skillet. Place the chicken in a single layer in the hot skillet, leaving undisturbed for a minute or 2 until the outside is nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and repeat the cooking. Take care not to overcook, but do make sure the chicken pieces are cooked thoroughly.
- Remove the chicken to a bowl, wipe the skillet and add the rest of the oil
- Stir fry the aromatics all together. The sizes should insure even cooking. There should be a slight char on the scallions
- Add the reserved chicken back into the skillet, combine, whisk the sauce and add to the chicken/vegetables.
- Bring to the boil to allow the corn starch to thicken
- Serve garnished with thinly sliced scallion green parts.
SuggestionsThis dish could use some crunch, so feel free to add in peanuts, cashews, water chestnuts or other crunchy, mildly flavored items.
Serve with white or brown rice. It goes well with a light East Asian beer (Singha, Tiger, etc.)
Chicken SaladThis dish used the same chicken cooking technique as above. The difference is that the chicken pieces need to be cut a bit smaller.
Ingredients2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into 1/4" strips and then each strip into 1/2" lengths
3 cups water
1t baking soda
1T vegetable oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise (if using home made, you will reduce the vinegar in the next ingredient)
1T sherry vinegar
hot sauce - to taste
salt/pepper - to taste
1/2 red paper, finely diced
1 rib celery finely diced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved (good trick for halving the tomatoes, etc. here)
12 grapes, halved
12 walnut or pecan halves
- Prepare the chicken as above
- Meanwhile make the dressing by whisking the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, pepper
- Combine the raw vegetables, grapes and nuts with the dressing
- After the chicken has cooled, stir it into the dressed vegetables
- Chill before serving - as an open faced sandwich on toasted home made bread
I had planned to use the wok in the big green egg for this, but the egg/charcoal would not co-operate. I couldn't get it hot enough in the time I had available. It was a shame really, because once the dishes were made, the egg had finally got up to temperature. So, I treated the exercise as a "clean burn" vaporizing any debris left over from brisket smoking and other dirty cooking jobs.