Chef Juje

A messy adventure in learning to cook

Archive for the category “Main Dishes”

Shrimp and Grits

{…in which I learn to make grits}

For almost all of my husband’s life, he and his family have traveled to the southern part of North Carolina to spend a week on the beach.   I was even invited last year for a relaxing week full of sand, sun and shrimp.

Seriously, one of my favorite memories of last year’s vacation was the delicious shrimp and grits that his mom made for us. And although we weren’t able to go to North Carolina this year (sorry, North Carolina, your beaches took a back seat to my honeymoon), we wanted to recreate our favorite vacation dish here in Ohio.

A Crash Course on Grits

Grits are basically dried corn that is ground to a coarse meal. It can usually be found in the breakfast cereal aisle, NOT in pasta or rice as I initially tried, which makes sense because it is neither pasta nor rice.   Most sources seem to agree that a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of liquid to grits is a good rule,  using lighter liquids like water or stock when heavier ingredients (cheese or butter) are used and milk with stock when making grits on their own.

Start with boiling your liquid. Then reduce to low and add the grits. You should see large, slow bubbles (not rolling bubbles!) in the grits.  Over time, the grits will begin to thicken and seem creamy.

On left – large slow bubbles. On right – grits start to become creamy.

After the grits are finished cooking, you can add your other ingredients like cheeses and butter.

See Saveur “Perfecting Grits” and Bon Appetit “Grits” for more information on my new favorite corn product.

Shrimp and Grits

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup grits
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (NOT instant) grits
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter (1 tbsp for grits, 1 tbsp for shrimp mixture)
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • chopped peppers or other vegetables
  • salt and pepper

Directions – Grits

  1. Bring stock and water to boil. As soon as liquid is boiling, reduce heat to low and whisk in grits.
  2. Whisk grits quickly at first, then continue whisking as the grits cook. Should be done frequently but not constantly.
  3. Allow grits to cook for about 20 minutes (if using old-fashioned Quaker Oats grits; stone grits take closer to 40 minutes)
  4. Stir in cheeses and 1 tbsp butter
  5. Turn off heat, cover with lid and set aside.

The shrimp mixture. This was a bit of an improvise-as-you-go situation.

Directions – Shrimp

  1. Salt and pepper shrimp
  2. Heat pan to medium high.
  3. Add a few teaspoons of oil to hot pan, then add shrimp
  4. Cook shrimp for a few minutes until pink, turning over once.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add the chopped peppers and sautee until soft. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
  6. Pour 1/2 cup chicken broth let it reduce in half
  7. Add tobasco sauce, lemon juice, 1 tbsp butter and cooked shrimp.

The finished shrimp and grits.

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Glazed Salmon with Cucumber Avocado Salad (…and Chef Juje is back!)

Chef Juje is back!

Phew, those were a crazy couple of months!  And now, I’m excited to announce, that Chef Juje is now Mrs. Chef Juje.

The last few months were just a whirlwind of wedding planning, traveling, wedding planning, visitors, finally wedding and eventually more traveling.  It was all so much fun but I’m secretly excited to get back to the normalcy of every day life.  Believe it or not, there is only so much champagne you can drink and hors d’oeuvres you can nibble before you start craving a home cooked meal.  That threshold is quite high, mind you, but it exists and I’m excited to be back.

Today I present our first meal as an official family of two.   I found this recipe in the Food Network Magazine that was waiting for me post-honeymoon.  I normally gravitate toward the fancy “weekend night” recipes because I like to make things as complicated as possible (you know this already), but this fell into the everyday cooking category and it’s just as delicious.

Glazed Salmon with Cucumber-Avocado Salad

Ingredients

2 8-oz salmon filets (I used skin-on to save some cash)
1 Tbsp honey
2 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp olive oil (original recipe called for sesame oil; I did not have and was unwilling to buy. Nothing seemed to be lost)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 cucumber cut into chunks
3 scallions sliced
1 avocado, chopped
pickled ginger in a jar (delicious addition if you have it; not a deal-breaker)

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut your avocado, scallions and cucumbers if you haven’t already. This makes life much easier for everyone.
  • Mix honey, 2 teaspoons soy sauce and corn starch in microwave bowl. Microwave for 10-20 seconds until hot (note: I originally did as recipe said and cooked for 40 seconds. No. You want sauce, not honey crust.)
  • Rub fillets with with a dab of oil and salt. If you use skinless, rub both sides. Place in clear baking dish and bake five minutes. I put nonstick spray on the bottom of my glass dish because my filets had skin and were not oiled on the other side. I have no idea if this was necessary.
  • After 5 minutes, remove fish and brush with the honey mixture. Return to oven and bake 7 to 9 minutes or until layers flake easily. It’s most delicious when center is slightly translucent.
  • While fish is cooking, make the salad.  Whisk rice vinegar, mayo and 1/2 tsp soy sauce and oil in large bowl.  I whisked the heck out of it to make sure that the mayo was fully integrated into the oil mixture.  At first it looked like there were tiny blobs of mayo and I don’t think that’s what you want.
  • Add cucumber, scallions, salt and toss.
  • Gently add avocado.  I added mine piece by piece to avoid the salad becoming a guacamole.
  • Serve salmon with the avocado and cucumber salad and pickled ginger (again, not deal-breaker)

Chef Juje Thoughts

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I have a lot to say!

First, I purchased the cucumbers and scallions at Worthington Farmer’s Market.  Maybe it’s effort justification on my part, but foods from farmer’s markets just taste so much better and are so much more fun.  It makes me feel like I’m one of those people who really savors life, you know?

Second, I recently realized I have spent many years spelling avocado as advocado.  Ha.  I have to remind myself that the avocado is not advocating anything.

Finally, cucumber, fish and avocado work really well together. This makes sense given what’s in a lot of sushi but it’s nice to figure this out first hand.

Source: Food Network Magazine, July/Aug 2012

Chicken Piccata

This is the dish that inspired Chef Juje!

I tried this dish for the first time a few months ago, back when I was *just* learning to cook and before I discovered online cooking classes or blogs or basically anything that would help me along my way.  I didn’t know how to heat a pan and was afraid of using oil and my patience was even shorter than it is now.

Feedback from that first dish — and this is a direct quote — “Maybe you just shouldn’t cook in a pan.”

Too funny. In all honesty, the future-Mr. said this only to encourage other methods of cooking that he has found  success with (he is a great chef as well!) and he by far is Chef Juje’s biggest fan (and beneficiary!).  But he quickly learned that “maybe you shouldn’t…” translates to “you must run out and buy a new pan and master this skill immediately.”   I became mildly consumed with this new technique and we’ve been eating a lot of pan-fried foods ever since.

So here we are.  Last night’s chicken piccata attempt was much, much more successful.  Feedback from last night?  “Do you mind if I eat the rest of it?” Mind? Did I mind?! I was THRILLED!  I don’t even care that I am eating an overpriced, under-tasting salad from our cafeteria right now because there was no more chicken left for lunch.

Other side as a more golden/crispy crust. Higher heat may help too.

The recipe I used calls for brined capers, wine and lemon juice as the pan sauce. It was slightly too tart for my preferences so I may switch to using stock in place of wine next time.  Also, as the caption indicates, the chicken didn’t get as great of a crust as it did for the first side of the first batch.

For the recipe itself I direct you to Simply Recipes, since saying I “adapted” it would be a total lie and the author provides a lot of insight. For now, I have a few helpful hints.

Helpful Hints:

Chicken:  I used thinly-sliced chicken breasts that I then cut in half. For some reason, working with smaller pieces of chicken just works better for me. I would love to be able to use the cheap-o $1.99/lb giant chicken breasts at some point.

Heating oil/butter:  The first time I added the oil it started smoking immediately. This is a sign that the pan is too hot.  I discarded the oil, wiped the pan and began again over lower heat.  You don’t want burnt oil to affect the flavor of your dish.

Adding wine/stock:  Be careful when adding wine or stock (particularly wine) to deglaze the hot pan. I removed the pan from heat to do this. When I cook it’s still me against the fire alarm and I’m not taking any chances.

When is sauce done?  I typically wait for the sauce to have a kind of (ha) sauce-like consistency.  I take a wooden spoon and draw a line through the sauce. If the line forms but then is slowly covered up by the sauce, it is perfect.  If no line forms, it’s not reduced enough. If the line stays for a while, it is over-reduced and I add more water.

Adding butter to sauce:  Butter is added to the sauce to add shine and richness.  I learned that butter should be cold so it mixes with the sauce — room temp butter might curdle in the sauce.  I did not learn this first hand (thank goodness) and I don’t want you to, either.

Life Lessons in Risotto {plus a basic risotto recipe}

Oh, Risotto.

My first attempt at risotto was a giant, giant, GIANT fail. I thought I was doing everything right but an hour into the process the rice was  still not absorbing any of the liquids. Frustrations grew high, patience grew short and our stomachs growled louder and louder. I didn’t get it. I tried SO HARD to do this well and all I got was tough rice in chicken stock.

For better or for worse I am not one to let things go so the following evening I embarked on my second adventure in risotto.  Future Mr. Chef Juje was away so I slyly headed back into the kitchen, computer and Arborio rice in tow.  I studied my rouxbe video, took copious notes and totally psyched myself up for this next attempt.  I’m nothing if not passionate.

Risotto Notes:

Guess what??  For as much as the first attempt was a fail the second attempt was a big success!  I just used onions, rice, stock and garlic, then finished with mascarpone at the end.  I actually ate it so fast that I forgot to take a picture while it was still in its prime (riosotto doesn’t hold well for long).   The future-Mr. even brought it for lunch the next day.  It says a lot when something I cook is better than the smorgasbord — plus milk — he can get for $2.50 at work.

I posted this to my facebook but I think it’s worth restating here.  Somewhere along the line in becoming a grownup I got the strange idea that things should come easily. That if you try your best the first time you should succeed.  I’m glad that’s not the case.  As I learned here, sometimes – no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you study the recipe or read blogs or consult with others — you’re going to need to just try it again. And maybe again and again and again.

{By the way, for those of you wondering, it was the HEAT!  My heat was too low the first time.  Make sure the rice is simmering.}

Fancy Fridays – Chicken Marsala with Cream and Pancetta

I’ve made chicken marsala before in an attempt to debut my newly developed pan-frying skills. It basically involves pan-frying chicken breasts and creating a marsala-wine pan sauce.   Tasty and simple enough.

This time around, I tried a new recipe that involves dredging the chicken in flour and includes pancetta (fancier Italian bacon) as well as heavy cream in the sauce.  My sauce was much more brown than I had anticipated, but it’s still delicious.  Rich but not overwhelmingly so.  I served with pepperjack potatoes (also from Simply Recipes) to add a spicy kick to the meal.

I’ve included a ton of helpful hints following the recipe – partly to help me remember what works and partly, I hope, to help those new to cooking succeed as well.  Enjoy!

{editor’s note – I originally spelled “flour” as “flower.” THE HORROR!}

Ingredients:

  • Grapeseed or olive oil (I used grapeseed due to its high smoke point)
  • 1 3 oz package of pancetta 1/4 inch squares
  • 1 chopped shallot (or 1/2 cup onion)
  • 1/2 cup flour for dredging
  • 1 lb of skinless, boneless chicken breasts – cut these or pound so that you have thin cutlets
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 6 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:
1.) Prepare your mise en place. Cut the pancetta into 1/4 inch squares, chop shallots, measure cream and wine, cut or pound chicken to form thin cutlets.

2.) Prepare the chicken. Put 1/2 cup flour on plate. Pat chicken dry, liberally salt and pepper, then dredge each cutlet in flour. Put chicken on plate so when pan is ready, you can immediately add the chicken before the pan gets too hot.

3.) Cook pancetta. When the pan is hot, add the pancetta and cook until crispy and lightly browned. Remove pancetta with slotted spoon so fat stays in the pan.

4.) Cook the onions. Add the onions to the pan with pancetta fat and cook until translucent and golden. Remove onions from pan with slotted spoon.

5.) Add more oil so about 2 tbsp oil is in pan. Add cutlets — enough that pan is full but not so many that the pan is overcrowded. Turn chicken just once and remove when cooked through. Repeat with the rest of the cutlets.

6.) Discard excess fat from pan and when pan is away from heat, deglaze the pan with marsala wine. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (sucs) as these add delicious flavor to your dish. Stir until marsala is reduced by a quarter.

7.) Add cream and boil. The sauce is ready when it reaches a thicker, sauce like consistency. I’ve learned that sauce is ready when you can separate the sauce with a wooden spoon and the sauce slowly retakes its shape.

8.) Add onions, pancetta and chicken. Cook until heated, about a minute.

Helpful Hints:

  • Prep your mise en place.  First, because “mise en place” is a fun word and second, because having everything chopped and measured and prepped makes all the difference in the world.  You’re not going to want to be chopping onions as the oil starts to smoke and timers start buzzing and everything starts happening all at once.
  • Thin and consistent chicken breasts are key to cooking quickly and not burning the sucs (brown bits at bottom of pan). I used ultra-thin breasts here but you can also slice thicker chicken in half, parallel to the cutting board.
  • Pat the chicken breasts dry – completely dry.  Any residual water will lower the pan temperature and/or steam the chicken, preventing a nice crust from forming on the chicken and preventing the sucs at the bottom of the pan to form.
  • Only turn the chicken once, if possible.
  • Take the pan OFF the heat before deglazing with the marsala and maybe add just a little at first.

Source:  Simply Recipes

Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Vinaigrette

It’s come to my attention that I’ve been a bit remiss when it comes to Fancy Fridays.  Apologies.  Maybe it will be Fancy every-so-often Fridays.

Anyways, I’m here with a recipe for seared ahi tuna with wasabi vinaigrette.  With  a properly heated pan, good-quality tuna and the correct ingredients for the vinaigrette, this recipe is so easy it’s not even fair.  Fun fact I learned while preparing this – contrary to popular belief,  searing the fish does not “lock in flavor” but rather creates a flavorful and attractive crust. I’ll take it!

The dish is presented here with wasabi mashed potatoes, which I hope to share in a future Chef Juje post.

I like my dinners precariously perched on the counter.


Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Vinaigrette
Ingredients:

1/2 green onion, thinly sliced (though I left out because I didn’t have!)
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Wasabi paste (recipe calls for powder; I used paste because I had it for mashed potatoes)
1 tsp pickled ginger (julienned, plus  more for garnish with tuna)
juice of 1/2 lime
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 pound tuna (I used good-quality frozen; fresh is best!)
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tsp and 1/4 tsp salt
grapeseed oil (for searing)

Directions:

Make the vinaigrette
1.) mix lime juice and wasabi powder or paste
2.) add vinegar, sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and oil – whisk to combine
3.) add in ginger and green onions

Prepare the tuna
1.) layer salt and pepper on the cutting board. Seriously pile the salt and pepper on thick.
2.) Add a touch of olive oil to both sides of the tuna
3.) Press the tuna onto the cutting board so that all sides are covered in pepper and salt.  Seriously, pepper the heck out of this thing.
4.) preheat the pan to medium-high heat. I used it just a touch over medium. Sear each side, including edges, just until the golden crust forms.
5.) After all sides are properly seared and browned, place on a cooling rack.

Serve with the wasabi vinaigrette, pickled ginger and wasabi mashed potatoes (recipe coming soon).

Source: Rouxbe

Things I learned/Helpful Hints/Question for Readers: I was a little afraid to cook the tuna any more rare than this because only flash-frozen tuna was available. Does anyone know if such tuna can be cooked rare?

The salt actually extracts water from the fish, so pat the fish steaks dry before putting them in the pan. Otherwise the fish might steam and not sear properly.

I didn’t cut the ahi into smaller pieces, though for more fancy presentation that might be a good idea!

Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich

Years ago I worked as a server at a casual restaurant in my hometown.

I was (then) a horrible, horrible server. Glasses were left empty and orders were forgotten and – this is a major confession! — I never asked any table if they wanted to order cookies.  Never. If people wanted cookies they would ask for cookies! Plus the cookies were really annoying to remember and I would always forget to ring them in or I’d let them burn and really doesn’t everyone already have enough cookies?

The cookies were a tremendous source of stress.

While I was there, though, the restaurant introduced a new seasonal menu item – Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich. Now, I have no idea how they made their sandwiches. Occasionally I had to prepare one but my memory of it is fuzzy. However, I have eaten a number of those sandwiches. They’re truly scrumptious.

I recently re-created the sandwich at home. I’m sure that with a grill pan for the chicken or a panini press for the sandwich, this would be even better. But for now it’s just my pan and me and we do what we do.

Also, I understand that this is not so much “cooking” as it is “assembling.”

(Not my arm.)

Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwiches

Ingredients:

cooked chicken breasts (grilled or pan-fried)
fresh basil, whole
sundried tomatoes, julienned and not in oil
fresh mozzarella
ciabatta bread (preferably from local baker! like Sugar B bakery in Galena, OH)
Basil Pesto (make your own or buy…I used what I had from the gnocchi)

Directions:

1.) Toast ciabatta bread for a few minutes, depending on thickness. Watch it closely – this sandwich is less delicious on a giant ciabatta cracker.

2.) Spread one or both sides with the basil pesto.

3.) Layer basil, sundried tomatoes, chicken, and mozzarella.

4.) Cut in half, grab some extra napkins and enjoy.

What I’ve learned and helpful hints:

I was fairly successful at pan-frying the chicken. The purpose of pan frying is to form a golden crust. Make sure the pan is hot enough before you put your oil and ingredients in, though I’ve heard with a nonstick pan you should put the oil in as the pan heats.  Finally, there’s probably too much space between the chicken in this particular picture but, again, I’m working with a lone pan.

Giada’s Mozzarella Meatballs

The fiance and I both love Giada DeLaurentiis.

I used to think it was for very different reasons. I like the ingredients she uses and the clarity with which she explains each of her steps and, fine, because her show is on late enough in the day that I can occasionally catch it if I get home early. As for my fiance…well…it’s an easy cooking show to watch.

The other day, though, he suggested that I make meatballs that she made on her show one time. “With bits of cheese in the middle,” he explained “seared and then baked in the oven.”

I was impressed. This means that he actually watched the show. With the sound on. And listened.

So I found the recipe for her Bucatini All’Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs and got to work. Next time, I will do the sauce a little differently by using twice the tomatoes as called for in the recipe and less or no pasta. My ratio was just a little off or the sauce over-reduced.

But the MEATBALLS. Oh my gosh the MEATBALLS. And so, I present just the meatballs here.  The recipe actually doesn’t call for searing the meatballs first, though I might try that next time.  I also used regular mozzarella and not smoked — still fantastic.

Ingredients:
1 small (6-ounce) onion, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tablespoons ketchup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground veal
2 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 16 (1/2-inch) cubes

Directions:
1.) Place oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.) In LARGE (seriously) bowl, combine the onion, parsley, Parmesan, bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Then add the beef and veal, or the meatball mixture if you find it.

3.) Use your hands to combine all ingredients. Be gentle but firm. Make 16 meatballs, each about 1.5 inches diameter.

4.) Make a hole in the center of each meatball and place a cube of mozzarella inside. It will kind of look like you’re planting mozzarella. Genius.

5.) Reform the meatball so that the mozzarella is completely covered with the meat mixture.

6.) Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes until cooked through.

 

 

Things I learned/helpful hints:

Grated is not minced and is certainly NOT diced. This very much matters for meatballs.  Onions for the meatballs need to be very, very finely chopped or else they won’t form into balls well.

Searing the meatballs first in a pan can help create a nice crust on the meatballs.  They will still need to be cooked in the oven.  I’ll try searing first next time.

I found a ground beef/veal mixture at the grocery store that worked really well for this.

Always listen to your loved ones when it comes to what’s delicious. He was totally right with this.

Source:  Giada at Home

Baked Spaghetti, Bobby Deen style

So it’s been a few days since I’ve last posted, largely because of an absence of success in the kitchen.

For one, I spent Saturday night (aka the only single-digit-temperature night so far this year) camping and although our campfire hot dogs were delicious at the time, they’re not exactly blog-worthy.  Second, I spent about three hours and twenty bucks on a butternut squash soup only to discover that I actually don’t care much for butternut squash after all.  Hrmph.

But today, Chef Juje is back! And armed with a camera!  Get excited.

I eyed this baked spaghetti recipe in, where else, my latest food network magazine.  I’m usually wary of dishes from Paula Deen (sorry, I just don’t like butter THAT much) or recipes that purport to be light but are full of fake foods. Fat free cream cheese? Ugh, why bother?

(Real Ingredients)

This recipe, though, is from Paula Deen’s son and to my surprise uses REAL ingredients.  I give a pass to part-skim mozzarella. For you big-picture-people out there, you basically place a layer of spaghetti, peppers and tomatoes in a glass dish, layer with mozzarella and cheddar cheese, repeat, and bake.

Baked Spaghetti, Bobby Deen Style

Ingredients:

6 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 green bell peppers, diced
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Cooking spray, for the pan
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

1.) Add salt to a large pot of water and bring to boil. When it starts to boil, put angel hair pasta in and cook as package instructs.
2.) As water is brought to a boil, heat a large skillet.
3.) Once water is hot, start adding ingredients one at a time:
-onion, cook for 5 minutes
-garlic, cook for 2 minutes
-sausage, break apart with wooden spoon and cook until brown, about 5 minutes
-peppers and salt, cook until veggies are soft, about 4 more minutes
-tomatoes, 3/4 cup water, basil
4.) bring everything to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. (BTB, RTS) Let cook until sauce thickens.
5.) Add spaghetti to the skillet and mix everything well.
6.) Spray 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Add half the pasta/sauce mixture. Layer with half each of the cheeses. Add the remaining pasta/sauce mixture, then layer with the rest of each of the cheeses.
7.) Cover loosely with foil. Don’t let the foil touch the cheese or messiness will happen. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving (or tasting!).

Source: Adapted from Bobby Deen, Food Network Magazine

Helpful Hints/Things I Learned:

  • Salt is added to pasta water to bring out the flavor of the pasta. Pasta absorbs water as it cooks and will absorb salt, too, which is why you can’t just add salt afterwards and have the same effect.
  • Basil is best torn, rather than cut, to prevent bruising and to make them look more appetizing. (confession: I cut mine and then researched this afterwards.  Still delicious but next time I’m tearing!)

Easy-but-Fancy Stir Fry

Welcome to Fancy Fridays! Today’s recipe is easy enough but is delicious enough to be passed off as fancy.

I’ve become a little obsessed with Rouxbe, an online cooking school I’ve found. It’s through Rouxbe that I came across this fantastic stir-fry recipe.

The recipe itself called for broccoli, which is not a favorite in our house, so I used red and green peppers, snow peas and celery instead. Truly, you can use whatever veggies you find delicious, just be sure that crispier vegetables are cooked first.

The recipe is really “just” a stir fry — stir fry the chicken, stir fry the vegetables, stir fry everything together. The difference here is that you will “velvet” the chicken to give it a smooth, velvety texture. You then use a couple of clutch special ingredients (oyster sauce, red chili paste, sherry) to mix with the vegetables to give it that maybe-I-secretly-ordered-Chinese-take-out kind of flavor.

That’s really it. I struggled a lot with the actual stir-frying of the chicken because of my impatience with my baby stainless-steel pan, but that only has to do with my being a novice in the kitchen. The hardest part is forking (heh) over a little cash up front for the special ingredients. Once you do that, though, the dish becomes pretty inexpensive.

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp + 3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp + 3 tbsp dry sherry (I used the kind found in the baking section)
2 tbsp + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chili paste (sambal oelek preferred, though I just used the chili paste I could find; found in Asian section of grocery)
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce (found in Asian section of grocery)
1 garlic clove, smashed (NOT minced)
1 slice ginger
1/3 cup almonds
veggies of choice, cut and prepared for stir fry

Directions:

1.) “Velvet” the chicken – Place bite-sized pieces of chicken in medium bowl. Mix the cornstarch, soy sauce, sherry and oil in small bowl. Pour over the chicken and stir to evenly coat. Set it aside, while you make the sauce.

2.) Make the sauce – Combine the chili paste/sambal, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sherry in a small bowl.

3.) Infuse oil with ginger and garlic – Heat pan/wok. Once hot, add oil and then ginger and garlic. Remove ginger and garlic after a few seconds.

4.) Stir fry the chicken. You will generally need to do two batches of chicken, as you don’t want to overcrowd the pan. Separate pieces that are stuck together and let sit for a bit before tossing. Cook until golden and just done.

5.) Stir fry veggies – put veggies in the pan/wok and cook. Cooking time depends on the type of veggies you choose. Carrots = longer. Add the sauce from step 2, then cook until vegetables are done. Add chicken and almonds. Finally, add the green onion and toss. Cook until everything is heated through.

Source: Rouxbe

Helpful Hints: A properly heated pan or wok is essential for this and is something that I’m still working on! I use a stainless steel skillet for now (we have an electric range and woks are designed for gas ranges), so my temperature is going to be a little lower. I’ve heard chef pans work well, too, for electric stove tops. Also, let the chicken sit a bit in the wok/pan before tossing. The chicken needs time to develop a crust.

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