This month’s Kosher Connection Linkup’s theme is Chinese Food, and pretty much any dish you get in a chinese restaurant is a stir fry. A stir fry, is my go to for a really quick weeknight supper. It comes together really quick, and can literally be on the table in like 10 minutes, provided you do some preparation work, and have everything ready to go (ie – mise en place). Now don’t get me wrong, I am the most unprepared cook in the history of preparedness, however, when it comes to throwing down a stir fry, you need to have it all ready, because it comes together quick.
Here’s what makes a stir fry a stir fry. First thing first, like we said, everything comes together really quickly, which is why it’s crucial you have a good pan. Whether you use a wok (which might not be the best option, depending on what type of wok you have, and whether it’s suitable for your stove), or you have a heavy bottomed cast iron skillet (which is what I use), or a tri-ply type of skillet (a “metal” type of pan, that has a layer of copper sandwiched between 2 layers of aluminum, to ensure even cooking; these pans are usually very expensive [eg – all-clad]), you need to heat the bejessus out of it, to make sure it’s super duper hot. This will ensure everything cooks quickly. Second, you want uniform sized pieces, so whatever you decide to put into the stir fry, should all be about the same size.
Now onto the food. There’s really three components. The protein, the vegetables, and the sauce. As for the protein, whether it’s chicken, beef, tofu, or whatever, the principles are the same. You want to cook them, really quickly, and with high heat, so you can develop maximum browning, but without overcooking. So you have to wait for the pan/oil to be really hot, and not overcrowd the pan (or you’ll end up steaming the meat, and not sautéing it). I usually cook the protein first, and when it’s ready I take it out of the pan, and let it sit on the side, and then add it back at the last second to mix together with everything else. (This is when a spider (that mesh looking device below) is really helpful)
For the vegetables, I like to keep it simple, and not overwhelm the dish with too many different vegetables. 1 or 2 different vegetables would be the maximum. Now in regards to cooking the vegetable, it has be done with order also. First rule – garlic and ginger always gets added at the last second, and is only sautéed for like 20 seconds. This prevents the garlic and ginger from burning, which they can do pretty easily. Other wise, the other vegetables, will cook much the same way the chicken is cooked, fast, over high heat (again, to maximize browning, while retaining their crispy-ness).
For the garlic, there are those who are against garlic presses, saying garlic presses mush the garlic too fine, and can cause the flavor of the final product to be too harsh, and instead they make a garlic paste on their cutting board. Now, I’m not one of those people, but sometimes I’m too lazy to clean the garlic press, so I make the paste instead. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. You take your knife and using the sides, you just keep on smushing it, until a paste forms. Some people will add salt, saying it will help (the salt abrades against the garlic), but I never do that.
For the sauce, this is really where you can just make anything up. Usually, the sauce will have soy sauce, and a vinegar in it, and a spicy component, but that’s not a hard fast rule. And you add the sauce once the vegetables is done. Since your pan is super hot, the sauce will immediately start to sizzle. You let it cook for 20 seconds or so, and then another classical addition is corn starch, to thicken the sauce.
Starch thickens sauces by absorbing water, but they only do that at a certain temperature, so typically, you take 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch and dissolve it in 1-2 teaspoons of water, and then add that to the sauce as the finishing touch. The reason you can’t just add corn starch straight to the sauce (without dissolving it first), is because the second the starch hits the hot sauce it starts absorbing water, and if you add it straight it would clump up.
So for our dish, we went with chicken (deboned thighs) as our protein, which we “marinated” in egg whites and corn starch (it’s not really a marinade, in that it doesn’t effect the chicken’s tenderness, but we did let it soak in it for a little while…the egg whites and corn starch coat the chicken, and form somewhat of a barrier, and are a kind of insurance to prevent over cooking), quick cooking scallions and garlic, and for the sauce, it was composed of – ketchup, white vinegar, white wine, sugar, and soy sauce, served over rice.
Obviously the ingredients are listed below, but feel free to tinker around.
Don’t forget to check out the other blogs that participated, by clicking on the funny looking frog thingy below.
Garlic Scallion Chicken Stiry Fry
adapted from Joy of cooking (pg 594)
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1-2 boneless, skinless thighs, cut into roughly 1/2” cubes
- 3 scallions, cut into 1/4” pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 4 teaspoons white vinegar
- 4 teaspoons dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons corn starch, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Mix egg whites, cornstarch, salt, and chicken pieces, and let sit 20-30 minutes
- Cut scallions and garlic, and set aside. Mix together sauce, and set aside, and mix together cornstarch and water and also set aside (the cornstarch will settle, and will need one last stir right before adding)
- Heat your skillet/wok over high heat for at least 5-10 minutes, so that it’s really pre-heated. You can test this, by taking a drop of water, and it should sizzle the second it hits the pan.
- Add 3 tablespoons of your oil, and once it’s shimmering, add chicken, ensuring not to overcrowd your pan, you might have to do it in batches if your pan isn’t big enough.
- Once the chicken is ready, remove it from the pan, and set it aside.
- Allow the pan to heat up again, and when hot again (don’t do the “water test” since there’s oil in the pan, and it will just spurt hot oil all over the place…not fun) add the garlic and scallions, and allow to cook for literally 20 seconds (once you start to smell it, it’s done)
- Working quickly, add the sauce, it should start to sizzle, and allow to cook for 15-20 seconds, and then slowly add the cornstarch mixture (don’t forget to stir the cornstarch before adding to make sure it’s dissolved), and it should start to thicken right away.
- Add your chicken back (along with any liquid that is with it) and mix around to incorporate everything, and you’re done