Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kung Pao Chicken with Tomato and Egg

Tonight was a use-everything-up kind of night. Even though I've already made all the dishes I had in my last meal plan, I wanted to challenge myself to throw something together out of what I had on hand, specifically hoping to get rid of the green onions and tomatoes I had sitting in the fridge. I was triumphant! This was a damn tasty little dinner.

I took all of my inspiration for this from my husband. He has made a version of kung pao before; I came up with my method by remembering how his tasted and taking some tips on preparation from other recipes I found online. The tomato and egg are all him, though--it's a traditional Chinese dish, the sort of thing that everyone makes in their homes but don't sell in restaurants. It's beautiful in its simplicity and flavor. Even if you don't have the energy for anything else in your life, you can make a comforting batch of tomato and egg.

I decided to use 5 spice powder in the marinade for the chicken. I thought it added a nice sweet-smoky note to the final sauce, but don't kill yourself trying to find it if it's not easily available at your grocery store. You can omit it without worries. The only reason I even wanted to use it is that I bought a big pouch of it at the Asian grocery store a couple of months ago, and I feel like it's staring me down every time I open my spice cabinet--I don't think it's traditional for this dish.

Kung Pao Chicken
Soy Sauce
Rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 chili pepper, chopped (feel free to use as much as you like if you want it spicier!)
3 green onions, cut into two-inch lengths, then cut lengthwise into thin shreds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 celery hearts or 1 full celery stalk, chopped finely
1/8 cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 inch length fresh ginger, grated
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Peanut or Corn oil

Tomato and Egg
3 small/medium tomatoes (I used tomatoes on the vine), cut into 6 pieces each
3 eggs, beaten with a little salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Soy sauce (optional--only use if you like a little saltiness)
Peanut or Corn oil

First things first, get a pot of rice started.

In a bowl large enough to accomodate your chicken pieces, whisk together 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, the 5 spice powder, and the sesame oil. Add the chicken and stir until all of the pieces are coated in the marinade. Leave the chicken to sit while you work on your prep. As a side note, if you're making both of the dishes, you might as well get all your chopping done at this point so you can cook straight through without having to take a prep break.

Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the green onions, red pepper flakes or chili pepper, garlic, ginger, and celery and cook by itself until the celery is getting soft and the green onions are wilted, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the chicken back to the pan, along with the peanuts. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry, and the brown sugar, stirring to combine. Let it sizzle away until the sugar is melted, 30 seconds to a minute, and stir in a small cornstarch slurry if you want a thicker sauce (you know I did!). Taste for seasoning. Pour everything out of the pan into a bowl and cover to keep warm while you make the T&E.

Wipe down the inside of the pan with a paper towel, add 2 tablespoons of oil and warm over high heat. Add the beaten eggs to the pan and don't touch them until they are almost fully set, about 2 minutes. Drag a wooden spoon or chopsticks through the egg to break it up into smaller pieces. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and two tablespoons of soy sauce to the pan and stir fry until the tomatoes are softer and their skins are starting to pull away, about 4 or 5 minutes. And you're done! Serve over the rice.

You don't have to eat both out of the same bowl like I did--as my buddy Tony would say, it's a little "Mother and Child Reunion" creepy to eat eggs and chicken at the same time--but it was a nice break for my tongue to alternate bites of the spicy kung pao with the salty T&E.

Rating: This is awesome
I'm really proud of how both dishes turned out!

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