Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Szechuan Chicken Stir-Fry

Szechuan cuisine features bold, spicy, and pungent flavors highlighted with chiles and garlic. Typical Szechuan sauces differ from soy- or sesame-based Asian sauces in that they’re typically tomato based, sometimes using tomato puree or sauce.

Here, I combined tomato paste with sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) and then thinned the mixture with a little water to create the tomato base.

It’s also common to find sherry in Szechuan sauces. I didn’t have any on hand, so I substituted red wine with a tasty result. And when the sauce is stir-fried with chiles, garlic, and ginger, real Szechuan fire and savor come to life, turning a simple chicken stir-fry into a boldly flavored, inviting dinner.

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek or other ground fresh chile paste
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tbsp dry red wine
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil, divided
  • 3 red Thai chiles, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into thin 1-1/2-inch strips
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup thin diagonally sliced peeled carrot
  • 4 scallions, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 oz thin green beans, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
Prepared Ingredients
Prepared Chicken Thighs
  1. Whisk the tomato paste, water, and sambal oelek in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the vinegar, sugar, and wine in another bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Tomato Paste and Vinegar Mixtures
  1. Heat a wok over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the chiles, garlic, and ginger and season with salt. Stir-fry 1 minute.
  2. Add the reserved tomato paste mixture and reserved sugar mixture, stirring well to combine. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 3 minutes.
  3. Pour the sauce into a bowl and set aside. Do not wipe out the wok.

Chile Mixture 
Sauce Mixtures Added
  1. Place the cornstarch in a heavy, sealable plastic bag. Dry the chicken of any excess moisture and add to the bag with the cornstarch. Shake well to coat. 
  2. Re-heat the wok over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry until just cooked through, 8-9 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl, leaving oil in the wok.
  3. Add the carrots and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the scallions and green beans and stir-fry 3 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken to the wok. Add the reserved sauce, stirring well to incorporate. Cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro leaves.

Stir-Fried Chicken
Carrots Beginning to Stir-Fry
Beans and Scallions Added
Chicken and Sauce Added
To serve, divide the rice among 4 shallow bowls. Divide the stir-fry on top and serve right away.

Szechuan Chicken Stir-Fry

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