Thursday, January 6, 2011
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Sometimes you begin with a recipe in mind. Other times it's an ingredient. We went to the store the other day and there was whole fresh pineapple for $1.99. What a world we live in where you can, in the middle of winter, in Indiana, get pineapple for 2 bucks!
I suppose there are consequences and moral debates you could have over whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I choose to look on this as a glass more than half full situation. Winter can be dreary. Walking through the produce aisle and seeing a pineapple brings summer, or at least tropical islands and not two feet of snow, to mind. Regardless, I couldn't resist.
Now what? I really didn't have any definite purpose or use for the pineapple, however I have it, and it didn't travel a thousand miles or more to end up in my compost pile. My first reaction was to make a dish similar to the sweet and sour chicken Mom made when we were kids. I asked Connie what he thought and his first reaction was sweet and sour also.
Okay, how about an aside here? The internet is wonderful. Information, all sorts of esoteric, useful, and downright stupid information, is at your fingertips instantly. However, there is nothing like a book. Flipping through a book is a totally different experience. There is no wait as the page loads. It is tactile. You are completely involved and in control. Open, close, pause, whatever. Anyway that is one of the reasons why I own cookbooks. And you can crush spiders with them, try that with the Web!
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...
Needless to say, I have Chinese, Asian, Thai and other cookbooks. It took no time to pluck one off the shelf and begin to browse under pineapple. The first and only book I messed with was Chinese and Thai 400 Healthy Recipes for Modern Living. Start out 2011 with something healthy! Now if this recipe is representative of the others in the book, I have a definite winner. This was simple to cook, completely delicious and healthy too.
Connie swears I never, ever follow a recipe. I admit I rarely do. The recipe called for pork but I knew chicken would be a fine substitute. Also, if you read any stir fry recipe, it is always, add this, cook for a minute, add that, cook for a minute. Whatever! I trust my instincts, and so should you. The things that you know take longer to cook have to go in first, those that don't, don't. Therefore, the cooking instructions are a little jumbled compared to a classical Chinese cooking recipe. Cooking in a wok means, prepare your food, cook it hot and fast.
Regardless, I hope you enjoy this as much as Connie and I did.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 T vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch squares (we had ½ a red and ½ a green bell pepper left over from another recipe, so your eyes are not playing tricks on you.)
1 small carrot, sliced
½ c drained, canned pineapple chunks (this is where we used ½ of our fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, eyes removed)
2 T malt vinegar
3 T ketchup
2/3 cup pineapple juice (had to use canned since the pineapple was fresh)
2 t confectioners sugar
2 t cornstarch
1 T cold water
salt and ground black pepper
Cut the chicken in bite-sized pieces. Marinate the chicken in the rice wine vinegar or sherry with 1/2 t of salt and a pinch of pepper. Toss the chicken to make sure it's all coated. Put it aside in a cool place for 15 minutes.
Chop the pineapple,
You need to create what's called a mis en place so that all of your ingredients are ready to pop in the wok. You'll not have time to measure while you're actually cooking. Mis en place translated from French just says put in place. We use small glass bowls for things like seasonings. In this case, the quantity of each ingredient was small enough that we could use the same bowls for the pineapple and veggies. A larger bowl was used for the chicken. We put it out on the cutting board for photo taking.
Heat a wok (or a non-stick frying pan) then add the oil. The oil needs to be very hot before you begin adding the ingredients. Add the chicken first and stir it for about a minute.
Then, add the onion, garlic, peppers and carrot.
Stir until the chicken is almost done. Remember, when you make the sauce in the next step, it's going to cook for three more minutes...
Now, it's time for the pineapple and the sauce ingredients (ketchup, pineapple juice and confectioners sugar.) Bring the sauce to a boil.
Simmer it for three minutes. Give it a quick stir a couple of times.
While the sauce is simmering, make a paste with the cornstarch and water. Add the paste to the sauce and stir until the sauce is thickened.
Serve over brown rice.
adapted from Chinese and Thai 400 Healthy Recipes for Modern Living edited by Jane Bamforth, Maggie Pannell and Jenni Fleetwood