Thursday, August 17, 2006

Work and Play

Chicken again? Whew. For some reason, I was less than enthused.

If I’m not excited by some food idea, it’s hard to get motivated to get the food cooked. Cooking turns from fun to work. It’s like that Tom Sawyer fence painting episode, where he defines work – “… Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do…“ (from Mark Twain, “Tom Sawyer”).

So there it is. If I have to do it, it’s work. Which by definition is no fun. If I want to do it, doesn’t matter if it’s the same exact thing, if I want to do it, it’s fun.

Well, we were flipping idly through some search results, looking for some spark of an idea. A bit unenthusiastically.

When my eye caught a partial list of ingredients. Sort of an odd combination. Basil, hoisin sauce, garlic, oyster sauce, sesame oil, hot chili paste. Among other things.

Basil? In an apparently Chinese style dish? With sesame oil and hot chili paste and oyster sauce? Hmmm. I’d never seen basil in a Chinese dish before. Thai, maybe. But not Chinese.

And it turns out we actually have all the ingredients. How often does that happen? Usually I’m looking through things, and there is at least one key ingredient that I don’t have.

But for this one, not only did we have everything, but the combination was unique. Something intriguing.

Work was turning into play.

The idea of the dish was to combine the basil as a counterpoint in flavor to a more typical Chinese seasoning combination. Pretty simple. The savory, slightly sweet hoisin sauce, the salty soy and the spicy chili paste balanced against the lightly licorice flavored basil.

Plus the recipe calls for chicken thighs. Which I prefer. As they have about a million times more flavor than chicken breasts. And I’m willing to put up with the complaints on occasion for the extra flavor.

So off we went.

The recipe is built along standard Chinese cooking lines. Marinate meat. Sautee meat. Add gravy ingredients. Serve. Everything fried over very high heat in a Wok (mine broke, so I use a heavy skillet and very high heat). I added some vegetation to the recipe, and pumped up the seasoning a bit. We had some Chinese long beans in the fridge, so I quick stir fried them prior to cooking the meat, and put both over steamed rice.

Wonderful! I love the flavor of the chili garlic paste. It has such a unique fire to it. And the basil was fantastic. Even though I knew what it was, it really surprise the taste buds! So by the end of the meal, everyone, taste buds included, had had a chance to play!

The basic recipe is from a Web site that sells Ken Hom Chinese cookware, with some adaptations by me, and the addition of the long beans. I included the intro text as well.

Spicy Hot Chicken with Basil and Long Beans
Recipe by Chef Ken Hom, adapted by surfindaave
Serves 4

This is a savoury, almost lusty chicken dish of Southeast Asian provenance.
Chicken thighs, with their darker, firmer meat, lend themselves to marinades and longer cooking. I enjoy their more robust chicken flavour and their more substantial texture. Chicken combines nicely with all spices but I particularly enjoy the surprise here of the anise-flavoured basil which is so nice a counterpoint to the other spices. If basil is unavailable you can substitute fresh mint. Serve the dish with plain rice and a salad or green vegetable for a complete meal. It can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator as it re-heats well.

2 large bunches of Chinese long beans, rinsed
2.5 lb chicken thigh meat (or 4 lb unboned chicken thighs, skinned and boned)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
2-3 teaspoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons peanut oil
6 cloves coarsely chopped garlic
2 tbsp chilli-garlic sauce
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 teaspoon sugar (I used agava nectar)
Large handful fresh basil leaves – about 100 leaves

Cut the long beans into 1½ inch bite sized pieces, and reserve.

Remove the skin and bones from the chicken thighs or ask your butcher to do it for you. Cut the chicken into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks and combine it in a bowl with the light soy sauce, cornflour and sesame oil.

Heat a wok and add 2 tbsp of the oil until it is very hot. Add the cut long beans, and toss quickly. Add a few tbsp of water to the pan, and cover. Steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove lid, and toss beans until most of water is evaporated. Remove beans to a heat proof bowl, and reserve.

Add remaining 2 tbsp of peanut oil to wok and heat over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the chicken. Stir fry for 5 minutes, then remove the chicken and drain off the oil. Return the drained chicken to the wok and add all the remaining ingredients except the basil leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. When the chicken is cooked, add the basil, and stir well. Transfer to a serving platter together with the beans and serve at once with steamed rice on the side. Enjoy!

Tags : : : : : :


Blogger Kalyn said...

Looks awesome.

5:41 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home