Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recipe Recycling - Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

My favorite trick for cooking from my pantry is to take the ingredients I have on hand and drop them into an existing recipe that does not necessarily call for those ingredients.  Substitutions do not necessarily need to give similar flavors, textures, etc. to a dish to make something tasty.  For example, when I see a delicious looking mustard-dill pan sauce designed to go over lamb chops I will readily grab chicken out of my freezer and go to town.

Two days later, I tried it with some pork cutlets, yum. And even now, I'm envisioning it reduced a bit more and spooned over roasted asparagus and fennel. (I promise, if/when this happens I'll post a picture or two.)

For today, however, I need to figure out what to make myself for my birthday dinner.  Yes, today I turn 33. Being the youngest of 6 kids, birthdays (particularly ones this close to a new school year) did not garner a huge amount of fanfare. Sure, there was a ridiculously dense and moist fudge cake that I still dream about from time to time. Sure, everyone was forced to pay just a little bit more attention to you than normal. But the absolute best thing about a birthday in my family was that it was the one day of the year when you had the right to choose what was for dinner.

Think about it.  We had so many people eating dinner together every night that some of us had to sit at the kitchen counter because the kitchen table was not large enough to seat 8. If mom made something for dinner that you didn't like, you either sucked it up and ate it, or you poured yourself a bowl of cereal. (I've heard stories from the early years when my parents tried to force their children to eat what was made for them, but by the time I arrived, they had given up all hope.)

So, you can imagine how exciting it was to know that you could have mom make whatever YOU wanted for dinner, older brothers and sisters be damned.
Lately, I find myself craving some tasty Chinese food.  A couple days ago, I posted a new green bean recipe. While cooking those beans, I tasted the sauce for seasoning and I realized that it was essentially a basic brown sauce.  So last night I pulled some chicken thighs out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge and double-checked my stock of broccoli, rice, onion and garlic and realized I was good to go.

Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
Ingredients: (This recipe makes enough for two.  Or enough for one to have it for dinner and then lunch the next day).
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
2/3 of a large vidalia onion, sliced thinly
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
generous pinch of crushed red pepper
cooking oil (canola, vegetable, olive or peanut are all good options)

Sauce (combine all):
3 tbs soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar

Step 1:
Once you have prepped the vegetables and sauce, start working on the chicken thighs. Pull the skin off the thighs, trim any excess fat and remove the bone from each.  Thighs are the easiest pieces to de-bone.  You can force your fingers down the sides of each bone, forcing the meat away from it and then pull the bone right out.  Make sure you feel around the entire thigh and remove any hard pieces of cartilage still sticking to the meat.  Cut each thigh into bite-sized pieces.  (You know the size, it's the same size of chicken pieces used by all Chinese take-out places on the planet). Sprinkle the chicken with the ground ginger and set aside.

 Optional Step 1a:

In a large, straight-sided skillet, fry the chicken skins in a tablespoon or so of hot oil over medium heat. There is really no need to do this, but I can't throw away beautiful chicken skins when I can have "chicken rinds" (a.k.a. chicken chicharrones, not to be confused with chicharrones de pollo... which is just fried chicken.) to snack on while I'm making dinner.

I admit that I also like to use some of the rendered chicken fat when making the rice pilaf that this meal will be served over.

Step 2:
Either remove all but two tablespoons of the chicken fat from the skillet or add 2 tbsp of oil (canola, vegetable, olive, peanut... pick one) to your skillet and heat over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken pieces and let brown.  (Don't worry about overcooking here, chicken thighs are VERY forgiving.) This took me about 8-10 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Step 3:
Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of water, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (unless you're using a nonstick skillet.  If that's the case, don't scrape anything or someone will probably get very mad at you.) Add the broccoli florets to the pan. Cover, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the broccoli steam for 3 minutes.


Remove the broccoli from the pan and set aside with the chicken.

Step 4:
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 2 minutes.  

Step 5:
Add the sauce and simmer, uncovered for 5-8 minutes. Add the broccoli and chicken back to the pan and turn the heat down to low and cover until it's time to eat.

In my case, I still had 10 minutes left on the rice...

No comments:

Post a Comment