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~ Stir-Fry 101. Chinese-American Chicken & Broccoli ~

IMG_8075Want to learn how to stir-fry or teach someone how to stir-fry?  Start with Chinese-American chicken and broccoli.  It is the quintessential basic stir-fry.  One protein (chicken).  One vegetable (broccoli).  One sauce (brown).  Steamed rice (white).  Nine out of ten times, there will be some garlic, ginger and green onions in the mix too.  Chicken and Broccoli is on every Chinese take-out menu, it's one of the most popular Chinese chicken dishes, and, it is almost always the first stir-fry home cooks try to duplicate.  There's more.  No special hardware is required.  While stir-frying is typically done in a traditional wok or stir-fry pan, a skillet or an electric skillet work equally fine too.

Make the "Chinese mother sauce" (1 1/4 cups brown sauce).

IMG_7877Have you ever noticed how many of your favorite dishes at your favorite Chinese restaurant seem to be enrobed in a semi-viscous, glossy, dark-brown sauce? Examples: Beef or chicken with broccoli, chow mien or lo mein, kung pao or General Tso, etc.  It's one of every Chinese restaurant's best kept secrets: Brown sauce.  I've heard it referred to as "the Chinese mother sauce", but, even in China, recipes for it vary from region to region.  I make no claim to my concoction being authentic Chinese brown sauce -- it is not.  What it is, is:  Easy to make, full of Chinese flavors, the perfect consistency, and, unbelievably scrumptious: ~ All-purpose Chinese-American Brown Stir-Fry Sauce ~.

IMG_7873For the marinade/sauce (1 1/4 cup): ~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together: 

6  tablespoons Chinese soy sauce

3  tablespoons hoisin sauce

3  tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce

3  tablespoons Sriracha sauce

3  tablespoons sesame oil

1  tablespoon garlic paste

1  tablespoon ginger paste

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper, more or less, to taste

Slice & marinate the protein (1 1/2-2 pounds chicken tenders).  

IMG_7904Many may be surprised to learn this: in the case of marinades, they act primarily as a flavorizer, not as a tenderizer.  Keeping that in mind, marinating the chicken in 6-8 tablespoons of the brown sauce, even if only for 20-30 minutes, will add flavor.  An hour on the countertop is better, and, up to 6-8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator is even better yet (return to room temperature, about 1 hour, prior to stir-frying).  My number one stir-fry choice is the chicken tenderloin -- it is the tenderest part of the chicken. Feel free to substitute breasts.

IMG_7906 IMG_7906 IMG_7906~ Step 1.  To prep the chicken, holding your knife at a 30º angle, slice the tenders into slightly-less than 1/2"-thick pieces. 

IMG_7914 IMG_7914 IMG_7914~ Step 2.  To marinate the chicken, place the sliced chicken in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Add 6-8 tablespoons of the marinade/sauce mixture to the meat and seal the bag.  Using your fingertips, thoroughly "massage" the bag of chicken until slices are evenly coated in marinade.  Set aside.

Blanch the vegetable (3/4-1 pound broccoli).  Steam the rice.

IMG_7926When it comes to a tough, firm vegetable like broccoli, for best results is needs to be steamed or blanched to crunch tender prior to tossing it into any stir-fry.  As for prepping the broccoli, feel free to take the time to make florets out of a very large head.  That said, because I love broccoli and serve it weekly, I prefer the convenience of buying a family-sized bag that has been cut into florets for me.  That said, when really pressed for time, I've used steam-in-bag broccoli florets, and slightly under-steamed it in the microwave -- it worked just fine.

IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931~Step 1.  To blanch and shock the broccoli,  in 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides, place 1 1/2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add 3/4-1-pound broccoli florets, adjust heat to simmer, and continue to cook for 1 1/2-2 minutes, or, until broccoli is bright-green and crunch-tender.  Remove from stovetop, drain into a colander and thoroughly rinse under cold running water to "shock" it, which will halt residual heat from cooking it further.  Set aside to drain thoroughly.

IMG_7381 2 IMG_7381 2 IMG_7381 2~ Step 2.  To steam the rice, using the cup/measure from the rice steamer, place 4  cups basmati rice in steamer. Again, using the same cup/measure, add 4 1/2 cups of water to the steamer.  Turn on, to steam.  When the steamer shuts off, the rice should be firm and just slightly undercooked. Open the steamer's lid rake through rice with a fork to separate the grains. "Raking rice" is term used to describe the last step of cooking rice on the stovetop.  You will have 8 cups of steamed rice. 

Stir-frying the chicken, the broccoli, &, serving the dinner.

IMG_7953When I'm making a stir-fry to feed more than two people (4-6 people), I use either my 12" skillet, or, my 16" electric skillet if I'm tossing cooked lo-mein noodles in at the end (instead of serving my dish over steamed rice). Why? Because they have the surface area to sear a larger quantity of food than the average stovetop wok or stir-fry pan does, meaning:  I do not have to work in batches, and, that's a time saver.  Chicken and broccoli is traditionally served over steamed rice, so I'm using my 12" skillet .

IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7971~Step 1.  Place   chicken and its marinade in skillet -- the marinade contains sesame oil, so there's no need  to add oil.  Over high heat, stir-fry the chicken, using two spoons to stir constantly, until just cooked through, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of the stir-fry sauce and cook, stirring constantly, 20-30 seconds.  

IMG_7973 IMG_7973 IMG_7973 IMG_7973~Step 2.  Add all the blanched broccoli and toss.  Add all the remaining sauce (4-6 tablespoons) and toss again.  When  mixture is steaming, 30-45 seconds, serve over steamed basmati rice.

Serve Chinese-American chicken & broccoli atop rice...

IMG_8106... serve & savor your stir-fry ASAP:

IMG_8113Stir-Fry 101.  Chinese-American Chicken & Broccoli:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; colander; electric rice steamer; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; two large slotted spoons or spatulas

IMG_7857Cook's Note: Same brown sauce, different Chinese dish:  ~ My Chinese-American Lo Mein-Style Pepper steak ~ is a dish that features thin strips of soy- ginger- and garlic-marinated flank-, sirloin- or round-steak, seasoned with a copious amount of pepper, stir-fried with crunchy water chestnuts and julienne strips of colorful bell peppers and onion. It was popularized in Chinese-American restaurants in the '40's and '50's, and home cooks have been making regional versions ever since.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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