I chose this recipe because I was looking for a nice, quick, chicken recipe. Following the advice in the book, I decided that stir-fried chicken and vegetables would fit the bill. The recipe is simple, and since I cook in a mise-en-place fashion, comes together very quickly.
Mise-en-place has its detractors, namely the one in my life who does my dishes, but I find it helps me organize my thoughts and keep on track with a recipe. While most of my experiments don't fail (too badly) I was having guests tonight and wanted something warm and pleasant to ward off the chilly rainy weather without having to steam up the kitchen. I opted to serve the meal with a blue-cheese and argulara salad rather than rice. The stir-fry didn't promise to have much sauce, and we all need more salad in our lives (if not the blue cheese, but more on that later).
I don't have a wok. I do, however, have a very heavy-bottomed skillet that works very well for meals like this. The trick is to get your oil hot before you start. The oil should cause anything that touches it to sizzle. A slight shimmer of heat should rise off the pan before you drop anything into it. Not only does this greatly reduce the time it takes to cook something; but it improves the flavour (or at least, that's my belief-- your mileage may vary).
So I put the oil into the pan and brought it up to temperature. I dropped some garlic and ginger into the pan and cooked it quickly, moving it all over the oil so that their flavours mingle. I removed it once the spices stopped snapping and were browning. I took them out of the pan and back into their bowl. Then I put in the onion and cooked it quickly in the flavoured oil. The onion is cooked when it becomes translucent; I cooked it just a little longer so that there were brown spots on the bottom of my pan. This process sounds wasteful (don't worry - I reincorporate the cooked spices and vegetables at the end), but it's an important step. The garlic and ginger add a depth of flavour to the onion like nothing else can. It also adds brown bits to the bottom of your pan. This is very important.
The onion was removed and I dropped the diced chicken breasts and a bit more oil into the pan. I kept the chicken moving so it wouldn't stick; but even so the browning on the bottom of the pan continued. When the chicken was opaque, I added a handful of diced scallions, and a whole lot of mixed frozen vegetables.
These I stirred quickly and then covered to allow the steam to work its magic. I stirred up the sauce (a combination of soy sauce, chicken stock, pepper, and sesame oil), took off the cover, and added it to the mix. I scraped the bottom of the pan then. Thanks to the few minutes of steam and the sauce, there wasn't much to scrape, but the little bit that did come up was caramalized nicely. Turning everything over to coat it in the sauce and incorporate the brown bits. I added the onion, garlic and ginger (see? told you I'd use them), then recovered the pan for a few minutes, to allow the frozen vegetables to soften.
The recipe actually calls for fresh vegetables; but it's not quite harvest season here -- and frozen vegetables are still a lot cheaper than fresh. The frozen vegetables need a slightly more gentle hand, and can never come out warm and crisp in the same way as fresh; but we'll survive.
The mix came out a lot darker than I'd thought it would. The chicken and lighter vegetables It was fairly dry and tasted really good, especially when topped with some toasted sesame seeds and diced scallions for garnish.
All in all - delicious.