Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three Cup Chicken with Thai Basil & Green Beans

Over the last 12 years I spent a significant amount of my time working and living between New York City and Asia, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. I was fortunate enough to be able to take the time once in a while and get into a kitchen with Fu, the woman who most often cooked lunches and sometimes dinners for me, allowing me to work more hours without interruption. Some times I would teach her recipes (I taught her to bake her first cookies!) and other times she taught me about Chinese cooking. I miss the travel terribly. I miss Fu too. The baking soda trick below is something she taught me. The sauce has been developed by trial and error reading many recipes and tasting many versions in Taiwan and China (an amazing one in a Taiwanese restaurant in Shanghai I still dream about!) I added the green beans after reading the San Bei Gi recipe in the book the art of EATING IN by Cathy Erway. Thanks for that tasty suggestion Cathy!

This recipe was part of my Cleaning out the Coffers March, save for the Thai Basil which I bought fresh, but used the entire bunch in this recipe - so I allowed it for the rule bending.

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Serves 4-6 servings depending upon their appetites

2.5 lbs chicken thighs, skinned, fat removed, bone-in preferred (best flavor)
2.5 tablespoons baking soda
1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/3 cup dark sesame oil (has a better flavor than regular sesame oil)
4 dried birds eye chilies, chopped and crushed (optional)
25 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
25 slices of peeled fresh ginger
5 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)* <-- this gives the authentic flavor I taste when eaten in Asia
1/3 cup Shaoxing cooking wine*
1 pound green beans, ends removed, cut into 3 inch pieces
4 scallions
1 entire large bunch of Thai basil leaves**

Steamed white rice

* I have had this recipe made with squid as well. Delicious!
* Once I had this dish with eggplant (no green beans). It was also wonderful, but I've yet to try it.

Begin by cutting the large portions of chicken off of the bone, leaving some on the bones. This will allow it to cook faster later and will be easier to tenderize. Rinse and dry the chicken. Put chicken and baking soda in a bowl making sure the chicken is well coated. Let sit 15-20 minutes then thoroughly rinse. This is to help tenderize the chicken.

Combine the cornstarch and soy sauce in a bowl, and pour over the tenderized chicken. Marinade in the refrigerator for a minimum of 45 minutes (or longer.)

As the chicken marinades, you can prepare the vegetables.

In a dutch oven (some prefer non-stick pans, but I adore my All-Clad dutch oven), heat the sesame oil over medium heat. When hot (not smoking), add the chilies, ginger and garlic. Cook until the garlic and ginger grow fragrant.
DO NOT put your nose directly over the pan and breath in if you have used the chilies as the steam may well sting your eyes and nose.

Add the chicken and brown it on all sides. Add the kecap manis and cooking wine and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to medium-low and cover cooking until the chicken is done, approximately 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, loosening up the browned bits.

Add the green beans and basil, stirring well, and cook an additional 5-7 minutes (until the green beans are cooked al dente.

Serve with steamed white rice. Sprinkle scallions on each plate prior to serving.

* Available in your local Asian market or online at your favorite Asian market retailer.

**Thai basil is NOT the usual basil found in most supermarkets that you use in a typical pesto. It is more peppery and is extremely fragrant. It is worth finding this special basil, available in Asian supermarkets if not in your specialty market, for the authentic flavor.

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