Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chicken With Fresh Mushrooms

From my favorite Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, this is a light stir-fry that goes well over rice. I had thought of making Moo Goo Gai Pan since I had chicken breasts and mushrooms to hand but it turned out that I didn't have enough other ingredients to make me page through the book for options. I'm glad I did. This simple dish was delicious. I made the variation with broccoli stems.

I didn't have time to let the chicken sit for the requisite half hour for velveting but knew that the recipe would need the chicken to be mostly cooked. I simply brought a few cups of water to a boil and dropped the chicken slices in. They turned white almost immediately and I emptied the pot into a strainer. Although not as soft as the velveted chicken would have been, they were just fine.

1 pound sliced chicken breast, velveted
1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
4 tablespoons oil
2 quarter-sized slices peeled ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons chicken stock or water
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Velvet the sliced chicken breast. Rinse and drain the sliced bamboo shoots. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel (I wash them with a soft brush under running water); dry and slice them.

Heat a work or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot; add 2 tablespoons of the oil, swirl, and heat for 30 seconds. Scatter in the bamboo shoots and stir rapidly for about 1 minute to evaporate their moisture and eliminate the canned odor -- lower the heat if necessary to prevent scorching. Remove to a plate.

Dry the pan, add the 2 remaining tablespoons oil, swirl, and heat over dry heat until hot. Toss in the ginger slices and press them against the pan. Add the mushrooms and stir and flip them rapidly for about 30 seconds, until their color brightens. Add the bamboo shoots and the salt and stir briskly with the mushrooms for 1 minute. Then add the chicken and stir to mingle well; add the soy sauce and stir briskly to season evenly. Pour in the cornstarch mixture and stir until the contents are smoothly coated. Add the sesame oil, flip the contents a few times, and pour into a hot serving dish.

Variations
Instead of fresh mushrooms, well-drained canned button or straw mushrooms may be substituted. And instead of bamboo shoots you could use fresh snow peas or peeled broccoli stems to give some green color to the dish.

If you use snow peas, string and rinse them briefly. Dip them in boiling water for 10 seconds and drain. Use 3 tablespoons oil to stir-fry the mushrooms; then add the snow peas.

If you use broccoli stems, peel and cut them on the slant into thin slices. Add them when the bamboo shoots would have been added.

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