In 2009, husband Dave, daughter Emily –for a couple of weeks anyway– and I spent the summer in St. Paul, Minnesota so I could take a few graduate music courses at University of St. Thomas. While there, we lived in a 3rd-floor walkup apartment on Grand Avenue above a Thai restaurant named — you guessed it — Pad Thai. (See below)Continue reading
Dave likes to say, “You don’t like Asian food.” It’s not true and he actually knows it. What I don’t like is food from a greasy “Chinese” take-out place. What I don’t like are limp vegetables and high-fried protein mixed in a shiny, gelatinous sauce full of sweetness and calories I neither need nor want. I adore the real deal anywhere and, if I’m at home, pull out the Barbara Tropp when I need inspiration, instigation, or education. What he doesn’t say out loud is that he’s the better Asian cook; he’s just too often too busy to make dinner. I do love to see him in the kitchen. Yep.
|Here he is helping cook a gorgeous Chinese feast last year…with friend Jim.
or here…all by his handsome lonesome in our Colorado kitchen:
Sometimes, like everyone else, I just wing it or take a basic recipe and ad lib. Nothing ventured, no dinner. This fine, quick meal is a sort of Szechuan-Thai-Minnesotan fusion as it combines the garlic, ginger, and peppers of a Szechuan meal with the fish sauce, fresh basil, and lime of Thai food tradition, and finishes off with the northern American (Minnesotan) winter staple, walnuts.
|The walnuts were awesome in this dish; don’t skip them.|
I made jasmine rice because that’s what’s in the pantry and also because I adore its nutty, fragrant presence at the table. Set the table (plain mats, small bowls for rice, cups for tea, chop sticks), brew the tea, start the rice, and make the stir fry; it should come out fairly even. Add a little Chinese music off the internet, if you like. Here’s a youtube I enjoyed.
|This is what I do for my Asian meals–just a simpler feel. Nothing fancy. I include silverware as well as chopsticks.|
Try this; you’ll be happy you did. If you’ve been dissatisfied with your attempts at stir fry before, use my method and see what you think. Don’t buy any pre-made sauces and, no, you don’t need soy sauce here. Next time, switch it around with your favorite vegetables or use tofu or pork instead of chicken….
chicken-vegetable stir fry with walnuts
serves 4 people generously
- 1/2 cup chopped or halved walnuts, toasted in a pan on the stove on low for 5 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
- Fresh ground black pepper, kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon each grated fresh ginger and minced garlic
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 – 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup cabbage, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and julienned (matchsticks)
- 3/4 pound haricots verts or regular green beans cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal*
- 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 lime (use 1 tablespoon juice while cooking and the rest for garnish at table)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup basil, julienne (sliced in thin ribbons)
- 2 tablespoons red or green onion, minced
1. Before making stir fry: Set table. Make tea or pour wine. Set aside toasted walnuts. Make rice: combine 1 1/2 cups dry rice with 1 3/4 cups water with two good grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook (a tiny plume of steam should be escaping) for 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Fluff with fork. Let sit until needed.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together salted and peppered chicken pieces with 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or a large, deep skillet and add the garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper. Let cook a minute before adding chicken. Let brown well, turn, and brown on the other side until cooked through. Remove to a clean bowl.
3. Add onions, cabbage, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms to the wok. Cook, stirring, until vegetables have just begun to barely soften, about two minutes. Remove vegetables from wok and add to the bowl with the chicken.
4. Pour into the wok the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon lime juice, along with the cayenne, and simmer for a minute or two to reduce before adding back in the chicken and vegetables.
5. Stir in the other tablespoon of fish sauce, let heat through; turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. If too dry, add a little more chicken broth; you want some sauce here for your rice. Sprinkle with reserved walnuts, basil, and onions. Serve hot with rice and lime wedges.
*If you have older or thicker regular green beans, slice them lengthwise in addition to cutting into 1-inch pieces.
Cook’s Note: If you don’t like spicy food (and this isn’t terribly spicy), leave out the crushed red pepper and try just a tiny pinch of cayenne in the sauce to give the meal a little edge.
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE TO LOOK AT ANOTHER ASIAN MEAL ON MORE TIME:
Sing a new song,
You know how you have an addiction to certain Thai restaurants? (If you know why, let me know.) Now I like almost all things Thai foodie, except I can’t handle the tres, tres spicy dishes. “I like them; they don’t like me.” My father-in-law, Gene, says that, and he is so right. Ever since I came back from summer study at University of St. Thomas, I’ve been just dying to get into cooking Thai. For two summers, we lived above a Thai restaurant and I think it began to get into my pores.
I’ve dibbled and I’ve dabbled and I’m now at the point where I’m making it up as I go along. Perhaps it’s because I eat at Bhan Thai sometimes once a week…usually to get in an all-veggie meal that’s not a salad. Each dish provokes, “What’s in this?“
|Here’s my Thai basil with regular basil. Planted in a pot under a shade tree. It’ll burn up in the Colorado sun otherwise.|
Finally, though, I kept looking at my Thai basil out by the whiskey barrel under the tree….and I knew its days were numbered. Not that fall is ever REALLY coming (and winter, true winter, only makes it a couple of times a year in the Springs, despite what others think), but we do get freezes. And herbs that haven’t been cosseted and lovingly brought in to my dining room south window bite the dust. Or whatever herbs do. (Sometimes they resurrect in the spring.) All told, it was time to get my Chicken Basil on.
So google that and put it in your pan. There’s a million Chicken Basils. But most of them are almost all chicken. I sooo wanted a big bunch of veg in this one. And the one Thai cookbook I wanted to buy is out of print. Figure it out yourself, I said. You’re a cook; you’ve got the stuff. And here’s what I got. Do use fresh herbs; if you can’t do all three, don’t make it without at least the basil. I think that if you have the minty Thai basil, you could consider skipping the other two herbs, but I like it with all three.
And, like everyone else, I’ll tell you to drink a little riesling with this. I do so like the Oregon ones… Chehalem in particular. They do a fairly dry one that’s just does my taster good.
Alyce’s Chicken Veg Basil serves 4
Set the table, pour the water or wine, etc. Then start to cook.
First make enough rice for four people: Bring 2 cups of salted and peppered water and a cup of rice to boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook until done. (About 20 minutes at sea level… a few minutes more at altitude.) Add 1/4 c chopped cilantro and toss with a fork. Replace lid to keep warm (up to half an hour) until the chicken and vegetables are done. (I like medium-grain, cheap rice for this. It should be sticky.)
Ingredients for stir fry:
2 boneless chicken breasts cut into 1″x1″ pieces
2T fish sauce
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 t sugar*
2 T cooking oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, ditto
1 small zucchini, sliced thinly
1 small yellow squash, sliced thinly
1/2 red sweet pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 yellow sweet pepper, sliced thinly
1 tomato, fresh, cut into quarters and squeezed to get juice and seeds out. Next, cut into medium dice.
1 jalapeno, minus seeds and membrances, finely minced (for mild, use 1/2 the jalapeno; add more for hot)**
1 c fresh basil or Thai basil left whole, divided
1/4 c cilantro, chopped roughly
1/4 c fresh mint, chopped roughly
Freshly ground black pepper
|Have all this stuff ready to go.|
1. In a medium bowl stir together cut-up chicken and the next four ingredients, fish sauce-sugar. Let sit while you
2. In a wok or large deep skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and cook sliced onions for about two minutes. Add sliced garlic, squashes, sweet peppers, tomato and jalapeno. Let cook another two minutes, stirring often.
3. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken from sauce and add to the pan of vegetables. Add half of the basil, the cilantro and the mint. Season well with black pepper. Cook about 3 minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Pour sauce into wok/pan and cook another 30 seconds or so, stirring all the while. Spoon in to serving bowl and top with remaining whole basil leaves. Serve with the hot rice.
*sauce recipe from FOOD AND WINE
**Whole jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed, minced finely for hot. (Hotter? Pass crushed red pepper at the table. You could also use Thai bird chiles, but jalapenos are more accessible here.)
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
Still feeling like summer around here….Decks got painted over the last two weeks.
This is what we call “The Doggie Door.” Still in the 60’s. Changing tomorrow.
|Hasn’t frozen yet.|
|Are you gonna eat that?|
This week, I’m testing pizza and have already made some. I teach the Italian section of “Cooking with Music” this Saturday and I WILL be up-to-date on my crust by then! Blog coming, I’ll hope.
|This is the first try at a 15″x13″ margherita. It had its ups and downs Cool thing about it is it’s baked in a half-sheet pan like anyone has. You could do it tomorrow!|
Fitness update: Gabby and I hiked the local hills instead of me going to the gym. Spiritual practice of “putting one foot in front of the other,” as Barbara Brown Taylor says. Dave and I worked out together on Saturday morning…before going out to breakfast. Gee.