Sunday, February 20, 2011

Inspiration Nation: Developing a Recipe for Peanut Chicken Stir Fry

I’m sure there are recipes out there for peanut chicken stir fry, but I couldn’t find any that satisfied my mental taste buds.  I searched the internet for a bit, and then turned to my personal collection of cookbooks.  The only recipe that came close was for pork chops with peanut sauce.  But I could see that if I worked with those ingredients to create the marinade and sauce, and used standard stir fry techniques, I might have a winner.

Substituting chicken for the pork was the easy part.  I had an idea for the sauce, based on the ingredients Terry was able to share with me:  peanut butter, honey, teriyaki sauce.  She thought that the marinade her son used included the peanut butter, but she also mentioned that it took a while to incorporate the marinade ingredients because the peanut butter was thick.  I’ve prepared the pork chop recipe in the past, and I was certain the technique used – adding the peanut butter after the marinade had been drained from the chicken and heated to boil – would produce a smooth and tasty sauce to coat the chicken and the pasta. 

I chose a 2 pound bag of frozen chicken breasts, because the price was right.  There were no sales on chicken yesterday, and even my favorite standby, boneless and skinless chicken thighs, were prohibitively priced.  I picked up a small piece of fresh ginger in the produce section – small, because ginger tends to weigh heavy, and the per pound price is higher than most other produce items.  The same is true of red bell peppers, by the way.  They are much more expensive than the green, and seemed to have more seeds and internal membrane which cause them to weigh heavy.  My market almost always carries a bag of mixed bell peppers at a reasonable price. They are marketed as “salad peppers”, and are usually smaller and more misshapen than those on the regular display.  There are always a few green peppers in the bag, along with sweeter color peppers such as red or yellow.  I used two of the green peppers in yesterday’s Inspiration Nation Paella, and will use the two little red peppers in today’s stir fry.

I dithered over whether or not to include some kind of stir fry vegetable with the chicken.  I already knew I wanted the red bell pepper and onion.  I thought about pineapple, but decided that was too much like the sweet and sour chicken I’d gotten for lunch at Panda Express this past week, and besides, my son is no fan of pineapple.  When I first walked into Publix yesterday, I caught a glimpse of display of small vegetable bags for sale – really excellent price, just one dollar for a bag of fresh broccoli or cauliflower, or some other combination.  The bag of stir fry vegetables I chose included snow peas, thin strips of carrot, broccoli florets and shreds, and red cabbage.

While this looks like a complicated process, remember that once I work it out, it will be committed to paper and saved for all eternity, or until my hard drive crashes.  Developing or even tweaking recipes is not something I started out doing when I first taught myself to cook some forty years ago.  Back then, I was satisfied to follow a printed recipe and hope it came out tasty.  And really, if you enjoy cooking for friends and family, that’s all you need to do - to start, that is.  Because once you get hooked on cooking you will begin to experiment.  Trust me, resistance is futile.
(Admittedly cheesy Star Trek reference.  Mea culpa.)

After mixing the marinade ingredients and dipping in a pinkie to taste (this is before adding to the chicken, peeps!!) I was inspired to dump it out and start from scratch, but instead started tinkering with amounts.  Got it where I liked it, sort of, and added it to the chicken, and shoved it into the fridge for a couple or more hours.  Will it work?  Will my first bite meet the lofty aspirations of my mental taste buds?  Right now, your guess is as good as mine.
These are the ingredients for the marinade, and yes, that is a bottle of 151 rum.  Now the picture below shows the best way to get the most flavor from fresh ginger root.  Just peel the ginger with a paring knife and start grating.  No hard bits or stringy pieces in your sauce.  Incidentally, I have seen Rachael Ray use the rasp grater for large cloves of garlic, and having tried it myself, recommend this to you when the recipe calls for the garlic to be finely chopped or minced.
Folks, tonight is TV heaven - the NBA All Stars Game starts at 8:00 PM EST on TNT, and I plan on rooting, at the top of my lungs, for the Eastern Conference.  At 9:00 PM, Food Network is showing the final episode of Worst Cooks in America.  I wish Chef Anne Burrell had asked Joshie, the crazy lawyer from Brooklyn, to turn in his apron last week, but instead we said goodbye to Carlos, in my opinion, the much better candidate.  So tonight's cookoff is between Georg (female) and Joshie.  I'm telling you, Georg better win!  Because I'm still ticked off that Ming Tsai is not the newest Iron Chef, and I need Food Network to redeem itself.

Although we are heading out tonight for Cory's birthday dinner, I will be preparing the chicken peanut stir fry later on so that the chicken does not over-marinate overnight.  When I get ready to serve it tomorrow, I'll prepare the pasta and reheat the saucy chicken in the microwave. 

The recipe for the chicken peanut stir fry can be found here.  If you do try it, please consider returning to comment.  The feedback will be greatly appreciated.


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