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Cooking the Book: Thai Chicken with Basil

2012 August 23

“We should make Thai takeout at home more often.” That was Mr. Kitchenette’s comment after I procrastinated on making this one for months. That’ll show me! Maybe I’ll have to learn to make pad Thai next….

It’s kind of  like a stir fry — just about that quick and easy — but different enough for me that I don’t think I’ll get bored with it in a hurry, like I frequently do with stir fry.

The Good

It’s hot, but not too hot — kind of a perfect heat. Mr. Kitchenette has a much higher tolerance for heat than I do, but this recipe seemed to be just right for both of us. It includes a note on how to ease the heat up a little and of course if you want more there’s always the optional additional red pepper flakes. But I also think it’s flexible enough that you could use a hotter type of peppers or an additional Thai chile, if that’s your thing.

This also came together quickly and had relatively little clean up making it easy to throw together faster than the delivery guy could show up, if you have all the ingredients.

The Bad

I tend to shy away from recipes that require specialty ingredients I don’t usually buy/know what to do with and this was actually one I procrastinated on because of the fish sauce. I still don’t know what else to make with it (suggestions welcome in the comments!) but even if we make this every couple of weeks, it will take forever to get through the bottle at three or so teaspoons each time. That might be a deal breaker for some of you, too (we had oyster sauce in the ‘fridge already from a stir-fry experiment).

The Leftovers

The portion size was good — interesting for a recipe that only calls for one chicken breast between two people. It was filling enough with the addition of rice and a little Asian-style cucumber salad, though I admit we also had dessert waiting in the freezer (a pina colada ice cream I’m still tweaking before I share it here).

Thai Chicken with Bail

from Cooking for 2, 2011

For a mild version of the dish, remove the seeds and ribs from the chiles. If fresh Thai chiles are unavailable, substitute 2 serranos or one medium jalapeno. Serve with simple white rice.

1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
2 green or red Thai chiles, stemmed (see note)
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, plus extra for serving
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, plus extra for serving
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar, plus extra for serving
1 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
red pepper flakes, for serving

Pulse 1/2 cup basil, chiles and garlic in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down work bowl until needed. Transfer 1 1/2 teaspoons basil mixture to small bowl and stir in  1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and vinegar; set aside. Transfer remaining basil mixture to 10-inch skillet.

Without washing food process bowl, pulse chicken and remaining 1 teaspoon fish sauce in food processor until meat is coarsely chopped, 6 to 8 pulses. Transfer to medium bowl [I didn’t bother] and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Stir shallot and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until garlic and shallot are golden brown, 5 to 8 minute. (Mixture should start to sizzle after about  1 1/2 minutes; if it doesn’t, adjust heat accordingly.)

Stir in chicken and cook over medium heat, breaking up chicken with wooden spoon, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Stir in reaming 1/2 cup basil leaves and cook stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds. Serve immediately, passing extra fish sauce, sugar, vinegar and red pepper flakes separately.

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