Thursday, August 1, 2013

Orange Peanut Chicken Stirfry

I have finally finished reading Michael Pollan's newest book Cooked: A History of Transformation.  It has an interesting premise: he examines the development of the four basic methods of cooking by matching them with a classical element--fire for roasting meat, in which he shadows a North Carolina barbecue pit master; water, for cooking in pots, the foundation of most home cooking; air for bread baking; and earth for the work of fermentation, in which he learns the making of sauerkraut and pickles, cheese, and beer from die hard "fermentos."

The funny thing about the book is that among the several interesting things that I learned, one was that I had been doing many things in the kitchen without knowing why or that the same techniques and ingredients had been used in basically every culture since the invention of cooking.  For example, almost every home-cooked dish begins with what the French call mirepoix--a combination of onions, carrots, and celery that is sauteed in butter or oil.  Almost every culture has their own mirepoix, with the base vegetable varying slightly depending on region--an Italian dish is more likely to feature tomatoes and onions, an Asian dish might have onions and ginger.  Pollan was struck, as am I, by the ubiquity of the onion.

I have been making mirepoix all this time without thinking about it.  A friend once remarked that I put onions in everything, and, really, it is true.  Spaghetti?--saute onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms.  Pizza?--the same.  Frittata? Quiche?  Both onions, peppers, and mushrooms, although I might add something else, like asparagus, for fun.  Even meat loaf begins with sauteed onions, as does chili and most soups that I make.

So, in honor of the unconscious mirepoix, I bring you a little recipe that I developed a while back.  Although I call it a stirfry, it is in no way an authentic Asian dish.  But it is tasty.  And it does start with my favorite mirepoix

Orange Peanut Chicken Stir Fry

1 lb thin chicken breasts
1/2 box thin spaghetti noodles
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2-3 bell peppers, cut into strips
1/2 box mushrooms
1 small onion, roughly chopped

for the sauce:
1 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp powdered ginger

Prepare your chicken however you like--grill it or cut into small strips and brown in a bit of oil in a pan.

In a saucepan, add the red pepper flakes to a bit of olive oil, and then saute the onion, peppers, and mushrooms until tender.  In the meantime, boil noodles until they reach your preferred level of doneness.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together until it reaches a smooth consistency.

Add the chicken and noodles to the sauce pan with the vegetables, then top with the sauce.  Use tongs to distribute evenly.  If you like, add crushed peanuts for extra peanut flavor and a bit of crunch.

No comments: