I’ve made this Thai chicken stirfry three times so far, and I still can’t believe how easy and wonderful it is. The base recipe is from Alford and Duguid’s Hot Sour Salty Sweet: chop a pound of chicken (I like boneless thigh meat) into small pieces, and mince five cloves of garlic and a couple of serrano or bird chiles. Heat peanut oil in a wok and toss in the garlic and chile, then add the chicken. Stirfry until not quite cooked through, then add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a bit of soy, a bit of sugar, and cook it all together until the chicken is done. Add a big handful of Thai basil leaves and turn off the heat so they wilt but don’t overcook. Add a lot of freshly ground black pepper. The flavors are much bigger and more exciting than you’d think from the small amount of seasoning, but definitely don’t skimp on the garlic!
I’ve adapted the recipe by throwing in green beans or other veg, which was good but diluted the seasoning on the chicken – I think I prefer cooking a vegetable separately with its own flavors. I’ve also tried substituting a mix of cilantro and fresh mint for the Thai basil, which is a suggestion we got from Cook’s Illustrated. The original recipe actually calls for holy basil, but I can’t get that around here – someday I’ll try it. I imagine regular European basil would work, too, in a pinch. The stirfry should be served with plenty of rice to soak up the fish sauce-y juices.
When I made the chicken again earlier this week I threw together this cucumber salad to go alongside. I glanced at two recipes but didn’t quite follow either; I put a spoonful of sugar in a bowl along with a splash of rice vinegar, a splash of Chinese black vinegar, and a drizzle of homemade chili oil, then stirred it all up and added diced, seeded cucumber and a handful of fresh chopped cilantro. We had to restrain ourselves from eating the whole bowlful so there would be leftovers.
This recipe is a real blast from the past for us. A standby from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (the original recipe is called Szechwan Tofu Triangles in Triple Pepper Sauce), Jon used to cook this for me when we were going out in college. We stopped making it for a long time, then suddenly felt the urge to try it again. It may not be very authentic, but it’s really pretty tasty. The “triple pepper” refers to the inclusion of bell pepper, hot red pepper, and black pepper, although in our latest version we added a fourth – Sichuan pepper. It adds that peculiar mouth-numbing quality that some of us go for in our stir-fries.
Any sort of sweet pepper will do here, but if you have a mix of colors it makes it particularly pretty.
If you ever hop off of Interstate 5 north of Mount Vernon and take Chuckanut Drive north as a scenic route to Bellingham (a side trip well worth taking, except when the road is closed by rockslides), you’ll pass by a number of great opportunities for local food buying. Without going very far out of your way, you can hit Slough Food for cheese, wine and salumi, Breadfarm for wonderful bread, cookies and crackers, Taylor Shellfish for oysters, Samish Bay Cheese (for cheese, obviously), and the Edison Inn for shuffleboard and a burger. Just to mention a few.
Just recently, we started noticing a bison farm out on Chuckanut, advertising meat for sale. We’d never cooked with bison, that I could think of, and weren’t really sure what it might be like. So a few weeks ago Jon was out getting us some oysters and he made an executive decision to stop at Rockin R Bison. He bought a pound of chuck steak and a pound of “bacon.”
The chuck steak was easy, we cut it thinly and seared it to make a Thai-style stirfry with bamboo shoots. It was delicious, with a strong beefy flavor but marbled enough to be tender. But what to do with bison bacon?
The first few strips I tried cooking in a skillet like pork bacon. It didn’t work particularly well – the meat was done well before the fat rendered, and the taste was very much like beef jerky – not what I really want with my breakfast. Then Jon had a brainwave – use it in a Sichuan-style stirfry, based on the dry-fried beef recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop’s book!
It worked really, really well. Continue reading