Serpent Player's Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

(spicy Chinese stir-fry dish for 4 hungry players)

3-4    boneless chicken breasts
3/4    cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
6-8    whole green onions / scallions
1       can pineapple chunks in their own juice (optional)
3/8    cup water
1/2    cup soy sauce
3       teaspoon minced garlic
2       tablespoon cooking sherry
3       tablespoon Sunflower or Wok oil
2       teaspoon hot chili oil (optional)
2       tablespoon Tabasco or other chili hot sauce (Tabasco is chili peppers, vinegar and salt in completely liquid form)
2       teaspoon vinegar
8       teaspoon corn starch
2       tablespoon sugar
3       teaspoons grated ginger (or bottled type in water, place on paper towel for a while to dry out)
2       tablespoon crushed red pepper
1       tablespoon Szechuan/Szechwan style pepper blend (optional- this is typically black pepper, red pepper, ginger, garlic, sugar, onion, salt), or add 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and salt to taste

Side dish of rice: If you want to bulk up the meal, serve it with rice. This needs to be prepared starting about the same time as the main entree, so that it it ready as soon as the stir frying is completed. Use either white or brown rice, to taste. Microwave preparation of rice is just about ideal; follow the directions on the boxes of most major brands, such as Uncle Ben's. If the rice is done too soon, it can be quickly warmed again in the microwave before serving.

Prepare bulk ingredients:
Wash chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towel. Place on dry paper towel on plate in freezer for about 15 minutes or so, or until stiff but not hard. Remove and cut into 1/2" wide strips lengthwise, then rotate and cut crosswise, to obtain cubes about 1/2" per side. Use an appropriate knife for this; if properly half-frozen, the meat will cut similarly to cheese. Allow meat to warm up again for a few minutes to soften.

In medium mixing bowel, combine hot chili oil, garlic, sherry, 1 tablespoon Tabasco, 2 teaspoons corn starch, Szechuan pepper. Stir in thawed chicken cubes until evenly coated with the spice sauce. Allow about 1/2 hour to marinate, stirring once or twice during this time.

While chicken is marinating, wash onions, then dice/clop with a knife, preferably cutting at an angle as opposed to straight down across the stems. Use both the small head of the scallion, as well as the green stems. There should be between 1/2 cup to 1 cup of diced onions. Spread on a paper towel on a plate to air dry.

After preparing the onions, and while the chicken is still marinating, use another medium mixing bowl to combine water, soy sauce, 6 teaspoons corn starch, sugar, vinegar, 1 tablespoon Tabasco, crushed red pepper; this is the Sauce. Also measure peanuts into a cup, and drain about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of pineapple chucks into another cup.

When chicken marination is complete, it is time to cook. Stir frying is done very quickly, without allowing the ingredients to stew or soften. Ideally, a Wok is best for this, but a frying pan can be used. A wooden spoon or Wok spatula is required for stirring. Make sure all prepared ingredients are close at hand, and start by heating 2 tablespoons of Sunflower or Wok oil, mixed with the ginger, over high heat. While heating, keep the Wok moving to spread the oil, or at least move the oil around with the wooden spoon/spatula if the Wok or pan is too heavy. When the oil is quite hot, add one half of the chicken and immediately start to stir, allowing the chucks to sit in one position for a few seconds, then move them to a new orientation and position, and repeat. The corn starch in the marinade will provide a light white crust of sorts around each piece of chicken. After about 3 minutes of stirring, or just long enough that the chicken is no longer pink inside, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon (leaving as much oil in the Wok as possible), and add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, allow to heat up, then add the other half of the chicken and stir fry in a similar manner.

When all chicken has been cooked, put all chicken back into the Wok, but push it to the sides, then give the separately prepared Sauce a quick stir (in case the corn starch has started to settle to the bottom), and pour the Sauce into the middle of the Wok. Stir Sauce continuously in the center of the Wok; after a minute or so it will suddenly turn from a liquid to a thick, bubbly gravy. As soon as this happens, stir in the chicken from the sides of the Wok, and immediately add the peanuts, onions and pineapple. Stir continuously for one minute, then remove and serve. It is best to serve the rice separately from the Kung Pao Chicken, but eat the two simultaneously as one course. It also works to spoon the Kung Pao Chicken on top of the rice on a single serving plate.

Like all stir fry dishes, this recipe is best consumed immediately after preparation. However, it can be reheated with a microwave if necessary; the quality will not be as good.

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Copyright Paul Schmidt 2004
added October 2004