Katie Workman's Fork-In-The-Road Asian Chicken Breasts
What's a fork-in-the-road dish? This is the idea that you can separate out some of whatever you are making and make a simpler version for picky eaters, then continue on your merry way and gussy up the rest of the dish with gutsier ingredients, herbs, seasonings, etc. to give it more oomph for the grownups and adventurous eaters.
Once you figure out a handful of basic cooking methods, and get them firmly under your belt, your impromptu dinner options expand dramatically. Put more practically, once you get comfortable with the idea of pan sautéing a piece of chicken (or fish or meat or ...), transferring the cooked chicken to the side, and making a quick pan sauce, you will become dependent on this cooking technique to get dinner on the table any night of the week. The best part is that you can make a pan sauce out of any number of ingredients, so the same technique gets you to an Asian meal, a Mediterranean dinner, a French dish, etc.
The most basic technique is this: heat some oil or butter in a pan, and sauté a boneless piece of protein. When the protein is cooked through, or almost cooked through, take it out and set it to the side. In the same pan, add some seasonings -- anything from spices to onion/shallots/garlic to chopped veggies. Sauté them for a bit, then deglaze the pan with the liquid of your choice (this means to add some liquid to the pan and then allow the heat and the liquid to loosen up all of the bits and pieces that are getting nicely browned on the bottom of the skillet). You can add other flavors at this time, and maybe some more liquid if you're looking for more copious amounts of sauce. Then you can pour this pan sauce over the meat, or return the meat back to the pan for a last bit of cooking. And that's that.
So this whole thought is clearly conducive to the Fork-In-The-Road concept, as you can remove some of what you are sautéing while it's still quite plain, then make a sauce that is as sophisticated or spicy as you like, and dress up the rest of the portions.
You can make the kid version of this chicken very, very plain, basically seasoned with a bit of soy sauce and oil. Or in many cases, kids will enjoy the simple ginger, scallion and garlic pan sauce. You can use regular boneless skinless chicken breasts, and cook them for about 5 minutes on each side, and then when everything is done cut them into slices to serve. But if you can find the thinly sliced cutlets, or slice the thicker breasts in half horizontally yourself, the whole preparation becomes a little more elegant. One thin cutlet is good for a kid, and two is good for most grown-ups.
Serve this with mounds of hot cooked rice.
Asian Chicken BreastsServes 4
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken think-sliced cutlets (about 6 pieces)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Hot cooked rice to serve
1. In a shallow dish whisk together the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and the pepper. Add the chicken pieces, turn to coat them well, and let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes or in the fridge for 1/2 hour.
2. Pat the chicken dry, reserving the marinade. In a large skillet, heat about 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add as many of the chicken pieces as will fit without crowding and sauté for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown, but not cooked throughout. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate, and repeat with another 1 teaspoon of oil and the rest of the chicken pieces. Add the second batch of the chicken to the first. (If you want to serve some of the chicken pieces without the pan sauce, allow those pieces to cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, and put those fully cooked pieces on a separate plate.)
3. Return the pan to medium heat, add the remaining teaspoon of oil, then add the garlic, ginger and scallions, and sauté until tender and starting to color, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of the reserved marinade and the chicken broth, and stir to scrape up any caramelized pieces from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly reduced, then return the mostly-cooked chicken to the pan along with any juices that may have accumulated, and turn to coat with the sauce. Simmer for 3 more minutes, moving them around so they cook evenly, until cooked through.
4. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, stir the lemon juice into the sauce, pour over the chicken and serve over or with the hot rice.
Katie Workman is the author of the upcoming The Mom 100 Cookbook (May 2012), and the founding editor in chief of Cookstr.com.
More Fork-In-The-Road Recipes
Butternut Squash Soup
Marinated Chicken Kebabs
Burgers With a Kick
Farmers' Market Frittata