Tonawanda News — Ever wonder how Chinese restaurants get their chicken so moist? So ... well, almost fluffy?
No matter how hard I try, chicken — especially of the white meat variety — is always a little dry, at worst a little tough, when I cook it.
That is until pen-pal friend Rick Schrager from The Letter Project told me about the magic powers of baking soda. Not only does this stuff keep your fridge smelling fresh and leaven your baked goods, it can help make your chicken “beautifully white and pillowy plump,” as Rick described it.
He shared his recipe for an admittedly not-very-Chinese cashew chicken by way of example and to my delight, it gave me a chance to try cooking with edamame beans at the same time. I had tried edamame for the first time in May at a sushi restaurant, steamed with a little bit of salt. Served that way, they taste a bit like soft peanuts ... delicious!
In this stir fry, they’re more cooked so they lose a bit of that crunch, but still delightful all the same.
The wonderful thing about a nice stir fry is that you can really use any vegetables you prefer. The combination of carrots, water chestnuts and edamame was particularly pleasing to me ... I’m a fan of my veggies having a bit of snap or crunch to them. But you could easily use mushrooms, bell peppers, snow peas, broccoli, bok choy, those little mini corncob things, the sky’s the limit. You could even go the super easy route and just grab a bag of the frozen stir fry vegetables at the super market.
As for the chicken, I would recommend cutting it into pretty small, bite-sized pieces. Mine were just a touch on the large side, but thankfully the baking soda had tenderized it so much, I could easily cut through the meat with a fork (and the plastic spoon I used on my leftovers at work the next day).
Cut up the chicken, throw it in a bowl of water with the baking soda, let sit for about 30 minutes and, voila, you’ll have tenderized chicken. As Rick mentioned in his letter to me, the chicken “will look a little strange while cooking” because “the baking soda solution does some things to the muscular tissue with as scientific explanation that I do not fully understand.”
Fair enough, I don’t understand it either — Alton Brown, I am not — but the foamy stuff just cooks off on its own, so worry not.
So try out this little science experiment in your kitchen and make it your own with any number of stir fry vegetables.
In the meantime, go to Rick’s Letter Project website, theletter
project.wordpress.com, to see how he’s trying to spread his love of the handwritten word.
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 carrots chopped
1 8-ounce can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped
cup shelled edamame beans, frozen or fresh
About a cup and a half of whole cashews
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
cup pineapple juice
cup soy sauce
cup baking soda
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Mix baking soda with a couple cups of water in a medium-sized bowl.
Trim chicken of all fat and chop into bite-size or one-inch pieces. Put pieces in bowl of baking soda and water, making sure pieces are covered in liquid and let soak for about half an hour.
Mix hoisin sauce, pineapple juice, soy sauce and sugar together and set aside.
While chicken soaks, this is a good time to chop and prepare vegetables.
Drain and rinse chicken in colander, getting rid of all baking soda residue.
Saute chicken in pan on medium heat without any oil. Cook until all pink has left chicken — it should look white and pillowy, not browned.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in pan and saute chestnuts, carrots and edamame for two minutes on high heat.
Add sauce and bring to a simmer. Add cornstarch mixed with just enough water to make a slurry and cook until sauce thickens. When sauce thickens, immediately remove from heat — cornstarch can separate if cooked too long.
Add chicken back to the pan, along with cashews and toss with sauce and vegetables.
Serve over rice, or alone.
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