It's easier than ever to reproduce your favorite Chinese dishes without smoking up the house or running across town to pick up specialty ingredients. Kung Pao chicken is an iconic Sichuan stir-fry; this version of the classic requires only a large skillet and everyday supermarket ingredients. The dish comes together in about a half hour, plenty of time to steam some white rice.
Whisk the chicken broth, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbs. of the cornstarch, sesame oil, and sugar in a measuring cup. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with 3/4 tsp. salt and a few generous grinds of pepper. Add the remaining 1/4 cup cornstarch and toss with the chicken (you may want to use tongs as the cornstarch has a chalky texture), shaking off any excess cornstarch.
Heat 3 Tbs. of the canola oil in a large (12-inch), heavy-based skillet over medium-high heat until it's shimmering hot. Sauté the chicken, flipping after 2 minutes, until it's lightly browned on two sides, about 4 minutes total (it's all right if the chicken sticks slightly and if the sides of the chicken are still raw). Add the remaining 1 Tbs. canola oil to the skillet. Add the chiles and their seeds, the ginger, and the whites of the scallions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the red pepper and celery and cook, stirring, until they soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until it almost completely reduces, 30 to 60 seconds, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits. Give the chicken broth mixture a quick whisk, stir it into the chicken and vegetables, and bring to a boil (the sauce should immediately thicken). Slice into one of the thicker pieces of chicken to see if it's cooked through. If still pink, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook a few minutes more. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the peanuts and scallion greens.
Serve the chicken with Basic White Rice.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on four servings;
sat fat g
Photo: Scott Phillips