Friday, October 22, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen #3 - Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry

Okay.  Today we're going to try something a little different.  Since finishing the Ironman over a month ago, I've cut back quite a bit on my overall training and started to live something close to a normal life.  This is all good.  Really.  However, since I haven't been completely focused on the Next Big Race, I've found myself posting less and less frequently.

So, this week I'm going to start a new feature: Fun in the Kitchen.  Sure, I've had some good times in the kitchen before.  Namely, some barbecue fun at my Dad's birthday, and my (somewhat) infamous Bacon Explosion.   I've always loved to try new recipes and foods, and I'm hoping that this will encourage me to expand my horizons.  Plus, it means that you'll get a little more variety when you visit.  Sure, I'll still post about all my triathlon exploits, but now you can look forward to a whole new set of (mis)adventures.

Beer-in-the-Kiester-Chicken for Dad

The Bacon Explosion.  Let the photo speak for itself.

All right.  Let's get started.  Today's experiment is going to be Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry.  I like to consider myself competent with stir-fry.  Honestly, it's not that tough.  Just cut up some food that you like, toss in some sauce and fry 'er up in a pan or electric wok. (Side note: I freakin' LOVE my electric wok).  Today, I'll try to make my own sauce for the first time, plus it'll be my first time using fresh ginger in a recipe.

I started by getting all of my ingredients together.  Now, for those of you who get intimidated when you have to make mac-n-cheese (you know who you are), this may look like a lot of ingredients. But really, except for the fresh ginger and red wine vinegar, these are all fairly common items that you'll all have in your kitchen at one point or another.

Let's see, we have 1 lb. of chicken, sugar, red onion, orange juice, garlic, ginger, red wine vinegar, green onions,  canola oil, pineapple, corn starch and ketchup.  Also acceptable: catsup.

The first thing I hit was the sauce.  Okay, well, I didn't actually 'hit the sauce' that would've been counter-productive.  You know what I mean.  Anyway, that was the easiest place to start.  Just whisk together 6 tablespoons each of  red wine vinegar, orange juice and sugar, add 3 tablespoons of ketchup and a tablespoon of corn starch to thicken things up.  That's it.  Easy-peasey.

It certainly
Next, I pre-fried the chicken.  Just put a little vegetable oil in your awesome electric wok (or just-as-awesome frying pan).  Heat it up to HOT.  The oil should be smoking.  Then toss 1 pound of sliced chicken breast.  Be CAREFUL.  Splashing hot oil HURTS.  The chicken doesn't need to be in there long - just long enough to turn white on all sides.  Take the chicken out of the wok and set it aside for later.

Whoops.  Singed a couple of 'em there.
Now, we'll turn our attention to the heavy-hitters - the onions, garlic and ginger.  Slice half of a red onion up nice and thin.  Then, mince (AKA 'cut into little bitty pieces) 3 garlic cloves, and grate up some ginger.  Ever wondered what the tiny holes on a cheese grater are for?  THIS is what the tiny holes are for.  Cut a couple of green onions into little circles.  Finally, cut up some pineapple into chunks, or, if you're like me, open a can of pineapple chunks and dump it into a measuring cup.

Clockwise from the top: pineapple, red onion, green onion, grated ginger and minced garlic.

So, are you with me so far?  Great.  Here comes the fun part.  First, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to your wok or frying pan and heat it up up to medium.  The oil should be shiny, but not smoking.  Then, add the red onions and toss 'em around for a couple of minutes, until they turn from 'crispy' to 'floppy'.

About 1 minute in, not quite floppy enough yet.
Now, add the pineapple and let it heat up for about 1 minute.

Next, toss in the minced garlic and grated ginger for a few seconds.  You know, just long enough to make your kitchen smell AWESOME.

See that smoke?  That's Awesome in a gaseous state.
Okay.  There are only two more things to add - the sauce and the chicken.  Just slide 'em into the growing pile of food and mix things up.  If the sauce is a little runny, don't worry, just keep it on the heat for a few extra minutes and it'll thicken up, until it looks like this:

This photo is scratch-n-sniff.  Go ahead.  Just scratch your monitor and take a whiff.
The only thing left to do now is spoon all this juicy goodness onto a plate.  I topped mine with the fresh green onion.  You could also serve this on top of some rice, but this meal was already plenty big for me.

Here you go.  One 'Captain-Sized' portion of Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry, with one 'Wife-Sized' portion in the background.

There you have it.  Now, this all may seem pretty complicated, especially if you're not used to meals with more than 3 ingredients.  But if you break it down, it's not too bad.  This whole thing took me under 30 minutes, most of which were spent slicing up things on the cutting board.  The actual time standing over the wok was under 10 minutes.  So, if you can cut and stir, you're good-to-go.  No sweat.  Really.

Like I said, I'm hoping this will be a weekly segment.  I'll give something new a try next week.


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