Monday, February 7, 2011

Cooking the Book – Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge – Stir-Fried Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

Recently, I was taking a look through the archives of my site when I noticed a rather disturbing trend: I’ve been slacking on the cooking. In the past few years, I’ve made it a habit to try out new and old recipes from cookbooks, blogs, and general websites. The reason behind this is that I’m always curious at just how well a recipe will work in practice. For the most part, every recipe I have attempted has come out smelling like roses. Sure, some of the John Besh recipes have ended up on the soupy side, but there hasn’t been anything like the Rachel Ray mess I tried when I was a freshman in college.


Contrary to what my site might portray, I have not stopped cooking at home. I’ve just gotten a little lazy about documenting each recipe that I try. Well, to get back in the swing of things, I decided to pick up my cameras and get a few new grease marks on the lenses.


Of course, the problem was where to start. One thing was certain; it would have to include chicken. Why chicken? I had chicken as my main ingredient because I had one bird left in my freezer. After thawing all weekend in the fridge, I knew Sunday night would be the best time to use it.


At first I thought of roasting the chicken and why not? There are a myriad of ways to roast a chicken and each one can be delicious in its own right, but I just wasn’t sold on the idea. Instead of keeping the bird whole, I decided that deboning the bird would be a better choice. It seems like the amount of meat on a bird will stretch a little more when I do something besides roasting it.


Flipping through the indexes of my cookbooks, I arrived at a recipe that ticked all the right boxes and wouldn’t you know it came from Grace Young and her book Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge. Stir-Fried Chicken with Black Bean Sauce was everything I was looking for. It made good use of the boned chicken meat and it focused on one of my favorite Chinese ingredients: black beans.


Stir-Fried Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast cut into ¾ inch cubes
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine
• 2 teaspoons soy sauce
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed
• 2 teaspoons rinsed garlic
• 2 teaspoons minced ginger
• 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
• 1/3 cup chicken broth
• 1 small red onion cut into thin wedges (roughly ¾ cup)
• ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
• 1 scallion finely shredded



As with most Chinese recipes, this one starts with a quick marinade for the protein.

Starting with the two teaspoons of cornstarch

with the Shao Hsing wine, soy sauce, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and one teaspoon of the peanut oil coming next.

The five ingredients were stirred to combine and the chicken was then added.

I’ve seen this scene a thousand times and it never gets old.


The next step in the prep work was combining the black beans, garlic, ginger, and dark soy sauce.

Now for the fun part, I got to go to town with a fork.

With everything mashed, it was then a matter of culling together the rest of the ingredients.


In a short while, my mise-en-place was sorted.

One thing I forgot to mention, the remaining tablespoon of Shao Hsing wine was added to the chicken broth.


Since everything was prepped and I was ready to cook, it was only a matter of heating my wok.

I think it’s fitting that I’m using a Grace Young recipe here because it was her cookbook that inspired me to start fresh with a new 14 inch wok. It’s come a long way and gathered a nice patina since I first began using it last August.


With the wok up to temperature, I swirled in the last tablespoon of peanut oil and added the onions and red pepper flakes.

I realize that the recipe calls for red onions, but I used what I had on hand.


After 30 or so seconds of stir-frying, the chicken was next in the wok.

Doing my best to spread the onions to the side of the wok, I tried to add the chicken in one layer across the wok. The idea is to leave the chicken untouched for a minute to sear them just a bit.


One minute later, I started to stir-fry the chicken.

Thus revealing the downfall of my stove. There just isn’t enough heat to sear the chicken. All of the heat in the wok was sucked out by that pound of chicken.


Another minute of stir-frying is all the recipe calls for

but I found that I needed at least another three to get the chicken anywhere near browned.


Next in the wok was the reason I really picked this dish, the black beans.

Ideally the carrots and black bean mixture would be stir-fried for 30 seconds, but this is the real world. That’s why almost every Chinese recipe comes with the condition “or until fragrant”, and this one was no exception.


I was quickly coming to the end of the recipe.

The chicken broth and Shao Hsing wine mixture, and the last ¼ teaspoon of the salt were added to the wok.


From here, it was another two minutes of stir-frying. I was looking for thoroughly cooked, but not dried out chicken, not always an easy order.

Once I was satisfied with the chicken, the scallions were stirred in and the whole dish was ready for the serving bowl.



Juicy chicken and salty black beans are just the thing for a perfect Sunday dinner.

Outside of the slightly elongated cooking times and the odd addition of so many carrots, this recipe is just another example of the quality of Grace Young’s recipes. In my relatively small but constantly growing collection of Chinese cookbooks, there are a few that I almost instinctively look through for ideas. Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge is one of those books.

1 comment:

rental elf said...

Very nice, thanks for the information.