Gai pad gra pow

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I first tasted gai pad gra pow this past spring (late pass, I know), when my friend Natasha offered me a bite of her dish at a Thai restaurant in San Francisco. I was hooked, and I had to learn how to cook it.

Since then, this basil-inflected chicken stir-fry has become one of my favorites. Spicy and full of protein, it pairs perfectly with a cooling cucumber salad and steamed rice.

Gai pad gra pow

Ingredients:

5 cloves garlic, minced
3 bird’s eye (Thai) chiles, stemmed and minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup Thai basil leaves

1. Place a wok over high heat. Add the oil, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry for 30 seconds, or until the garlic is slightly golden. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked throughout, using a spatula to press the meat against the hot wok.

2. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the basil and stir-fry until wilted, about 1 minute, then turn out onto a serving dish. Serve warm.

Ma Po Tofu

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Ma po tofu is ubiquitous on Chinese restaurant menus, but I never sampled the fiery, peppery dish until last year. It was mouth-numbingly hot, and it’s since become one of my favorite all-time dishes. As if to make up for lost time, I’ve spent the past few months eating ma po tofu constantly in restaurants and more recently, at home.

This homemade version of ma po tofu is just as delicious as what I’ve eaten from professional kitchens, and easy to cook. Ma po tofu is traditionally cooked with ground pork, but I substitute with chicken or turkey at home. The Sichuan peppercorns, however, are important to seek out as they’ll lend this dish that extra heat. It’s worth the pain (and slightly numb lips).

Ma po tofu

Ingredients:

3 dried shiitake mushrooms
6 ounces ground turkey
3 teaspoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons hot bean paste
1/4 teaspoon toasted Sichuan peppercorns, ground
1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts
3 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Pour enough warm water over the mushrooms in bowl to cover them completely. Soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain, discard the stems, and coarsely chop the caps.

2. Marinate the turkey: stir the ground turkey, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch together until evenly mixed. Let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Prepare the sauce:: stir the water, remaining two teaspoons soy sauce, and sesame oil together in a small bowl.

4. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the turkey, hot bean paste, and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry until the turkey is crumbly, about 3 minutes.

5. Pour the sauce into the work, then stir in the mushrooms, water chestnuts and green onions. Slide the tofu into the work and stir gently to coat the tofu with the sauce and heat through, about 2 minutes.

6. In a small bowl, dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch in 2 teaspoons water. Pour the dissolved cornstarch into the wok and cook gently, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Spoon the tofu and sauce onto a serving platter and serve hot, alongside cooked rice.

Chicken Parmigiana

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Every once in a while, I stumble upon a recipe that’s so good I end up making it time and time again. Chicken parmigiana may not be the fanciest dish, it may not be the most revolutionary, but it’s one of my favorite things to cook — and it’s one of my most requested.

The beauty of this dish is in its versatility: veal, or even fried slices of eggplant can be substituted for the chicken, and it can be served by itself, or alongside pasta or focaccia bread. My favorite pairing is spaghettini that’s been tossed with toasted garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped parsley, and a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.

Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cans (28 ounces each) peeled whole tomatoes, pureed in a food processor
1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, leaves torn
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 cups plain fresh breadcrumbs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 pound chicken cutlets, pounded to an 1/8-inch thickness
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more if needed
1 1/4 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese

1. Prepare the marinara sauce: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, red-pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and some pepper. Simmer, covered, until thick, 25 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar, and simmer 2 more minutes. Stir in herbs and remove from heat. Set aside sauce.

2. Bread and fry the chicken: Combine breadcrumbs, half of the Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some pepper. Put flour, eggs, and breadcrumb mixture in 3 separate dishes. Dredge chicken cutlets in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, letting excess drip off. Dredge in breadcrumbs to coat.

3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry cutlets until golden, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet.

4. Assemble the dish: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 3/4 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange a single layer of cutlets on top. Top with 1 cup sauce, covering each piece. Sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. Bake until bubbling, about 10 minutes. Uncover; bake until cheese melts, about 2 minutes more.

Classic Hot Wings

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I know, I know. Hot wings are overdone. They’re on every party menu and come in a million variations. But these are baked! And taste like they’re fried! I guess you could call these healthy hot wings, except that they’re doused in their fair share of butter. Still, they’re tried and true, and I’ve been getting requests to make them for nearly every casual gathering lately.

Hot Wings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds chicken wings
3 tablespoons red hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 500°. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with vegetable oil. In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Spread the chicken on the baking sheet in a single layer.

2. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes, turning once at the halfway point, until browned and crispy. In a bowl, whisk the hot sauce with the butter. Add the chicken wings and toss. Serve warm.

Sesame Chicken

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Karaage is a Japanese-style of frying where meats are lightly dusted with starch before deep-frying. The result is a wonderfully crispy coating that also works to seal in moisture. It also absorbs very little oil so this isn’t nearly as greasy as most deep-fried foods.

This sesame chicken dish, adapted from a Martin Yan recipe, employs karaage-style frying and amazingly, when I reheated leftovers of this dish the next day, the chicken was still crispy. Served atop a bed of steamed spinach and alongside rice, it’s a complete and easy to make meal.

Sesame chicken

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup dashi stock
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 bunch spinach, stems removed, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2-by-2-inch pieces
cornstarch
vegetable oil
steamed rice

1. Combine soy sauce, sake, dashi, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Keep sauce warm.

2. Cook spinach in boiling water for 1 minute; drain well and set aside.

3. Dredge chicken in cornstarch; shake off excess. Place a wide frying pan over medium heat. Add oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. When oil is hot, add chicken and pan-fry, uncovered, until no longer pink in center, about 4 minutes on each side. Lift out and drain on paper towels.

4. Place rice in 4 individual bowls; top each serving with 1/4 of the spinach. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch-wide strips, dip in sauce, then arrange over spinach. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice.