Cooking On A Budget: Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry


Well the busy Mother's Day weekend is over.  My son and his girlfriend came on Friday for a weekend visit. I made sure that I not only shopped for us for the weekend and throughout the week,  but also to be able to send them home with some groceries.  They are on a strict budget and don't often buy much in the way of fresh veggies. Needless to say my cart was loaded with fresh vegetables and fruit!
On Friday my son joined me in the kitchen helping me prep the chicken and vegetables for a stir fry meal. From the on sale package of boneless chicken breasts we took the two largest breasts from the package for the dinner. I wanted to make sure there was enough chicken in there for 5 adults.  As it turned out, there was enough in the wok (between the chicken and the vegetables) to feed 10 -12 people. All in all when I added everything I used, including the rice, chicken broth, spices and oil, the cost of this dinner was $14.72. So, in the end the whole dinner was $1.47 per person.
I debated whether or not I should add this photograph due to the fact I did not capture a shot of the dish the night it was made.
This picture represents part of what we have left over. It does not show the true vibrant colors of all of the vegetables quite like the night we made the dish. I did serve it over rice - that also is missing from the plate.
However, you get to see some of what was incorporated in the stir fry.
The red pepper flakes I used in the dish gave it just a touch of heat. When all the spices and soy sauce and chicken broth came together with the chicken and vegetables, the flavor was outstanding. Each time I make a stir fry meal, I generally spice the protein and allow that to "marinate" while I am prepping the vegetables. The other thing I do with the protein is make sure that in the raw state I cut it against the grain. Using that method ensures that I will end up with tender pieces of whatever protein I am using.
So what does cutting against the grain mean? Look at the chicken and you will see a very thin line, probably running from left to right horizontally. Therefore you cut the chicken slices vertically (top to bottom).

Tips for successful stir fries:
  1. The recipe I am giving you is actually not what you would call an "exact" recipe - in other words I did not really measure out the spices. After all, some cooking is just done by seasoning in the beginning and then making adjustments toward the end of the cooking time. Remember - taste as you go along!
  2. With the cauliflower and broccoli, I blanched it in boiling water and drained it as those two ingredients needed the extra cooking time.
  3. I always start out a stir fry by doing the protein first. Using high heat I do the protein in batches, giving them a quick sear and remove them from the wok to an awaiting bowl or plate.
  4. Bok Choy - I take off about 1 - 1 1/2 inches of the dark leaves at the very top, and chop the rest of the green and white parts. This cabbage can be very dirty so make sure you wash it well.
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves - cut in slices against the grain.
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 small bunch of bok choy - washed and sliced
  • 6 large crimini mushrooms sliced or chopped
  • 2 handfuls of sno peas
  • 1 medium sized broccoli crown - remove the heavy stem and use the florets
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets (liquid measure)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp. soy sauce approximately
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • granulated garlic
  • onion powder
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • oil - canola or olive oil
  • cornstarch and water - for a slurry for thickening the sauce (2 parts corn starch to 3 parts water or chicken broth)
After you have sliced the chicken place the pieces in a bowl. Season with the red pepper flakes, granulated garlic, onion powder and some salt and black pepper - do this all to taste. Toss together and set aside while you prep the vegetables.
Place the vegetables in a large bowl as you prep them and add in the same spices - minus the red pepper flakes. Give them a toss.
Heat up your wok and add in some oil to coat the sides and bottom of the wok. I have an electric wok so I stir fry at 350 - 375 degrees. Quickly stir fry the chicken to sear. Takes about a minute or so for each batch. When the chicken is done, stir fry the vegetables in batches as well - about 1-2 minutes per batch. Add extra oil as you go along if necessary. When you are at the last batch of veggies, add in soy sauce and the garlic. Stir.
Add the remainder of the vegetables and chicken back in the wok along with the chicken broth. Stir and cook for a few minutes.
Taste for extra seasoning and add more chicken broth if need be.  Make a slurry and when the "sauce" is bubbling add that in. Again, stir and cook for just a few more minutes to allow the chicken to be thoroughly cooked through and the sauce slightly thickened.
The end result should be tender chicken, somewhat crisp vegetables and good flavor.

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