Thai-Style Stir-Fried Chicken and Basil

March 21, 2009 at 9:52 am 3 comments

Thai Chicken with Basil

For all the flack I give my unadventurous husband, I was not always the intrepid eater that I am today.  My siblings will certainly attest to the years that I spent eating only hamburgers, and one of my best friends and fellow epicures will surely remember a time not long ago when all fish were abhorrent to me.  I credit both my love of cooking and my expanded palate to one person.  I am not sure if she knows this (I will be sure to give her a poke on Facebook to read this post, however) but my friend Robin is the source of all of this.

After receiving my acceptance to college during my senior year of high school, I made the decision to defer my matriculation for a year.  While the “sabbatical year” is very common in Europe for kids that age, it was a recent trend at my school that had a very strong appeal for me.  While New York City and Columbia University certainly was alluring, I wanted to seize the opportunity to try something very new and exciting and ready myself for another four years of academic immersion.  I applied to the Wells College Program for the Arts in Paris, and packed up my film and camera for 6 months in the city of lights.  There, I met Robin who was a vegetarian from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.  We hit it off immediately, and our bond grew stronger as we realized that her dietary restrictions and my tight budget severely limited our options for meals in Paris.

Her solution, one that seems so obvious now but that at the time was quite a novelty, was to use the dorm kitchen at the Cité Universitaire (where we lived) to cook our own dinners.  This did necessitate a purchase of a mini fridge from the BHV (quite an excursion) in which to horde our creations from the pilfering masses of La Cité, as well as a scouting mission for familiar American ingredients around Paris.  Robin’s French was in its nacent stages, as were my culinary skills, but between the two of us we put together a proper pantry.  My previous experience with cooking was the occasional massive dinner party with my high school friends, where ten or more of us crowded into my mother’s kitchen to clabber together a meal.  With Robin, I was given one-on-one instruction and she introduced me to ingredients that I never would have touched before.  Something about selecting the perfect eggplant from a table at the farmer’s market, hunting down the elusive broccoli, or debating the proper substitution for an American ingredient like sour cream, made my fear of strange vegetables and creative, ad hoc cooking dissipate.  

Over the years since that first stint in Paris, I have come to love vegetables of all kind, have acquired a taste for seafood, and have (obviously) developed a huge passion for cooking.  One victory that I will credit to my friends Julie and Lindsay is my recent acceptance of ethnic foods.  Robin, try as she might, could not convince me to go anywhere near an Indian restaurant.  Lindsay (another vegetarian) and Julie (an omnivore for the most part, unless you offer her boxed mac and cheese) have introduced me to some of my now favorite cuisines – Japanese sushi and Thai food.  Though the following recipe is not typical Thai — it has been adapted for an American audience and for use in homes like my own! — it has some similar flavors.  I really enjoyed this very simple-to-make dish, as did RJ.  Next time I will slice my chicken thinner (as the recipe says to) and use more basil.  They also suggest replacing the basil with mint and cilantro.  I suppose my palate will have to evolve a bit further for that…

Thai-Style Stir-Fried Chicken and Basil, from Fine Cooking (April/May 2009, issue 98)
Serves 2-3

Mise en place2 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. chicken breast cutlets (about 1/4 inch thick), cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
1 Tbs. fish sauce
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. packed light brown sugar
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
chicken-with-basilHeat the oil in a well-seasoned wok or a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots start to soften but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until it’s no longer pink and the shallots are beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is just cooked through and the liquid reduces to a saucy consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. (If the sauce reduces before the chicken is cooked through, add water, 1 Tbs. at a time.) Remove from the heat, add the basil, and stir to wilt it.

Thai Chicken Basil

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Entry filed under: About the Author, Main Course, Recipe. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Da Mamma  |  March 22, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Just wait until I get home with REAL Thai spices!!!

    I am glad you had such mentors — once you left home, that is 🙂

  • 2. KK Millet  |  March 22, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Oh Mamma! I thought your beneficent influence went without saying – the foundations were laid at my birth! I love you infinitely.

  • 3. Akansha;s Recipe  |  March 23, 2009 at 3:35 am

    mmm yummy!!!! Thankz for the recipe.

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