Cookbook author and stir-fry guru, Grace Young, is a winner of the James Beard Award for International Cooking. She is known as the “Poet Laureate of the Wok” which enticed Russ to add her latest book, Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge, to his Christmas list—and Santa granted his wish! It was also named one of the top cookbook’s of 2010 by NPR, Washington Post, Good Morning America, and Huffington Post. So with all of this acclaim, we were excited to start trying the recipes…
The first recipe we tried was Spicy Orange Chicken, which with a ripe tomato, an orange, and a chicken breast, combined with basic staples becomes a sumptuous meal through the genius of stir-frying. The chicken is pleasantly aromatic from the Sichuan peppercorns, ginger and orange zest, with just a hint of heat from the chili bean sauce. And what a beautiful presentation!
The sauce isn’t heavy at all. Even the spiciness is on the lighter side (at least according to my taste buds), with Sichuan peppercorns adding a floral, citrusy note. You can always leave them out or substitute 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes; although I highly recommend getting yourself some Sichuan peppercorns if you’ve never tried them.
Grace’s passion for recording and preserving Chinese culinary traditions certainly pays off for us!
Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch-thick bite-sized slices
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded ginger
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns* (see NOTE below)
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon chili bean sauce
- 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges (or 1 cup grape tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Marinate the chicken: In a large bowl, combine the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, sugar, white pepper, and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Stir to combine and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the broth, rice vinegar, the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine, and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.
- Heat a wok (preferably flat-bottomed) or large 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds, just until the ginger is fragrant.
- Push the ginger to the sides of the wok. Carefully add the chicken, spread it evenly in one layer in the wok, and allow it to sear undisturbed for 1 minute. Add the orange strips, scallion whites, and chili bean sauce. Stir-fry for 1 minute, until the chicken is lightly brown but not yet cooked through.
- Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Re-stir the rice vinegar mixture and add it to the wok. Add the scallions, sprinkle on the salt, and stir-fry for another 1 minute, or until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and serve.
*NOTE: Whenever Sichuan peppercorns are called for in a recipe, they must first be roasted and ground. Put a 1/4 cup in a dry, cold wok (or cast iron skillet) and remove any tiny stems. Stir over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes until the peppercorns are very fragrant and slightly smoking. Be careful not to burn them. Once they’re cooled, grind them in a mortar, then store them in a jar.