Being a food blogger has made me acutely more aware of food presentation and color on the plate. The picture of this spicy basil chicken shown in the cookbook was very pretty, but it seemed to be missing something. The “something” was more color, at least to my eyes. I prepared it the way it was written and here’s how it looked, see below.
Not bad, but I still thought it needed more color. Perhaps something red? Or serve something red with it.
The next time we made the chicken we added two things – red bell pepper for color and roasted peanuts for crunch. It was much better in our opinion, in appearance as well as more flavorful.
The original recipe didn’t say when to make the sauce. The order of ingredients would suggest that the sauce was to be made while the chicken cooked. I like to do as much prep work in advance as possible, so I recommend making the sauce first, not while you’re stir-frying the chicken. Stir-frying requires attention. If you are a big sauce lover, which we are, double the sauce ingredients, especially if you are serving this over rice or orzo. It’s worth it, even if you have a little left-over.
Lately I’ve found that if you stir fresh basil into a hot dish, sometimes it turns almost black. Maybe it’s just the time of the year, but it’s not good whatever the reason. You’ll see that’s what happened in the picture above when we prepared it without the red bell pepper. So, learn from me and use the basil as a garnish, not stirred in.
This recipe can be completed from start to finish in less than 30 minutes, making it ideal for a weekday dinner.
Spicy Basil Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light, Reader’s Top-Rated Recipes
Serves 4 – Total time about 20- 25 minutes
½ teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 ¼ teaspoons chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons canola or peanut oil
¼ cup minced shallots
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 (4 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
1 sweet red bell pepper, cored and chopped
Handful of roasted peanuts
1/3 cup julienned fresh basil leaves, or use tiny whole leaves
Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stir well and set aside. Heat a large wok or large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic to pan, cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add chicken to pan along with the chopped red bell pepper and stir-fry about 13 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring frequently. If you feel the skillet will be crowded, cook the chicken in batches.
Stir the sauce to reincorporate the corn starch and add sauce mixture to the pan and cook for a minute until mixture thickens, stirring to coat the chicken. Remove from the heat and stir in a handful of peanuts. Serve chicken garnished with the basil.
*Double the sauce if you serve this with rice or orzo.
This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Living, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at The Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.