Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spicy Basil Chicken – dinner in less than 30 minutes



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

*Sauce:
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

Garnish:
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.

Have a great weekend everyone.

42 comments:

  1. I agree we eat with our eyes first..It is so much more appetizing if the colors are fresh..etc..A cream of mushroom soup is never really pretty..You were so right in adding color:)
    I like asian style dishes:)

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  2. Hooray, dear Sam, for cooking with chicken thighs, my favorite chicken cut. Such a lovely recipe where I would only omit the peanuts coz 1) I just don't like them and, 2) roasted nuts can be a problem for me (too coarse/rough).

    Here it is early springtime so I'd better get sowing the basil seeds soon!

    Wishing you happy cooking and eating, Michelle and a Zebby Cat very busy with "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz", bless my elderly feline munchkin!

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  3. Well this presentation is simply gorgeous! I love the flavorings you use and thank you for posting a delicious recipe that can be made in a snap!
    mary x

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  4. It looks gorgeous with your additions! My neighbor just gave me two pretty red peppers from her garden. Great tip about the basil too:@)

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  5. Your presentation is spot on Sam. Blogging and photographing food does make you aware of the importance of the way food looks. Not only that, I love your recipe.

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  6. Mighty scrumptious! Exactly the kind of stir-fried dish I have been craving lately.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  7. I'm loving this dish and that splash of red that you've added. Great photo in that long white dish. This is a must make for me during my busy work week. Pinned. Thanks for posting the recipe Sam. Now I've got to get in gear, we're meeting Larry and Bev and driving up to Estes Park. Stay tuned. :)

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  8. It's interesting how our food blogs influence what we eat on a daily basis.

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  9. I agree....first you feast with your eyes. Your version looks 100 times better!

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  10. I think your changes are right on. I love the color of the red peppers and the addition of peanuts for crunch. In my opinion, I think all stir fries should have some peanuts or cashews (they really make the dish). This looks like a gorgeous weeknight (or anytime) meal. Pinning!

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  11. Love the "pretty" version. Now that it is cooler, I'll be making this. Thanks.
    Have a great weekend.
    Deborah

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  12. We do eat with our eyes first, I agree with Monique. I like the additions....it makes all of the difference.

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  13. I am so guilty of paying no attention at all to color. Sometimes my plates are a wash of a single color!

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  14. I so wish my husband liked Asian flavors. *sigh* You're impovements remind me of one of my favorite dishes. Carrot would also add another interesting color. I may just have to make this for myself and let my husband get his own supper! ;)

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  15. The flavors in this are just coming through my computer screen! How often I forget about peanuts, using walnuts/pecans/almonds. This sounds like a great recipe and I am still enjoying my garden basil.

    Thanks, Sam!

    Bises,
    Genie

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  16. I like your improvements to the recipe. I'm sure it was as good as it looks in your final rendition.

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  17. Yes, food blogging does make you look at it differently, doesn't it? The color looks great now. Now if we could just sample from here...

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  18. I am famous for "white meals" - you know, chicken with rice and cauliflower! This will surprise and amaze, but it looks and sounds great. thanks.

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  19. Yes, red did the trick! I love red on my plate. And green too - especially if it's fresh basil. Adding it as a garnish rather than stirred in not only preserve its color, it preserves it distinct fresh taste. I

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  20. This looks so pretty and delicious! I had a bumper crop of basil growing in my garden this year, Sam. I hope it grows as well in Colorado next summer.

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  21. Sam, A delicious dish and thanks for the additional tips. You are so clever to pick up on the black basil and that red pepper adds a much needed punch of color. After all, we do eat with our eyes first!

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  22. Anything that is quick and easy and looks as food as this is going to get my attention. Your recipe is going right on my to fix list.

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  23. I think the red pepper, nuts and fresh basil make it look very appealing, Sam. I also think the flavor of all of the above sound delicious in this easy to make recipe!

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  24. Color or not, I love the flavor. I don't mind brown food if there are nuances of flavors and textures and it all blends beautifully. Your sauce sounds fantastic and the recipe seems simple. I love finding new recipes for a quick, delicious weeknight meal!

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  25. Dear Sam, I love how quick and easy this is to throw together but so delicious too! I could really go for something like this tonight...its been a long week! Blessings to you my dear, your friend, Catherine xo

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  26. What a wonderful difference you made, Sam. Lovely, colorful and now on my "things to cook this week". ;) Thank you!

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  27. I am so into chili paste right now... you always post just the right dish for my culinary mood.

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  28. I believe you've got this presentation thing down pat - it looks and sounds yummy.

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  29. The red peppers and peanuts are the perfect addition -- I know I'll love this.

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  30. These look delicious Sam I love basil!

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  31. Hi Sam,
    I agree that food blogging made me more aware of the color, we like it spicy anyway and those spices seem to have color. Your Spicy Basil Chicken looks delicious, I can already taste it and the color balance for the photo is perfect!

    Hope you have a great fall weekend in the Carolinas and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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  32. Yes, since becoming a fellow food blogger, I have learned about presentation. Love your different versions, and I'd happily eat any of them. This looks delicious, and pretty healthy for fast food!

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  33. Sam,
    This really looks good. I was just wonderful what I would fix for dinner. You've given me the perfect dish for Blanche' and my meal. Thanks. This sounds like a delicious dish.

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  34. We have made this recipe from Cooking Light-It was really good. I think the red bell pepper and peanuts is nice addition for presentation.

    Velva

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  35. The colors of this meal are magnificent.

    Great to have you at Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

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  36. I know what you mean about color - but you know - if it's delicious - it's delicious. Love the ingredients, love the ease and would try it - brown food and all! (Thanks for the tip on the sauce - I like sauce...)

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  37. delicious recipe...yum..the flavors are so yummy. basil also turns black when frozen. I do not mind the color change so much...still has the sweet flavor, and is so yummy in pasta!!

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  38. I am making this tomorrow night! We have a buttload of chicken on hand and "cashew basil chicken" is one of Alexis' favorites! You're right, the color looks so good once you amped it up.

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  39. Congratulations!
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Hope you are having a great week and enjoy your new Red Plate!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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  40. Great coverage of how to improve the appeal in photos! I agree, basil turns black when hot and it's hard to photograph it as an ingredient in a cooked recipe. The basil chicken sounds really good though, very Thai!

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Sam