I feel as though I’ve been in a slump lately. A cooking “mental block”, if you will. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I have. It’s just that it seemed as though a lot of what I was cooking was either uninspired, boring, or otherwise just not all that wonderful. It wasn’t from lack of trying…it was just…a slump. So I was quite glad when I made this dish tonight, as I felt it was a joyous release from the previously mediocre dishes coming from the kitchen! (Okay maybe I’m dramatizing this a bit, and maybe it was just that I was craving some good ol’ Asian flavors!) But whatever the reason, this dish will definitely be one that will make the weeknight menus in the future. It was relatively fast, uncomplicated, healthy, and tasty. All good reasons to make it again in my book!
Ponzu shoyu is a Japanese citrus-based sauce. It’s basically as if you took soy sauce and married it with a few lemons. It’s nice and tangy, sweet, and salty all at the same time. It’s easy to find, just visit the Asian section of your grocery store. It makes a good substitute for soy sauce when you want some of those added tangy flavors to your dish.
Sambal oelek, or garlic chili paste, is one of my favorite condiments. We have a huge jar (Huy Fong brand) in our refrigerator. Back in the day, you would have to go to a specialty Asian grocery store to find this stuff. Now, I’m pretty sure you can find it in just about any grocery store. It’s great stuff. Spicy and full of flavor, I can’t help but use it in lots of marinades and to kick my stir-fry up a notch after it’s been served on my plate.
Anyway, on to the recipe. I served this with brown rice to round out the meal. You can use any steamed rice or even noodles. And as for the vegetables, feel free to substitute or add any additional vegetables you might like in your stir fry. Peas, mushrooms, onions, or even some red pepper would all taste great. Also, I think next time I marinate the chicken, I might add a bit of sweetness to the marinade, maybe a teaspoon of agave nectar or a bit of brown sugar. We’ll just have to see how that turns out!
For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/3 c bottled ponzu sauce
½ c peanut oil
1 T sambal oelek
For the sauce:
2 T ponzu sauce
2 ½ T rice wine vinegar
1 T agave nectar or honey
1 t fish sauce
2 t cornstarch
2 carrots, peeled and sliced about ¼ inch thick
1 large head of broccoli or two small heads, cut into florets
1 T peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t minced ginger
1 small thai pepper, seeded and minced
2 T mirin or sake
1 t sesame oil
Accompaniment: Steamed brown rice
Put the chicken, ponzu sauce, peanut oil, and sambal oelek in a Ziploc bag and allow to marinate 4 hours or overnight.
Place the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk to incorporate. Set aside.
Blanch the vegetables: Prepare a large bowl with ice water. Set aside. Fill a saucepan large enough to hold the carrots and broccoli with water. Bring water to a boil and add carrots, then broccoli. Allow to boil for 2 minutes, and immediately drain vegetables and place them in the ice water bath. This will allow the vegetables to stop cooking. Once the vegetables are cooled, drain them from the ice water.
Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and discard marinade. Grill chicken breasts, about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through.
Heat a wok or deep skillet to medium-high heat. Add peanut oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic, ginger, and thai pepper, and stir-fry for a minute. Add mirin and stir for about 30 seconds. Add vegetables and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add sauce and stir. Cook until sauce thickens and vegetables are tender (but not mushy!), another 3-4 minutes. Stir in sesame oil.
Serve chicken breasts, sliced, on top of steamed brown rice and vegetables.