Kung Pao Chicken

Quick Asian stir-fries make especially satisfying weeknight dinners. Kung pao is traditionally a seriously spicy dish, but we've given ours a moderate level of heat; feel free to adjust the quantity of red-pepper flakes to suit your taste. Serve with steamed rice.

Yield: 4
Recipe from Food & Wine

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 4 scallions, white bulbs and green tops cut separately into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes

Preparation

  1. 1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the sherry, and the 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
  2. 2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, water, and the remaining 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sherry, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
  3. 3. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the peanuts and stir-fry until light brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from the pan. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the white part of the scallions and the red-pepper flakes to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the soy-sauce mixture and the scallion tops and simmer until the chicken is just done, about 1 minute longer. Stir in the peanuts.
  4. Variation:
  5. Cashew Chicken: Substitute the same amount of cashews for the peanuts.
  6. Wine Recommendation: Since the chicken is salty and spicy, the drink's first job is to refresh. An aromatic white wine such as a sauvignon blanc from California or South Africa will do nicely, as will your favorite cold beer.
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