Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thai Basil Chicken

While my husband and I are in the process of moving back to the city of Chicago, I've been enjoying the opportunity of cooking in 2 different kitchens. I have my suburban kitchen which is nice, big and roomy... while my (temporary) city kitchen is much more efficient, compact and is a bit more modern. Regardless, I can pretty much cook in any kitchen and I'm a firm believer that a nice, fancy kitchen doesn't improve a cook. In fact, I believe it's a cook that improves a kitchen! I prepared this Thai Basil Chicken for my family in the city and they loved how quickly it came together. They even complimented me by saying it was better than the Thai Basil Chicken they ordered at a local Thai restaurant!...

Thai cuisine has such a freshness about it that I really enjoy. The use of fresh herbs such as basil and mint really lend a vibrant, bright flavor in Thai dishes. Basil is one heavily used herb in this dish and even though there's 2 cups of basil, it doesn't overpower the dish as much as you'd think.

The dish starts out by processing 1 cup of fresh basil (or fresh Thai basil) with garlic cloves and chili garlic sauce. I chose to use chili garlic sauce since I didn't want the dish to be spicy at all. Using only 1/2 teaspoon of the chili garlic sauce gave just a subtle heat which was perfect for me. If you like the spice and heat of Thai cuisine, feel free to add more chili garlic sauce or use Thai or serrano peppers instead. A tablespoon of this basil/garlic mixture is placed in a skillet while the remaining mixture is set aside to use later. Next, the ground chicken is mixed with a little fish sauce and chilled for a few minutes before sauteeing in the skillet with the basil/garlic mixture. Once the chicken is fully cooked and no pink is visible, the basil/garlic mixture that was previously set aside is added to the skillet to flavor the chicken. Just before serving, more fresh basil is added to the skillet and allowed to wilt. Then, it's ready to serve! We liked this over steamed jasmine rice.

Thai Basil Chicken
recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 cups basil leaves, packed (Thai preferred)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 1/2 lbs ground chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped

Place garlic, 1 cup fresh basil leaves and the chili garlic sauce in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping bowl one time. Transfer 1 tablespoon of this mixture to a small bowl with the 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Stir and set aside.

Place the remaining garlic/basil mixture into a cold 12" skillet and set aside.

Place the ground chicken in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce and refrigerate for 5-10 minutes.

In the cold skillet with the garlic/basil mixture, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and onions to the pan. Saute over medium low heat and allow herbs and onion to soften.

Once onion is softened, add the chilled ground chicken, and stirring constantly, brake chicken up as it cooks. Continue stirring until chicken is no longer pink.

Add garlic/basil sauce mixture that you made previously. Cook about 1 min.

Meanwhile, chiffonade the remaining cup of basil leaves and add to the pan to cook 1 additional minute or so, until the basil wilts. Serve over rice.