Kung Pao Chicken

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Kung Pao Chicken
slightly adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients

For the Chicken:
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
1 teaspoon black soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (can substitute dry sherry)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

For the Stir-Fry:
1 tablespoon black soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable, peanut, or canola oil, divided
2 large bell peppers, any color, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 cup (4 ounces) roasted peanuts
3 cloves minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 scallion, finely sliced
8 small dried red Chinese or Arbol chiles (you can also add crushed chiles, see note below)

Method

For chicken: Combine chicken, salt, pepper, black soy sauce, wine, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Set aside for 20 minutes.

For stir fry: Combine black soy sauce, wine, vinegar, water, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a wok or large deep skillet over high heat until smoking. Add chicken, spread into a single layer, and cook without moving until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Continue cooking, tossing and stirring frequently, until the exterior is opaque but chicken is still slightly raw in the center, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil over high heat until smoking. Add bell peppers and celery and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until brightly colored and browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Add peanuts and toss to combine. Push vegetables up side of wok to clear a space in the center. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, and dried chiles and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return chicken to wok and toss to combine. Stir sauce and add to wok. Cook, tossing, until sauce thickens and coats ingredients and chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Serve immediately.

NOTES

Oh you guys. I’ve had kung pao chicken on my “to make” list for so long and now I am kicking myself for not getting to it sooner. This is absolutely delicious. This is more like American takeout style kung pao chicken – no szechuan peppercorns here – but unlike American-style takeout, it is huge in flavor, light in grease.

One note: I’ve never actually ordered kung pao in a restaurant (I KNOW), but I think I always assumed the chiles made the dish spicy. Um, not really. I even tried cutting the heads off the second time I made it, to let some of the flavor and seeds cook into the dish. Still nothing (unless you count actually eating the chiles with the dish, which I know you’re not “supposed” to do, but I do anyway). If you want heat cooked in, I suggest adding some crushed chiles (the Asian market kind, not the Italian food kind) during that last cooking step when you add the chiles. Or you can always spice it up at the table.

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