Some people collect matchbooks from restaurants, others dinner napkins. Me? I collect cookbooks from the restaurants I’ve been to. On my shelf, you’ll find a Spanish language version of the El Bulli cookbook we collected on our trip there. There are cookbooks from Prune, St. John, Mozza, Lucques, and so many others, too many to list here. One that I bought last summer was the Myers + Chang At Home Cookbook which I bought after our terrific dinner at Myers + Chang in Boston. Not only is a restaurant cookbook a great reminder of your dinner there, it’s full of recipes that’ll conjure up that meal through similar flavors, textures, smells. Like this chicken and rapini stir-fry.
She Used an Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Head of Bitter Green Rapini
What I loved about our meal at Myers & Chang was the everything was familiar yet different at the same time. Like the scallion pancakes. I couldn’t get them out of my mind, they were so good, but they didn’t taste like any scallion pancakes I’d had before. Then I found a video of Chef Joanne Chang making them and the secret was… they’re made from pizza dough. Isn’t that wild? Everything was like that. The carrot cake was so good, I don’t even have words.
But we’re here to talk about the recipe that I just made from the Myers + Chang cookbook. Chicken and rapini stir-fry. What’s rapini? It’s like broccoli but a lot more bitter; like your hippie uncle who spent a year in Afghanistan handing out flours and came back angry and broken. Wow, that was dark.
Instead of your typical beef and broccoli or chicken and broccoli stir-fry, Myers + Chang utilize rapini’s bitterness to create more balance in the dish. Plus there’s Napa cabbage in there too for a little extra crunch and sweetness.
The Chicken Part of the Chicken and Rapini Stir-Fry
Now the original recipe asks you to do something cheffy. It asks you to “velvet” the chicken by coating it in Chinese wine, corn starch, and egg white and then deep-frying it in two cups of oil.
That seemed like a lot for a Monday night, so I coated the chicken breast pieces in Mirin (that was all I had) and corn starch, left out the egg white, and instead of deep-frying, I just sautéed the chicken in a wok the way I normally would. And somehow, it still worked. The marinade made the chicken breast super tender. And I took it out just when it turned opaque. Nothing worse than a dry chicken breast.
Let’s Talk Stir-Fry Sauce
I have some excellent condiments in my fridge (so many, the middle shelf broke and needs to be replaced). The Momofuku Soy Sauce I couldn’t resist when I was ordering things from Good Eggs. And the oyster sauce that was recommended by Ruth Reichl in her newsletter.
The only annoying thing here is you have to mix it together and then cook it before you add it to the wok, dirtying another pot. Do you really need to do that? Between you and me, maybe not. But the resulting sauce is glossy and unctuous (world’s worst food word) and gives you all of that glazed, umami you want in a stir-fry.
As it cooks down, it coats everything but enough still remains to pour over your rice.
Let’s Doctor Our Bowl, Doctor
I served this over brown rice which I cooked in my rice cooker (it took forever; literally ninety minutes!). I topped it with cilantro and Momofuku Chili Crunch, also on Good Eggs (no they’re not sponsoring this post). Be careful with that stuff; I ate it while we watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey and my mouth was so on fire, I almost toppled over a table.
But this was such a good dinner and a great justification for buying restaurant cookbooks as souvenirs. Now who wants to make me the carrot cake?
Chicken and Rapini Stir-Fry
For the Chicken Stir-Fry Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup basic chicken stock I used water and it was fine
For the chicken and rapini stir-fry:
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine or dry sherry or dry white wine
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut thinly into 2 X 1/4-inch strips
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound rapini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces The bottom of the rapini is really tough so I just discard it, though some people shave it down
- 2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon chili oil
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Cooked brown rice or white rice
For the Chicken Stir-Fry Sauce:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 4 tablespoons cold water with a fork until smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the oysters sauce, soy sauce, and stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry until the sauce thickens and becomes shiny, 3 to 4 minutes. Set the sauce aside.
For the stir-fry:
- In a medium bowl, stir together the corn starch and the Shaoxing wine. Add the chicken strips and use your hands to coat the chicken thoroughly in the mixture. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat a wok over high heat until very hot. Swirl in the 2 tablespoons of the oil, coating the sides of the wok, and then add your chicken (leave any residual liquid behind). Stir-fry the chicken until it goes from pink to white and immediately remove the chicken to a plate. It'll cook again later.
- Swirl in another 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and carefully add the rapini (if it's at all wet, it'll crackle and spurt). Stir for 1 minute to coat with the oil. Add 1/2 cup water to the wok and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes until the rapini is wilted and no longer raw and bitter tasting.
- Add the napa cabbage and season with the black pepper, red pepper flakes, and chili oil. Stir a few times and return the chicken to the wok. Stir for 2 minutes.
- Add the Chicken Stir-Fry Sauce and toss until the chicken and rapini are nicely covered in sauce and the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Add cilantro and toss one last time. Divide the stir-fry among four bowls and serve with rice.