Gwyneth Paltrow’s Best Stir Fried Chicken and Corn Chowder
If I’m going to defend Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, it seems fitting to cook some of her recipes and let you know how they turned out. This last week I made corn chowder on a rainy day involving a tornado (or three) touchdown, and her “Best stir fried chicken” which she makes “when craving Chinese, but don’t want the MSG.”* Frank will happily eat anything involving soy sauce, chili garlic sauce and meat, so Chinese works with his palette. Mine? Not really, but I think this was a good recipe and one that would be better if I had scallions on hand and increased the amount of cilantro garnish to brighten up the savory flavors. GP’s recipe does not call for noodles, but it didn’t seem right without it. We added in one pack of Soba noodles when the chicken/sauce was done, with a teaspoon of sesame oil to break up the sauce.
Best stir fried chicken
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes (we used chicken tenders, which are cheaper than chicken breasts and are the same thing)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup peeled and minced garlic
1/4 cup peeled and minced ginger (I buy Ginger sauce, which is in the Asian aisle at the co-op is works beautifully…$5 for a bottle that will last a year)
1/2 cup minced scallions (white and green parts) (Didn’t have this, which is a bummer because it would have made the meal really excellent)
Pinch red chile flakes (Also didn’t have, so substituted with Chili Garlic Sauce, about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Toss the chicken with the cornstarch, a large pinch of salt, and quite a bit of pepper. Heat the oil in a large nonstick wok over medium-high heat (this is a gentle stir-fry). Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and chile flakes if using them and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar and 6 grinds of black pepper. Boil on high for 3 minutes, or until the sugar has really caramelized, the vinegar has mellowed a bit, and the whole mixture is dark brown and sticky and lovely. Add the soy sauce, cook for another 30 seconds and serve immediately, served with cilantro.
Corn Chowder: I will not lie, I didn’t like this recipe at first. I don’t like soup to begin with and if I do eat soup, I like it creamy. GP intentionally excludes cream from the recipe to keep it light and healthy, which was a strike against her until I had it for lunch on the second day and the flavors came together with a thicker consistency. If you’ve read any reviews about this book, or the article in this month’s Bon Appetit (which she graces the cover of), you’ll see the mention of a $500 Vitamix blender that she loves. I think in order for this recipe to be killer, you need either the Vitamix blender or use cream. The reason for this is that the Vitamix blender (used at the end of the recipe, to blend one cup of the soup) gives the soup some texture and creaminess that without, leaves it a little watery and not at all chowder-y. As I will not be spending $500 on a Vitamix blender, I’ll try adding cream and reducing it longer on the stove to thicken it up, and add potatoes (at one point, too much corn can be too much corn).
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (No butter needed if you use pork bacon, which I did)
2 slices turkey bacon, finely diced (I used pork bacon)
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely diced
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Kernels from 6 fresh ears of corn, cobs reserved
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, for garnish
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon, for garnish
Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot over a medium flame. Add the bacon and cook, stirring for 4 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add the shallots, onion, thyme, and bay leaf and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the corn kernels, salt and pepper and cook for a minute, stirring everything together. Add the stock, milk and corn cobs, heat up and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the corn is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove the cobs, puree a ladelful of soup in the blender, and return it to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve, sprinkling each portion with a bit of the chives and tarragon.
Note: you you could make this with two slices of pork bacon instead of the turkey bacon in which you won’t need the butter.
*Awesome. Admit it, you’ve said that yourself.