This episode of Food & Wine Cooks follows Chef Grace Young doing a recipe demo of her Chicken Fricassee-style with Spring Onions, Asparagus, & Carrots in her home kitchen.
GRACE YOUNG: Hi, I'm Grace Young. I'm known as the stir fry guru. And today, I'm going to show you one of my all-time favorite dishes, chicken fricassee stir fry. Most people think you can't make a stir fry unless you have exotic Asian ingredients. But if you understand the principles of stir fry, you can make a fabulous stir fry with ordinary ingredients.
So now we're going to prep our asparagus. When you're buying asparagus, look for asparagus that is plump and smooth like this. And when you're cooking with asparagus, you always have to remove the top stalks at the ends. So there are some people that cut them off. But I do what my mother taught me. And that is just to snap it off. So where it naturally bends is where you're removing the tough end.
And it's really important when you're stir frying to use vegetables that are in season. So don't cook asparagus in the dead of winter because it's not the right season. And I take like two or three asparagus at a time and just cut them on the diagonal like that. And we're done.
Next, I'm going prep the carrots. I always trim off the ends. So what you want are quarter-inch thick slices. It's very important that if you can make the slices as consistent as possible so that they're all more or less the same thickness. And we only need one cup of the carrot slices. And these tiny little ends, the cook gets to eat.
Next are the scallions. Just make thin slices along the diagonal again. Lots of people ask me whether or not you should just use the white end of the scallions or the whole scallion. And in Chinese cooking, we don't waste anything so always the entire scallion.
And now we're mincing the garlic. Chicken fricassee is a classic French dish. So I would actually call this a heart-stopping classic French stew. But by stir frying it, you can make it so much healthier. And because stir frying intensifies all the flavors, you get all the same flavors without needing to use so much fat. So stir frying is really a fantastic way to eat healthy but not to sacrifice flavor. So there's our tablespoon of minced garlic.
So here's my parsley, and I just need about a tablespoon. So many people think that stir frying is only for Chinese food, Asian cuisine. But I take just about any favorite dish, and I can turn it into a stir fry. If you understand the principles, you can make any dish into a stir fry.
So this is 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. What we're going to do is make bite-size slices that are 1/4-inch thick. So this is about it. This goes very, very quickly, and then after this, we're going to marinate the chicken.
I have the sliced chicken here. I'm going to add garlic. And unlike a Western marinade where you combine the marinade ingredients first and then pour it over the chicken, a Chinese marinade or a stir fry marinade is completely different. We just add each ingredient one by one. So this is the dry white wine, just a little bit, and finally, some cornstarch.
So a lot of people are thrown by this because this is so different that you don't combine the marinade ingredients first, but it actually makes it much simpler. And now we're just going to add a little bit of salt. And I always sprinkle it all around so it doesn't clump in one spot. I almost forgot the pepper. And that is 1/4 teaspoon, and just sprinkle that in.
So now we're just going to combine this until the cornstarch is no longer visible. The stir fry marinade you can just do seconds before you start stir frying. Because the chicken slices are so thin, the marinade penetrates immediately. So right now, you can see that there's no powdered cornstarch that's visible, and then I'm going to add a little bit of oil. This is grapeseed oil, which is exactly the same oil that we're going to use for stir frying. You could also use safflower.
And that's it. We're ready to go. And now let's put together the sauce ingredients. So I have a 1/2 cup of chicken broth right here. And I like to use a liquid measuring cup because when I add the sauce ingredients to the wok, it's easier to control, and then I add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, dry white wine, and finally 4 teaspoons of corn starch. And that's going to thicken up the sauce. And you want to just whisk that together again until the corn starch is completely dissolved and no longer visible.
So we're just about ready to stir fry. You need to set your ingredients in the order that you're going to use them because it's going to make it 1,000% easier for you when you're stir frying. When you're stir frying on high heat, you don't want to pause and be looking for your ingredient and thinking, oh, what comes next? So make it as easy for yourself as possible.
And I also just will point out to you that when you stir fry, you have to use an oil that has a high smoking point. I'm using grapeseed today. You could use safflower, avocado oil, rice bran oil. Peanut oil is traditional for Chinese cooking.
And now let me talk to you about my favorite subject and why I'm called the wok therapist, my wok. So I have lots of different woks. I've been collecting them for years. But this is the wok that I recommend for most home cooks. It is 14 inches, and I'm measuring from edge to edge. Flat bottom-- the traditional wok is round bottom, but this one is flat bottom.
But what's critical here is if you used a round bottom wok, you have to set it on a wok ring. And the moment you set it on a wok ring, which is almost like a metal crown, you're setting the wok this far from the heat. So it can't get hot enough. And American stoves are not as hot as a traditional Chinese stove. So in general, I recommend the flat bottom wok.
And finally, this is carbon steel. And I love carbon steel because it heats quickly. It distributes heat evenly. And the moment your stir fry is done, it cools down quickly. And like cast iron, the more you cook with it, the more it acquires what I call a natural nonstick surface. So old woks, you can use less oil than a brand new wok.
The other important thing that you need to remember when you're stir frying is you have to preheat your wok. So the Chinese have this term hot wok, cold oil, which means you have to preheat and then add your oil. And how do you know when your wok is hot enough? I use a low dish of water here. And I flick a drop of water into the wok. And the moment it evaporates within a second, the wok is ready to go.
And if you're a newbie, a wok newbie, I would suggest turning off the heat just because you're a little clumsy sometimes, and then swirling in the oil. And I always pour it along the edge of the wok, and then actually tilt the pan so that the oil is completely coating the bottom of the wok, and then turn it back on.
So now I'm going to add all of my chickens. And do you hear that sizzle sound? That means that the wok is correctly preheated. And now I'm going to spread the chicken along the bottom of the wok. This is a very unusual step.
I'm called the stir fry guru. And it's really because I've spent a lot of time analyzing what does and does not work when you're stir frying. And my father actually taught me this. Because as I said before, Western stoves are not as hot as the typical Chinese home stove. So you have to give your ingredients a chance to begin to sear.
So this is very weird to just like not stir fry but just hold back for a second. It's just starting to brown, and there's absolutely no sticking. So you want to stir fry this just until the outside of the chicken no longer looks raw. So it won't be cooked through. And do you hear that sizzle sound? I always say that when you're stir frying, the wok is talking to you.
And now I'm going to add my last tablespoon of oil. Always swirl it along the edge of the wok, and then my asparagus, carrots, and the thyme sprigs, and finally a half a teaspoon of salt. And you're stir frying this just until the asparagus turns bright green. So it's not very long. The asparagus is just turning bright green. And now you have to re-stir the sauce because the cornstarch sinks to the bottom, and then swirl this along the edge of the wok.
And then I put my lid on, and we let this cook for about one minute. If you don't have a wok lid, you could use a skillet lid, or you could even use a cookie sheet. If you were making a traditional chicken fricassee, it would take you about an hour. But with my stir frying this dish, this takes at most seven minutes.
The whole genius behind stir frying is it's high heat quick cooking, which punches up the flavors of each of your ingredients. So let's take a look. And what you're looking for is the sauce to just begin to thicken up, which it is. Oh, my God. I wish you could smell this. This is so beautiful. And now we're just adding the scallions and the parsley. And we are just about there.
Oh, my God. It is just such an intense, beautiful aroma right now. You can smell the chicken. I can almost smell the sweetness coming from the vegetables. And that's it. You see it goes so quickly. This is so easy. Oh, my God. This is so heavenly. I'm going to take a bite here. Mmm.
I love this dish so much. I've always been a fan of chicken fricassee. And this is by far the best. And the beauty of it is you can have the whole thing done from prep to cooking in 25 minutes. This is healthy. It's fast. It's quick. It's easy. I would serve this with noodles, rice, even a crusty baguette. So you got to make this dish. It is so good. You won't regret it.