Published May 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
Stringy, tasteless meat can mar this easy stir-fry served in lettuce cups. A classic Chinese technique came to the rescue.
No matter how much care you take with it, the chicken tends to cook up dry and bland, and the sauce could always benefit from a bit of punching up.
We wanted tender morsels of chicken and crunchy vegetables stir-fried in a salty-sweet sauce, served in crisp lettuce cups.
Instead of finely (and fussily) dicing the chicken by hand, we turned to the food processor. We briefly froze boneless chicken thighs and then pulsed them in the food processor. Next we added a cornstarch slurry to the workbowl. This classic Chinese technique, called velveting, forms a barrier against clumping that helps the chicken retain moisture when stir-fried.
For the vegetables, we opted for water chestnuts and celery for crunch, sliced shiitake mushrooms for earthy depth and chew, and some garlic and scallions for pungency.
We built complexity into the traditional oyster sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine mixture by adding sesame oil, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Spooned into the tender Bibb lettuce cups, these components came together to make a complex and light dish that was on the table in less than an hour.list of recipes