There is a great little Thai place in the super-adorable downtown of my city. (It's called Cy's Asian Bistro. They don't have a website but do have a menu online.) I love to get take-out from there when Brad is out of town. Thai basil chicken is my dish of choice. (And, I like to supplement it with a different appetizer each time.) It's not that Brad doesn't like Thai; he does. It's just sort of become this thing I do by myself.
I found this recipe in Cook's Illustrated and decided to experiment. The end result isn't quite the same as the take-out - me, in pajamas, eating take-out on the couch, watching TV on DVD - but it made for a really great dinner.
Thai-style Chicken with Basil
Taken from Cook's Illustrated February 2010
Servings: about 3 (or 2 hungry adults)
Prep and Cooking Time: about 40 minutes
2 C fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded
1 serrano pepper, seeded
2 Tbsp fish sauce, plus extra for serving
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp white vinegar, plus extra for serving
1 Tbsp sugar, plus extra for serving
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3/4 C)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Red pepper flakes, for serving
Process 1 C basil leaves, garlic, and peppers in food processor until finely chopped, 6 to 10 one-second pulses, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once during processing.
Transfer 1 tablespoon basil mixture to small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar; set aside.
Transfer remaining basil mixture to 12-inch nonstick skillet. Do not wash food processor bowl.
Pulse chicken and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in food processor until meat is chopped into approximately 1/4" pieces, six to eight 1-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl and refrigerate 15 minutes.
Stir shallots and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Heat over medium-low heat. Mixture should start to sizzle after about 90 seconds; adjust heat accordingly. Stir constantly, until garlic and shallots are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add chicken, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking up chicken until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining cup basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds.
Serve immediately, passing extra fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and vinegar separately.
The original recipe called for six green or red Thai chiles, stemmed. I checked two stores and could not find even one - much less six - Thai chiles. Upon reading the recipe closer, I learned I could substitute two serranos or one medium jalapeno. I'm indecisive like that, so I opted for a small jalapeno and one serrano. It worked.
Also, I didn't wilt the full cup of basil leaves called for in the final steps. Finding two entire cups of basil that actually looks edible in Wisconsin in January is quite a feat, and I fell a little short of the goal. I wilted only 1/2 C in the final step. The basil flavor was still strong enough. The whole cup might have been too over-powering.
I was a huge fan of the condiments (sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, and hot sauce) with the dish. It was fun to experiment at the table with ways to change the flavor.
We served the chicken with brown rice and broccoli. I'm super glad we added the vegetable. I like vegetables with my stir fry.
We will make this again. It will (like the Spaghetti Puttanesca and the Stroganoff Hamburger Helper) become part of our regular rotation.