The great cabinet cleanse of 2011

My friend Peggy is far more organized than I am. So, when I read this post of hers, I was inspired to go through my kitchen cabinets and take inventory, too.

This is where the fun begins.

And, by “fun”, I mean cursing.

Within minutes of the project I discovered a couple of things about myself—first, I’m never going to be the kind of person who enjoys projects. Second, that, as I’ve long suspected, my love of specialty markets has reached epic levels. Which would be fine, if not for my long held belief that part of the charm of a grocery store of any type is that no one leaves empty handed. Self fulfilling prophecy and all that.

This is all a very circular way of saying that my cabinets a filled to the brim with single recipe ingredients. Lots and lots of thems. After four years in the same apartment—a lifetime in New York—it happens.

Although I espouse a waste not, want not philosophy when it comes to cooking, and really try to live it, when it comes to nonperishable ingredients, the urgency just isn’t there.

This becomes a problem when I’m awkwardly maneuvering around stacks and stacks of the contents of my cabinets, wondering why I ever thought beef flavored ramen was something I’d eat. Or, thinking Rice vinegar? Seriously, who buys rice vinegar?* Or, for that matter, talking to myself (and not saying very nice things, at that).

Thankfully, I remembered purchasing the vinegar after reading a recipe on for Sweet and Sour Chicken on Amateur Gourmet years ago. His version relies on the original recipe, adapting it based on whatever ingredients he has on hand. Mine does, too—the noticeable difference is that my penchant for buying recipe specific ingredients meant that I had more to work with. Even if you don’t—perhaps because you have no problem simply buying tamari almonds, rather than insisting upon making them yourself—don’t let that discourage you. This recipe is easily adapted to what’s on hand and your own personal tastes. And, the flavor is completely unexpected. Where restaurant sweet and sour chicken is cloying and artificial tasting, this is far more nuanced, and balanced.

I can eat it for days on end.

So, cabinet cleaning accomplished.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but two days later, to celebrate that I had not only straightened out my kitchen cabinets but also used some of the ingredients contained within them, I rewarded myself with a trip to my favorite market. Naturally, I bought Mirin, just in case.

Clearly, I’ll never learn.

I will, however, continue to cook, if only to use it all up.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Adapted from The Amateur Gourmet

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons tamari
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/3 cup Homemade Chicken Broth
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 tablespoon siraccha
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 celery stalks, cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
1 can bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained

In a medium bowl combine the chicken, garlic, 2 teaspoons of the soy sauce, the rice wine, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cornstarch, the 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Toss well and set aside for at least ten minutes.

While the chicken is resting, combine the broth, tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ketchup, and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok, if you have one, or a non-stick skillet on a high heat for a minute or so, until you cannot hold your hand above the pan for more than 5 seconds. Swirl in the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and add the chicken to the pan, spreading it evenly into one layer.

Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to brown. Then, stir, until the chicken has browned on all sides but is not cooked through. This should take about a minute. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.

Add the remaining vegetable oil into the pan. Then, add in the carrots, celery, and bamboo shoots, stirring for about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the sauce and stir everything well.

Return the chicken to the pan. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened.

Serves 4

*evidently, I do.

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1 Comment

Filed under Meat

One response to “The great cabinet cleanse of 2011

  1. Abbey

    1. Yum. 2. I have lots of uses for rice vinegar. 3. Also, I use Mirin quite frequently and often in conjunction with said vinegar. Welcome to my fav ingredients!

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