I’ve always wondered what makes the meat at Chinese restaurants taste so much better than when I do stir-fries at home. Do you know what I mean? The chicken is always soft all the way through without being overly chewy. And the sauce just seems to stick to it without becoming too heavy.

I’m about to let you in on the secret: velveting.

Haven’t heard of it? I hadn’t either until I was thumbing through a book a few years back at the library while I was waiting for one of my kids to finish up at story time. The book, Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks, talked about how you marinate and prep the meat before you stir-fry it by putting it into an egg white wash.

Huh? I wasn’t quite sure what to make of an egg white marinade but I was willing to give it a try. My stir-fries have been better ever since. Now, this definitely ups the time to make a stir-fry, which usually is a go-to dish when you’re in a hurry and you want something healthy for your crew. I won’t sugarcoat—it does take more planning (and a couple extra bowls to clean), but your stir-fry will taste so much better. The egg white marinade also includes a dose of cornstarch. So your chicken is already coated with cornstarch before you add the sauce to the dish. Meaning: the sauce sticks to the chicken. Yeah!

I don’t always have time to velvet the chicken/pork (haven’t tried beef yet but it’s on my list) in my stir-fries but when I do there’s a big difference in the flavor. And my kids notice too—I don’t think it’s just my imagination that they eat more (and reheat it on day #2) when I take the time for velveting.

This is just one idea about how to mix-up some of your regular dishes at home. I’ve been thinking about this as I thumbed through tips on Sunday Dinners Done Right. Of all the nights of the week, Sunday dinner is the one where we’re not rushed, we have time to enjoy the meal and talk to each other (and not just about scheduling for the next day). I especially like the idea of making conversation the main course. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team.

Recipe

Ingredients

Marinade:

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon white wine (or chicken broth)

1 egg white

1 pound chicken cut into small pieces

Sauce:

½ teaspoon cornstarch

¼ cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 ½ Tablespoons white wine (or more broth)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Other ingredients

2 Tablespoons oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bell pepper (red or green)

1 bunch green onions

(I also use bok choy)

1 teaspoon grated ginger(or 1/2 teaspoon ground)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup peanuts


Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, add all of the marinade ingredients (except the chicken) and whisk until smooth. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for at least 10 minutes or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (But you should bring the meat up to room temperature before cooking.)
  2. Prepare the sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.
  3. Prepare the chicken by filling a cooking pot with water and bringing it just to a simmer (not to a boil).
  4. Place the chicken into the simmering water. The egg whites will leave strands (that’s fine).
  5. As soon as the chicken turns white, around one minute, remove with a slotted spoon. I usually place my chicken in the water in two batches. (Note: the chicken is not yet cooked through.)
  6. For the stir-fry, place the oil into a wok or large skillet. Once it’s at a medium-high heat add the red pepper flakes, then the garlic.
  7. Cook for about 30 seconds then add the vegetables. Cook the veggies for about 2-3 minutes or until just barely soft.
  8. Add in the chicken. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes or until the chicken is heated through and no longer pink in the center.
  9. Pour the sauce into the center of the wok and cook for about a minute or until thickened. Turn off heat and toss in the peanuts.
  10. Serve over rice or Chinese noodles.

Now it’s your turn, do you have something that makes your Sunday night dinners just a little more special?

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