One of my family's favorite Chinese takeout staples is chicken with mixed vegetables in a standard brown sauce. I have no idea what the actual name is for this magical sauce since every place we've ever ordered from just calls it brown sauce. It salty, savory, and a little sweet, so it goes with everything. Here I've used stir-fried chicken and a combination of broccoli and eggplant with some water chestnuts for crunch. However, you can easily sub in your favorite meat and vegetables. Given my love for the Dane County Farmers' Market and all the wonderful finds there, I'll just use whatever looks best this week.
The meat is incredibly easy, and it doesn't even get much seasoning since I want it to soak up all the flavor from the sauce. Simply heat a big skillet (or ideally a wok if you happen to have one) with a little bit of oil and sear the chicken or other meat until brown. For the juiciest results use a whole chicken breast and slice after cooking; for the crispiest results cut into slices before cooking.
The last component is the sauce, which is my personal favorite since you can use it to improve any assortment of ingredients. It starts by cooking lots of garlic in the meat drippings. That gets deglazed with chicken broth and soy sauce and then sweetened with brown sugar. The final step is typical of many Chinese-American sauces: thickening with a cornstarch slurry. That sounds intimidating, but it's really just mixing cornstarch with water and adding it to the warm sauce as a thickening agent. The trick is to wait until shortly before serving since you'll get lumps if you don't whisk it frequently. You should end up with a thick, velvety sauce that perfectly coats all the other components of the dish, so it might be worth making an extra extra large batch of the sauce and freezing it for future use, which for me will probably be the next time I get home after a 3-hour library study session.
1 1/2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, Sliced
1 1/2 lbs Eggplant, Diced
12oz Broccoli Florets
1 8oz Can Sliced Water Chestnuts, Drained & Rinsed
8 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 Cups Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add enough eggplant cubes to form a single layer and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli, cook for 1 minute, drain, and place in an ice bath. Drain and pat dry once cool.
Heat some oil in the large pot used for broccoli. Add enough chicken to form a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Repeat with the remaining chicken and set aside.
Cook the garlic in the chicken drippings until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Whisk the cornstarch with 1 T water and stir into the sauce. Simmer/boil for 6 minutes or until thickened. Add the chicken, eggplant, broccoli, and water chestnuts and cook for 2 minutes or until coated.
Recipe Adapted from www.food.com