Bok Choy Redux

After my last bok choy recipe, I had several requests for more ways to eat bok choy.

We eat a lot of bok choy. We usually have it twice a week. It’s super-high in nutrients, and is one of the best non-dairy food sources of calcium out there. Plus, it’s just so yummy. I’ve even gotten my mom and my sister hooked on it, and they’re pretty much Midwestern eaters.

One of our staple recipes is stir fry. This is a recipe that’s developed over time and I kind of wing it every time I make it, following some basic guidelines more than a recipe. I’ll give you the guidelines, and then try to set up something resembling a recipe.

General stir fry guidelines:

-There are three main components to my stir fry: protein (chicken, beef, pork, or tofu), greens (bok choy or savoy cabbage), and other vegetables (almost always carrots, but other veggies we use include snap peas, bell peppers, water chestnuts, and baby corn (these are kid crowd-pleasers)). I try to use no more than 3 veggies total (greens plus two others). In addition, I make a marinade/sauce and either rice or rice noodles to serve the stir fry over.

-Do not overcook your stir fry. This requires the use of high heat and a well heated skillet. The veggies will still have some crunch but will be bright green and flavorful when done.

-Don’t use a wok unless you’ve got the whole authentic setup. Regular western residential stoves don’t have a large enough flame to make a wok hot enough on a large enough surface to cook everything quickly and evenly. Just use a big (like 12+ inches) skillet with straight sides.

-Use the right kind of oil. Because you’re cooking with high heat, you need oil with a high smoke point. I usually use a combination of canola and toasted sesame oil (the latter is for flavor. If you don’t like sesame, you can use all canola).

-Get all of your ingredients cut up ahead of time and lined up in the proper order before you start cooking (you’ll add the longest-cooking veggies first). Once you begin, it only takes a couple of minutes to cook.

-Cut the ingredients in uniform thickness and size. You can vary the sizes, just make sure that the veggies you’re adding at the same time are about the same size so they take about the same length of time to cook.

-If you’re using tofu, press it between a couple of layers of paper towel  and two plates. Weight the top plate with a couple of heavy cans to press the excess moisture from the tofu. Press the tofu in the fridge for several hours or overnight, before you cut it. This will help the tofu hold together when you fry it. Some people freeze the tofu, then thaw it, which is supposed to make it firmer. I’ve never tried this method.

And that’s about it. Once you’ve got the guidelines down, you can vary the ingredients to suit your own tastes and sense of adventure.

Now, the pseudo-recipe to get you started.

Chicken and Bok Choy Stir Fry with Brown Rice

Marinade Ingredients:

1/2 c soy sauce

1/2 c mirin

~1 T sweetener (I use either brown sugar or agave nectar)

~1 t granulated garlic

~1 t powdered ginger

(you can use fresh garlic and ginger, I just rarely take the time to. This is our quick meal, and peeling ginger doesn’t seem quick to me.)

Mix marinade ingredients together in a shallow glass pan large enough to accommodate the meat. (I don’t usually marinate tofu, I just use the marinade as a sauce.)

Other ingredients:

2-3 T canola oil

1-2 T toasted sesame oil

1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs, sliced quite thin (~1/4-inch thick) across the grain

1 bunch bok choy, rinsed and sliced thin

3-4 carrots, scrubbed and sliced on the bias

~2 c snap peas, rinsed and strings removed. You can cut them in half so they’re not so long, if you like. This is optional.

Put the chicken in to marinate in the fridge, then start the rice. Basic rice cooking directions: place 3 c water and 1.5 c long-grain brown rice in a saucepan (you can rinse the rice first, if desired). Cover and bring to a bowl. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, over very low heat for 40-60 minutes or until all water is absorbed. At altitude, this takes closer to 60 minutes. At sea level, it’s closer to 40 minutes.

Prep all of your veggies and place them in separate bowls, lined up next to your skillet.

Heat ~1 T canola oil and ~ 1/2 T toasted sesame oil in a large skillet until very hot. The surface of the oil will look somewhat psychedelic and tiny wisps of smoke will be coming up from the edges. Using tongs, lift up scoops of chicken from the marinade, letting the excess sauce drip back into the marinade container. Add the chicken to the skillet. Once all chicken is added, stir it pretty constantly until it’s no longer pink inside. Remove from skillet and set aside.

While the chicken cooks, put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes until it’s reduced slightly. (This will give a nice, concentrated sauce and kill any bacteria from the chicken.) If it reduces too much, just add a few tablespoons of water to thin.

Add another ~1 T or so of oil to the skillet and let heat again. Add the sliced carrots and cook for a couple of minutes until bright orange. Add your snap peas and stir fry for about a minute until they’re just bright green. Then add your bok choy and stir fry until it wilts slightly and the top leaves are just bright green. Stir the chicken back in. Remove from heat when the chicken has gotten hot again.

Serve the stir fry over brown rice with the sauce spooned over it.

There's brown rice under there, I promise.