Here’s what I love about chicken and broccoli: everything. I love that it’s glossy and viscous. I love eating it on the couch, straight from the takeout container, while watching movies on TV that you own on DVD. I love eating it at the mall off a plastic tray in the middle of an acoustically lurid and florescent food court. I love the way its brown sauce saturates white rice. I love that it was always what my favorite aunt ordered when I stayed with her when I was little and afterward we chewed Dentyne and road around the mountains in her old VW bus. I love picking it up from the place, the Golden China or the Peking II, the anticipation on the way home of unpacking all the paper cartons and fortune cookies and gift oranges and counting the hot mustard packets, planning to squirrel them away. I love that there is nothing cool about it and sometimes it’s limp and soggy and oversalted and it is still my most favorite thing from the chicken column. This is how I made it myself. It isn’t the same, but it’s pretty damn good for a girl from Connecticut.
Chicken and Broccoli
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into smallish florets
- 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
- white portions of 3 green onions, diced
- 1 minced clove of garlic
- red pepper flakes
- 5 tablespoons water
Marinate the chicken strips in cornstarch, sherry, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce; set aside. Combine remaining soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, scallions and 2 tablespoons water; set aside. Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat, arrange chicken and sprinkle with red pepper flakes; cook until brown, then remove from heat to a large plate. Add broccoli to the skillet and scrape up the brown bits; dowse with remaining water, cover and cook for two minutes. Pour in the soy sauce mixture, reintroduce chicken and stir to combine.
You don’t get the greasy brown bag, the weird delivery guy, or the surfeit of plastic forks, but making Chinese food at home is a very, very satisfying process in its own right.