My father-in-law was a clown by day and an Italian opera lover by night. Sometimes he was both and when he was neither, or sometimes both, he was a word-twister of note and a conjurer of food. He could conjure every dish and spoon you owned dirty and then emerge from a puffing cloud bearing steaming plates of goodness. Combined with his theatrics, playful conversation and abstract thought, he truly made food for the mind, body and soul.
He passed on a number of years ago and I shall forever be thankful to him. He taught me a few useful things: how to prevent broccoli from going bitter, how to pack for a diabetic on an overnight trip – and how to make chicken fillets melt. Flawlessly. Every time. Code name: Velvet Chicken. Once prepared, these pieces of heaven can be used in stir-fry dishes, soups, salads, curries or anything else that calls for melt-in-your-mouth bits of chicken.
This past weekend, I ran away from the starving hordes and took over my mom’s kitchen. It’s the end of the month and she has wine. Can you blame me? We whipped up a double batch of Velvet Chicken – most of it was to be used as a peace offering when she poured me back through my front door and the rest to make her cooking-for-one week easier.
The peace offering was a little smaller than expected because she forgot to supply snacks with the wine. These bits of chicken were a perfect substitute, but I would recommend that if you want to use them to impress ‘real’ guests, put them on a toothpick first. Then roll them in a little heated peanut butter, roll again through sesame seeds and top with a pickled onion or mushroom (we’ll get to some easy pickling recipes later – without wasting the wine).
One thing I always hated with making saucy chicken was never being able to tell when the chicken was going to turn its back on me. So many times I hit disappointment after spending a whole bunch of care and effort on the sauce, only to find that the succulent chicken had turned to dry chicken stones in the pot. With this recipe, you can prepare the chicken beforehand, spend as much or as little time as you like preparing everything else and then a few minutes before serving, throw in your perfect chicken to quickly heat through. Guaranteed, the chicken will headline the meal – in a good way.