Recipe du Jour: Chicken Chow Mein

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Today’s recipe comes from my Grandmother.  My grandmother was an old-fashioned Polish woman, and so obviously, this is not an authentic recipe.  I don’t even think “chow mein” in general can be considered authentic.

Funny thing about my grandmother, any recipe of hers that I try to make needs serious modification.  You see, my uncle, when he was younger, used to eat a lot of food.  From the stories I’ve been told, he would eat 4 times as much food as everyone else.  So all of her recipes are HUGE in quantity.  The other thing is that my grandfather could not chew well as he got older, so my grandmother cooked everything to mush.  What this means is that I have to cut back on the ingredients, and experiment with the cooking times.

Anyway, here we go.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cooked chicken breast, or an equivalent amount of cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup onion, cut into 1-inch long strips
  • 2 cups celery, cut into 1-inch long strips
  • 1 small can bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 can of bean sprouts (if you like them)
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch

Directions:

Melt the butter in a deep pan or pot over medium heat.  Add the celery and onion, cook about 5 min.  Add other veggies, cook about 10 min.  Take a little warm water or chicken broth, mix with the cornstarch in a small bowl.  Gradually add to cooking veggies until slightly thickened, and glossy.  Add the chicken and cook 5 more min.  Serve with chow mein noodles, or rice and soy sauce.  Makes about 3 big servings.

Other Cooking Notes:

My grandmother’s original recipe says “Cook chicken as for chicken soup.”  What she means is, make chicken broth from the chicken, and then use the chicken for something else.  My grandmother’s chicken soup is normally just chicken broth served over noodles.  This method (making broth and using the meat in something else) is exactly what I did this time.  If I had more foresight, I would have done a post on that too.

Tastiness Factor:

The actual chow mein itself is a bit bland.  Nice if you’re getting over being sick and don’t want too many complex flavors.  I eat mine with brown rice and chow mein noodles, all mixed up.  I love the extra crunch.  I also don’t use the bean sprouts.  Soy sauce is helpful here.

Reheat Factor:

The mixture seems to thicken up more in the fridge, so it’s best to thin it out with a little water or chicken broth before reheating.  The flavor and texture are consistent with the first heating, and I served the leftovers the same way.

Overall Impression:

Almost any of my grandmother’s chicken recipes are good.  When I see the line “Cook as for chicken soup”, that tells me it’s a tried and true recipe.  Some others in my collection include Chicken ala King and Chicken Pot Pie.  The advantage of this recipe is I normally have celery and onion on hand, it satisfies my craving for takeout Chinese food while at the same time being healthier (and cheaper).

As for modifications, I’m fairly happy with this version.  I’m not exactly sure how much “thickening”  the cornstarch does.  It seems to be there mainly to create that shiny sauce that we’re used to in restaurants.  Next time, I might try leaving it out.

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