I just recently discovered Thai food. Don't ask what took me so long. The important thing is that I love it now. While I've only had a couple dishes and I haven't branched out into anything too wild, I have discovered that I love Thai basil ... even in all of its spicy glory!
When I saw that America's Test Kitchen posted a Thai Chicken with Basil recipe on The Feed, I was stoked to try it. But there was one problem: it's impossible to find Thai basil in Milwaukee. Heck, some days I can't even find regular basil in Milwaukee. (No joke. For weeks I was convinced there was some sort of strange basil shortage because it was never on the shelves at Pick 'n Save OR Sendik's.)
Well it seems the Test Kitchen anticipated the elusiveness of Thai basil in most places on this planet. In their recipe, they kicked up the heat in other ways and substituted regular basil. But that doesn't mean the recipe is perfect ... because they call for a few other ingredients that -- while not as hard to find as Thai basil -- I don't necessarily have on hand. Really, Test Kitchen? You want me to buy fish sauce and oyster sauce for this dish? Not likely.
Now when I find a must-make recipe, it's typically no holds barred. I'll buy whatever it is I need, and on occasion the ingredients might be a little obscure. In a few cases, when I don't have an ingredient on hand or when I can't find it in the store, I'll just find a suitable substitute. But I rarely dive into a dish blatantly ignoring a handful of ingredients and choosing to go it alone. On this one, I had to. And luckily, it was a huge success!
Now I usually won't recommend that you take this risk, and instead tell you to get the ingredients you need. But if they're not likely to be re-used in your kitchen, as the fish sauce and oyster sauce weren't in mine, feel free to take a chance. I did and this is my ...
Thai Chicken with Basil (for cooks who don't like to buy ingredients they'll use only once)
1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 oz. white mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked white rice
Process basil leaves, garlic, and jalapeno in food processor until finely chopped, about 10 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Transfer 1 tablespoon basil mixture to a small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Set aside. Transfer remaining basil mixture to 12-inch skillet. Do not clean food processor bowl.
Pulse chicken and remaining tablespoon soy sauce in food processor until meat is chopped into approximately 1/4-inch pieces, about 6 pulses.
Stir shallots, mushrooms, and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until shallots are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add chicken to skillet, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking up chicken with a rubber spatula, until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add reserved basil-soy sauce mixture and continue to cook, about 1 minute. Season to taste with red pepper flakes. Serve over rice.
This ended up being almost as delicious as the Thai Basil Chicken I had at the last Thai restaurant we went to. In fact, since it wasn't as overwhelmingly hot, I may even like my version better! I managed to achieve just the right balance of sweet and spicy. And while Bill was concerned when he saw me pulsing chicken breasts in the food processor, I can assure you that the texture was not weird at all :)
If you're interested in the Test Kitchen's original recipe (which I'm sure is delicious), you can check it out here.