I was watching Instagam, you know… as one does especially during this self-isolation period that we’re going through. Many chefs/food editors/ trainers and other various professionals are thankfully supplying us with recipe ideas, cooking and fitness videos. You need the fitness videos after all of the cooking videos. It’s giving us access to more content, new content that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to have access to from home. This is the silver lining to my dark cloud.
The other day Molly Baz, a food editor for Bon Appetit magazine was on Instagram making this stir-fry and I was totally mesmerized and intrigued by the combination of ingredients…celery in a stir-fry? Dates? Yes, there are dates in there too! She said the flavour inspo for her came from that classic childhood snack called ants on a log. That’s usually a celery stick topped with peanut butter and raisins lined up on top like little ants. Celery in a stir-fry, when you think about it, is not that unusual. When celery cooks, it’s very distinct flavour mellows and sweetens. The dates although uncommon in this type of recipe, work. Sweet and savoury flavour combinations in Asian inspired dishes is my favourite aspect! Then there’s the spicy element and the toasty peanutty element which make for a perfect multifaceted flavour profile.
With recipes like this, it is SUPER important to prepare your mise-en-place! Things need to go in to your pan or wok every couple of minutes and you need to stay close to your pan the whole time. Prepping/chopping in advance really helps the recipe come together in a pinch and makes it virtually stress-free.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you do, please let me know in the comments 🙂 Also, you can check out my instagram page for weekly recipe videos
- 2 tsp plus ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 1/2 tsp cornstarch divided
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar divided
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt plus more
- 1 lb. skinless boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts
- 3 tbsp. sambal oelek
- 2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 2″ piece of ginger
- 6 scallions
- 4 celery stalks
- 5 Medjool dates approx.
- 1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup roasted or blanched peanuts
- Rice for serving; optional
- Whisk together 2 tsp. soy sauce, 1½ tsp. cornstarch, ½ tsp. sugar, and ½ tsp. salt in a medium bowl; set marinade aside.
- Cut 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs into ½” pieces. Transfer to bowl with reserved marinade and toss to evenly coat. (The cornstarch will tenderize the chicken and lock in its juices.) Set chicken aside.
- Whisk 3 Tbsp. sambal oelek, 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar, remaining ¼ cup soy sauce, 1 tsp. cornstarch, 1 tsp. sugar, and ¼ cup water in a small bowl or measuring glass. (Here, the cornstarch serves the role of thickening agent.) Set sauce aside.
- Using the side of your chef’s knife, lightly smash 4 garlic cloves, then peel and finely chop. Finely chop one 2″ piece ginger (skins and all unless they scare you!) Combine garlic and ginger in a small bowl.
- Trim roots from 6 scallions, then slice crosswise into ½” pieces. If there are any leaves attached to 4 celery stalks, remove and coarsely chop them; set side for serving. Cut stalks in half lengthwise, then crosswise into ½”-thick pieces. Tear open 4 oz. dates and remove pits; discard. Cut flesh into ½” pieces. Combine scallions, celery, and dates in a medium bowl
- Coarsely chop 1 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems. Reserve remaining ½ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems unchopped for serving.
- Head over to the stove with all of your prep work (gathering it all on one baking sheet will make this easy!). This stir-fry comes together fast, so you want to be sure to have it all at the ready.
- Combine ⅓ cup vegetable oil and ¾ cup roasted, salted peanuts in a large cast-iron skillet. Set skillet over medium heat and cook nuts, stirring often to encourage even toasting, until they are a few shades darker and fragrant, 5–7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using a slotted spoon so you leave the oil behind, transfer nuts to a small bowl or plate.
- Set skillet with oil over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and ginger, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until very fragrant but not yet browned, about 30 seconds.
- Add reserved chicken and cook, stirring to break it apart, until it is no longer pink on the outsides, about 3 minutes . At this point, it will still be slightly undercooked inside, but it will cook a few more minutes with the remaining vegetables.
- Add scallions, celery, and dates and cook, stirring often, until scallions are bright green and slightly softened, about 2 minutes. The celery should still be quite crisp and crunchy (taste as you go!).
- Give reserved sauce a good stir to be sure cornstarch is incorporated (it loves to settle at the bottom), then add to skillet. Cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens and turns glossy and chicken and vegetables are evenly coated, about 2 minutes.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir in fried peanuts and chopped cilantro. Taste stir-fry and add a little more salt if you think it needs it. Serve straight out of the skillet or transfer to a shallow bowl. Scatter reserved celery leaves (if you have them) and cilantro leaves over. Serve with rice alongside.