Chicken teams up with green garlic and asparagus from the farmers market and ginger, lemongrass and other ingredients gathered from the fridge and pantry to make a quick, delicious stir-fry. Recipe below.
A friend of ours refuses to eat leftovers. She calls them “used food.” Marion and I, on the other hand, feel wonderfully satisfied and even a little smug when every last morsel of something is consumed. Whether it’s a leftover that becomes a lunch or gets repurposed as part of another dinner, or it’s a last lonely shallot that livens up a salad dressing, not wasting food—or at least trying not to waste it—is just part of our working class childhood DNA. That instinct led to the creation of this lovely dish Marion recently cooked. I’ll let her tell you about it.
One of the great joys of late spring is when local farmers markets get back into action, with their ever-changing bounty. That’s also one of the pitfalls of this time of year. Armed with good culinary intentions and eyes bigger than your stomach, it’s easy to get carried away. The other day, our neighborhood farmer’s market opened for the season and we came home all flushed and excited, toting plenty—especially, green garlic and asparagus.
Food writers and home cooks alike tell us that well-stocked pantries and fridges are great tools for everyday cooking. They also guarantee that at any given time, you’ve got various ingredients getting dangerously close to their expiration dates. Trying to figure out how to use the green garlic and asparagus, I thought of a couple of flavors I wanted to use, and then saw a couple of things lurking around that needed to be cooked, like, now.
Exuberance plus desperation: This could have gone horribly wrong. But it came out pretty good.
Stir-Fried Chicken with Asparagus, Green Garlic and Tomatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, sliced into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons minced green garlic (about two, see Kitchen Notes)
1 tablespoon tender part of lemongrass, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled, smashed, minced fine
12 ounces fresh tomato, coarsely chopped
2/3 pound asparagus, cut into pieces about 1-1/2 inches long (see Kitchen Notes)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 or 3 tablespoons fresh basil, coarsely chopped or torn
cooked white rice
Heat the oil in a wok or a large nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot, add the 1/2 cup green garlic, lemongrass, and ginger, and stir-fry for four or five minutes.
Add the chicken and stir-fry about five more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and starting to brown.
Add the tomatoes, pepper and soy sauce and continue to stir-fry about two minutes. Then add the asparagus pieces and stir some more. The pan shouldn’t be completely dry–there should be a small amount of liquid in the pan, from the tomatoes. That’s okay. Stir-fry the entire dish for two or three more minutes, until the asparagus is just al dente.
Add the fresh basil, stir, and serve over rice, garnishing with the remaining green garlic.
Cooking the rice. Timingwise, after you’ve done your prepwork, start cooking the white rice. As soon as you cover the rice on the stovetop, start cooking the chicken and both will be ready at about the same time.
Green garlic. Cut off the root end and discard it; slice and mince the rest of the plant. If the central, stalky part feels woody, then don’t use that. Green garlic has a very short season—if you can’t find it, substitute a little minced garlic and maybe some scallion. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will be good.
Asparagus. To prepare it for cooking, bend the end of the stalk until the woody end snaps off. Discard the woody end (by discard, we mean put it in your compost pile).
Tomatoes. For this dish, discard the stem core, but use the rest of the tomato—skin, seeds, everything.
Basil. If you have fresh Thai basil, uses that, but any fresh basil will be marvelous in this dish. We snipped bits from all our fairly young garden plants (in our brave tiny garden) for this.