Chicken velvet is a festive dish made by coating chicken in beaten egg white, and then poaching the mixture in oil and heating it in a rich stock. The final result really is "smooth as velvet."
2 chicken breasts, 6 to 7 ounces each, boneless, skinless
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken stock, divided (see directions for a chicken stock recipe)
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups oil for deep-frying, or as needed
2 tablespoons oil for stir-frying
2 leeks, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
a few drops sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons chopped Chinese or Virginia cooked ham
Chop the chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Use a food processor set at low speed to mince the chicken breasts.
Add 2 tablespoons good chicken stock to the minced chicken, a few drops at a time, until you have a paste-like consistency.
Beat the egg whites until they are just beginning to stiffen. Carefully fold the beaten egg white into the chicken mixture. Add the cornstarch and salt and pepper.
Heat the wok. Add the oil for deep-frying and heat to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oil is ready, add the chicken mixture and deep-fry quickly, using cooking chopsticks to separate the individual pieces. Turn over and cook the other side (total cooking time should be 2 to 3 minutes). Remove and drain on paper towels. Remove the oil and clean out the wok.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. Add the chopped leeks. Stir-fry for 1 minute, then stir in the soy sauce and sugar. Stir-fry until the leeks until they turn bright green. Remove from the wok.
In a medium saucepan or the wok, bring the remaining 1 cup chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken mixture. Bring back to a boil, and stir in the rice vinegar and sesame oil. Taste and add soy sauce, sugar, salt, or other seasonings as desired. Thicken with the cornstarch slurry. Serve hot on a platter with the leeks. Garnish with the chopped ham.
Variations: Chicken Velvet is frequently served with stir-fried snow peas and/or dried mushrooms. To prepare, remove the strings from the snow pea pods. Soak the dried mushrooms in water for 20 minutes and remove the stems. Use in the recipe in place of the leeks.
Yield: 4-6 Servings