Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recipe: Deconstructed Chicken Egg Foo Yung

This was Wednesday's dinner. Note that it is not in progress; this is a reasonably complete recipe. It turned out better than I'd imagined.

What I'm calling "deconstructed egg foo yung" consists of three components: Asian blackened chicken breast, mung bean sprout-scallion frittata, and a sweet and sour five spice foam. In terms of organization, I thought it was efficient to prepare the frittata and get it in the oven first, then make the chicken (the oven will already be pre-heated for the roasting phase of the chicken process), and then to make the foam while the chicken is roasting and resting.


What you need:
  • 3 oz. chicken breast
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. five spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried ground fenugreek (double the five spice if you don't have fenugreek)
  • 1/2 tsp. Splenda
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • Nonstick spray
  • Saute pan
  • Oven-safe pan (if your saute pan isn't oven-safe)
What you do:
  1. Begin warming a saute pan over medium heat. While the pan is heating, salt the chicken breast.
  2. In a small bowl or on a plate, combine the garlic powder, onion powder, fenugreek, five spice powder, and Splenda. Coat the chicken breast in this mixture (same action as if you were dredging it in flour before frying).
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Once your saute pan is hot, lightly spray it with nonstick spray. Immediately begin to sear the seasoned chicken breast. Depending on how hot your pan is, it will take 2-3 minutes for the spices to form a crust and blacken. Flip the breast and blacken the other side, which should take just a minute or so. [An aside: It's a common misconception that whether a dish is "blackened" depends on the spice blend that is used. It's actually the technique that set the term. In other words, you can use Cajun blackening season to blacken, but if you don't actually blacken the spices to form a crust, you haven't made blackened food. Or at least that's what Claire Robinson says. :-)]
  5. If your saute pan is oven-safe, just transfer it to the oven for 7-10 minutes to finish cooking the chicken breast. If you, like me, have more "humble" cookwear, transfer the breast to a cake pan, cookie sheet, or other oven-save vessel and then roast it for 7-10 minutes in the oven.
  6. Once the chicken breast is done through (but not overcooked!), remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes, perhaps while you're preparing the foam. I like to slice the breast on a bias. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Note: I like the method of searing then oven-roasting for this dish, but you don't have to do it this way. If you don't mind losing a bit of the blackened crust on one side of the breast, you can try searing it on both sides, then turning down the heat and adding a few tablespoons of broth, water, or another cooking liquid. This method allows you to cook with moist heat on the top of the stove, which keeps the breast tender and juicy. It's almost like a braise, but not as intense. Some refer to this method as "steam-frying," but unlike others, I don't cover my pan with a lid to let it steam (mostly because, after numerous relocations, I've misplaced all of the lids for my pans.) I also like the fond that my steam-fry method leaves, so I can scrape it off the pan for mega-flavor.


What you need:
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 10 grams chopped scallions
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute (or one real egg, if you'd prefer a richer frittata)
  • Nonstick spray
  • Saute pan or wok
    Ramekin (optional. I used a 4 oz. ramekin.)

What you do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat your saute pan or wok, lightly coat it with nonstick spray, and toss in the sprouts, scallions, soy sauce, and garlic powder. Stir-fry for just a minute or two, max. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Coat the ramekin, if applicable, with nonstick spray. Place sprout-scallion mixture in the bottom of your ramekin. Do not pack the mixture so tightly that the egg won't be able to get to the bottom.
  4. Pour the egg substitute into the ramekin atop the sprouts and scallions. Stir or shake lightly to make sure the egg gets all the way to the bottom of the ramekin. Place on an oven-safe pan/dish and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the frittata has pulled slightly away from the sides of the ramekin and is firm in the center. Do not overcook. You want the frittata to be done, but not rubbery and almost cake-like in the center.
  5. Once the frittata has cooled, go around the edges with a knife and release from the ramekin. Voila.
  6. [For people not using a ramekin] Combine the sprout-scallion mixture with the egg substitute. Spray your saute pan or wok again, and pour in the frittata mixture. After it is browned on one side and can hold solidly, flip it and cook through. Cooking the frittata atop the stove, basically omelet-style, should only take about 5 minutes. Voila.

What you need:

  • 2 T pasteurized egg whites (for example, All Whites)
  • 2 tsp. natural rice vinegar (I use Nakano. Make sure to get the calorie-free "natural," not the "seasoned," which is full of sugar.)
  • 1 T Splenda
  • 1/4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. five spice powder
  • Clean bowl, copper if you have it, but anything will work
  • Hand mixer

What you do:

  1. Pour egg whites and vinegar into the clean bowl. With hand mixer, whip the whites and vinegar until the mixture is almost at soft-peak stage.
  2. Add Splenda, soy sauce, salt, and five spice to the whipped whites. Continue whipping them until the spices are well-incorporated and until you are firmly at soft-peak stage. Do not overwhip. Serve immediately.

I was most excited to make the foam. Even though people in the food world seem to think foam is "played out" (as we say in the 'hood), I'd never made one. I thought whipped pasteurized egg whites would be a better choice than trying to use pricy bourgeois-chef ingredients like lecithin, agar, or nitrous oxide. Any home cook can do this!

The rice vinegar fulfills the dual roles of flavor enhancement and stabilization (acid stabilizes beaten egg whites, much like using cream of tartar or lemon juice in a meringue.) Also, I read on The French Culinary Institute's Cooking Issues blog that, with a foam, it's crucial that the flavor used actually needs to be diluted. In other words, the flavor must be strong enough to survive being aerated, or you wind up with a bland foam. This Sweet and Sour Five Spice Foam delivers a powerful punch that balances and amplifies the other components of this dish.


This entire entree contains 197 calories, 31.6 grams of protein, 8.2 NET grams of carbohydrate (excluding fiber grams, which are not absorbed by the body), and only 2.1 grams of fat.

Asian Blackened Chicken Breast contains 116 calories, 20 grams of protein, 1.5 NET grams of carbohydrate, and 2 grams of fat.

Bean Sprout-Scallion Frittata contains 59 calories, 8.6 grams of protein, 4.7 NET grams of carbohydrate, and 0.1 grams of fat.

Sweet and Sour Five Spice Foam contains 22 calories, 3 grams of protein, 2 NET grams of carbohydrate, and 0 grams of fat.

A final note: For some post-ops, this recipe might produce a little too much food volume. Specifically, even though 3 oz. of chicken breast raw reduces to fewer ounces cooked, it might still be too much in combination with the frittata. Even I had to eat it slowly. Probably the best way to cut back on volume and calories is by reducing the amount of chicken to 1 or 2 ounces.

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