The first time I made this chicken and broccoli for Abby she bestowed upon me the highest form of praise: Mom, how’d you get this to taste like the one we order from the Chinese restaurant? Now, granted, this is no fancy Chinese restaurant. It’s so not fancy, actually, that we’ve never even seen the inside of the place. But their chicken and broccoli dish is one of the first I can remember that Abby ate without any “eat-this-or-you-won’t-get-that” nonsense that dominated our dinner table conversation for so many years. So naturally, I set about trying to replicate it — minus whatever mystery ingredients made the leftovers coagulate in the takeout container the next day. I found success by riffing on a Cashew Chicken recipe in the fantastic Great Food Fast cookbook that Everyday Food published a few years ago. What struck me about this version was the hoisin — I knew Abby was a sucker for the sweet and spicy Chinese barbecue sauce and I had a jar of it in the fridge just begging to be used. You can find hoisin in the Asian department of pretty much any supermarket, but I find that most of those are too sweet. If you can swing it, try to pick up a jar at an Asian specialty market.
And by the way, on page 113 of the cookbook, we replicate three more kid-menu VIPs: chicken fingers, salmon teriyaki, and popcorn shrimp.
Restaurant-style Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, brown 3 or 4 chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces, tossed in a little cornstarch if you have time) in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. After a few minutes, push all the chicken to one side and turn down heat to medium-low. Add 2 cloves garlic (minced) and 1/2 large onion (chopped) and cook about 2 minutes until onions are soft. Mix together with the chicken, then add about 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, turn up the heat, and stir. Add 2 heaping tablespoons hoisin, 1/4 cup water and cook until chicken is heated through. Add steamed broccoli and cashews (my kids like it without cashews) and serve with rice.