America’s Test Kitchen
Looking for a way to add some heat to your Valentine’s Day?
Jack Bishop of PBS’ America’s Test Kitchen — playing the role on Morning Edition of kitchen cupid — offers a spicy chicken dish served with rice. Bishop has a clever way of preparing the rice that starts with rinsing and then sauteing it.
For dessert, there’s a coffee mug chocolate cake cooked in the microwave — a quick, chocolatey treat for two. Its heat comes not from spice but from a molten center.
Before you begin
This spicy recipe should be served with rice. Get the rice going so it will ready when the chicken is done.
1 cup fresh basil leaves, divided
2 green or red Thai chiles, stemmed
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, divided, plus extra for serving
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar, plus extra for serving
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar, plus extra for serving
1 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 2‑inch pieces
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Red pepper flakes
1. Pulse 1/2 cup basil, Thai chiles and garlic in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer 1 1/2 teaspoons of basil mixture to small bowl and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Transfer remaining basil mixture to 10‑inch nonstick skillet.
2. Without washing food processor bowl, pulse chicken and remaining 1 teaspoon fish sauce in food processor until meat is coarsely chopped, 6 to 8 pulses; transfer to medium bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
3. Stir shallot and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until garlic and shallot are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. (Mixture should start to sizzle after about 1 1/2 minutes; if it doesn’t, adjust heat accordingly.)
4. Stir in chopped chicken and cook over medium heat, breaking up chicken with wooden spoon, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved basil–fish sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds. Serve immediately, passing pepper flakes and extra fish sauce, sugar, and vinegar separately.
Total Time: 45 minutes
Why this recipe works
For really great long-grain rice with distinct, separate grains that didn’t clump together, we rinsed the rice of excess starch first. After simmering the rice until all of the liquid was absorbed, we placed a dish towel between the lid and pot to absorb excess moisture and ensure dry, fluffy grains. You will need a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid for this recipe. A nonstick saucepan will help prevent the rice from sticking.
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup long-grain white, basmati, or jasmine rice, rinsed
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in rice and cook until edges of grains begin to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in water and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 18 to 22 minutes.
2. Remove saucepan from heat. Remove lid, place folded clean dish towel over saucepan, then replace lid. Let rice sit.
Total Time: 20 minutes
Why this recipe works
These individual chocolate cakes are cooked in coffee mugs in the microwave for a nearly instant dessert. To keep our cakes from overflowing, we had to supplement bittersweet chocolate with cocoa powder; cocoa powder has less fat, which produces less steam, thus less chance of an overflow. Microwaving the cakes on 50 percent power was the key to cooking them gently, helping create a light, tender crumb and stirring the batter halfway through ensured even cooking. Finally, a few chunks of bittersweet chocolate added to each cake created a gooey, molten center.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus 1 ounce broken into 4 equal pieces
¼ cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (1 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Before you begin
We developed this recipe in a full-size, 1200-watt microwave. If you’re using a compact microwave with 800 watts or fewer, increase the cooking time to 90 seconds for each interval. For either size microwave, reset to 50 percent power at each stage of cooking. Use a mug that holds at least 11 ounces, or the batter will overflow. The bittersweet chocolate is added at two points.
1. Microwave butter and chopped chocolate in large bowl, stirring often, until melted, about 1 minute. Whisk sugar, eggs, cocoa, vanilla, and salt into chocolate mixture until smooth. In separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Whisk flour mixture into chocolate mixture until combined. Divide batter evenly between 2 (11-ounce) coffee mugs.
2. Place mugs on opposite sides of microwave turntable. Microwave at 50 percent power for 45 seconds. Stir batter and microwave at 50 percent power for 45 seconds (batter will rise to just below rim of mug). Press 2 chocolate pieces into center of each cake until chocolate is flush with top of cake. Microwave at 50 percent power for 35 seconds (cake should be slightly wet around edges of mug and somewhat drier toward center). Let cakes rest for 2 minutes. Serve.
Barry Gordemer and Dalia Mortada produced and edited the audio story. Heidi Glenn adapted it for the Web.