Sticky Asian Chicken Spaghetti


1 lb chicken tenderloins, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon vodka*
1 Tablespoon Mirin (Aji-Mirin, Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning, available everywhere)
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger (not chopped)
1 clove garlic (not minced)
2 cups broccoli, blanched or steamed (small florets)
12 oz spaghetti (uncooked)
green onion for garnish, sliced

In a large bowl, combine chicken, hoisin, soy sauce, vodka, Mirin, toasted sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare broccoli (you don’t want this mushy so be mindful not to overcook) and spaghetti. Keep warm.
In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, add chicken to the pan using a slotted spoon. Allow the marinade to drip through the slotted spoon back into bowl, reserving it for later use. I cooked the chicken in two batches, carefully turning each piece and evenly spacing them out to get the desired brownness; about 3-4 minutes.
While the last of the chicken is cooking pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan (you will not have a lot, but it will be enough). Bring to a boil and simmer over heat for 5 minutes.
Stir cooked, reserved marinade into spaghetti noodles and top each serving with chicken, broccoli and green onion.
Serve immediately.
*Why add vodka to a marinade (I almost always do)? Just like salt, alcohol brings out the flavor in food. Alcohol does this by evaporation and molecular bonding. Food is also the beneficiary of alcohol’s ability to bond with both fat and water molecules. In this way, alcohol bridges the gap between our aroma receptors (which respond only to molecules that can be dissolved in fat) and food (which consists primarily of water). This is very important because most of the great “flavor” in food comes from aromas in the nose rather than tastes in the mouth. In terms of a marinade or a brine with both water and fat soluble ingredients, by taking the flavor compounds in certain aromatics such as garlic, herbs or other fat soluble ingredients, alcohol helps carry those compounds into the meat that’s soaking in the marinade or brine. But alcohol also helps carry water soluble flavor compounds into the meat as well. Water soluble flavors would include sour, sweet, salty and bitterness. With alcohol’s effort, the result is more flavor and aroma into the marinated food. Even one tablespoon of a neutral-tasting vodka considerably improves the flavor penetration of any given marinade. (Trust me on this one, it’s my profession.)

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