A clean version of a takeout favorite that’s ready in 30 minutes? Look no further than Alex Snodgrass’s black pepper chicken from her new cookbook, The Defined Dish: Healthy and Wholesome Weeknight Recipes.
“You know those days when you look in your fridge to take inventory and think, What in the world will I do with all this celery?” the Defined Dish food blogger writes. “Well, that happens pretty often on this end. Luckily, when it does, I can turn to this dish, which is one of my favorite ways to get some food use out of that celery.”
Not only is it a chance for a crisper drawer cleanout but it’s also gluten-, grain- and dairy-free, paleo and Whole30-approved.
“You may recognize this dish from a popular Chinese drive-through chain,” she continues. “This is my much cleaner rendition that’s naturally low-carb yet completely satisfying. And the decadent and bold black pepper sauce puts it over the top.”
Take that, takeout.
Excerpted from The Defined Dish: Healthy and Wholesome Weeknight Recipes © 2019 by Alex Snodgrass. Photography ©2019 by Kristen Kilpatrick. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Firecracker Chicken with Rice
Black Pepper Sauce
¼ cup chicken broth
¼ cup coconut aminos (such as Bragg)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon fish sauce (such as Red Boat)
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (see note)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons avocado oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
4 celery stalks, ends trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, halved and thinly sliced (2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
Cauliflower rice, for serving (optional)
1. Make the Black Pepper Sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the broth, coconut aminos, vinegar, fish sauce, black pepper and ground ginger. Set aside until ready to use.
2. Make the Chicken: Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover with parchment paper. Use a meat mallet or the bottom of a skillet to pound the chicken until it is an even ¼ inch thick. Discard the parchment, then cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes.
3. Place the cubed chicken in a medium bowl with 2 teaspoons of the avocado oil, salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat, then add the arrowroot and toss again.
4. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining ¼ cup avocado oil. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add the chicken to the skillet in a single layer (you may need to do this in two batches). Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
5. Add the celery and onion to the same skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn, about 1 minute.
6. Return the chicken to the skillet with the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick and coats the chicken and vegetables, about 5 minutes.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt to taste. Serve as is or with cauliflower rice, and top with a sprinkle of pepper.
Note: Regular old ground black pepper just doesn’t work in this dish! It’s essential that you use freshly cracked black pepper.