Monday, August 3, 2015

Chicken and Melon-rind Stir Fry

After getting a screaming deal on watermelon -- nearly thirty pounds for nine dollars -- we cut and cubed the red flesh, leaving almost eleven pounds of rind. We put about half of the cubed watermelon on cookie sheets and froze it to use as ice cubes in summer beverages, and ate the rest fresh. But that huge amount of "waste" rind bugged me, so we went online to see what we could do with it.

I already knew that we could somehow pickle it, thanks to a favorite poem, "Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle," by John Tobias, but we already had 20 pounds of pickled vegetables and homemade kimchi taking up all the space on the bottom shelf of our refrigerator. Then Gypsy found some videos using watermelon rind in stir fry.

We processed about six pounds of rind by using a peeler to remove the green outer skin, then cutting the remaining light green to light pink rind. We cut the rind with a little pink on purpose, because the slices had more visual appeal. We just bagged it and froze it, without laying it out on the cookie sheets first.

Today, I took about a pound and a half of the sliced rind and left it in a strainer so it could drain as much as possible. I also drained about a pound of frozen California blend vegetables, half a pound of long green beans, half a pound of fresh, sliced Portobello mushrooms, half a cup of sliced celery, one whole, thin-sliced white onion (about a cup) and three cloves of minced garlic.

I sliced one pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1/2-inch wide strips and stir-fried them in extra-virgin olive oil until the meat was a uniform color, then added the onions and celery. I continued stir-frying until the onions and celery were translucent, then set the meat mixture aside, uncovered.

Next, I stir-fried the sliced melon rind and green beans in olive oil, deglazing the pan as I stirred. Once the melon was soft and the beans were flexible, I removed those from the pan and set them aside, covered.

Finally, I stir-fried the remaining vegetables in two batches, to prevent steaming. I added those to the chicken mixture and returned the new mixture to the wok. I added double-black soy sauce (about 1/4 cup), two tablespoons of honey, 1/3 cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice, one tablespoon of Cajun seasoning mix, and a sprinkle of sea salt. After about three minutes of stir-frying this new mixture, I sprinkled one-fourth cup of cornstarch over the contents of the wok and gave everything a good toss. I stir-fried the new mixture until all of the cornstarch was evenly incorporated and the sauce became glossy.

I spooned one cup of the green beans and watermelon rind on one side of the plate, and heaped one cup of the chicken mixture beside it. It looked really festive on our green enamelware plates, and tasted far better than I thought it would.

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