Smooth Move

Todd Coleman

The technique known as velveting adds a few steps to the chicken stir-fry with chanterelles, but it's basically an insurance policy for succulent results. Frequently used in professional Chinese kitchens, velveting begins with tossing bite-size pieces of meat, poultry, or seafood in a mixture of egg white, cornstarch, and a little water or (in this case) sherry, and allowing it all to marinate briefly. Cutting the meat down to bite-size pieces increases surface area and allows the starch and protein in the marinade to penetrate efficiently. When the meat is then blanched quickly in hot oil, that starch-protein seal traps moisture inside the meat, keeping it juicy and tender as it cooks. Once blanched, the meat reveals nothing of its marinade, no eggy or starchy flavor whatsoever. You may notice that the dish's sauce adheres slightly better to the meat than it otherwise would, but beyond that, the only evidence of velveting is the delicate, moist, and luxuriously smooth texture it produces.