Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese Cooking in the Year of the Dragon

Since posting my defense of chop suey last Chinese's New Year, I've been eating more Hunan and Szechuan Chinese food.  Oh, I still love Cantonese food and even made chow mein again for dinner a couple of nights ago.  (Remember the difference between chop suey and chow mein is the starch in the dish, chop suey being served over rice and chow mein over crunchy rice noodles).  But this past year I've sampled a lot of Chinese fried chicken dishes--and even one fried shrimp dish.  I've eaten general tso's chicken, empress chicken, orange chicken, and for Christmas a delicious orange fried shrimp.  (Chinese carryout has been an annual Christmas tradition for us for the last three or four years.  I love it--no cooking and no dishes.)

My favorite local Chinese restaurant, China Dynasty, is about a mile from my home.  Though it's been there since 1999 and I'd even eaten there for lunch once, I've only just discovered how good it is.  But, alas, as much as I like eating there, it's just not in the budget to do so very often.  So I learned how to make orange chicken at home.  The recipe I follow is adapted from America's Test Kitchen.  It's not a difficult recipe, but it's labor intensive for about half an hour.  It's worth the effort:  The results are as good as any takeout meal.  Serve the chicken over brown or sticky rice with a side of broccoli.  Incidentally, I think this might work very well with shrimp, too, something I'm going to try very soon.

Orange Chicken (Four servings)

1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (cut into nuggets)

Marinade and sauce
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp. Penzeys orange peel*
6 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. Penzeys minced garlic*
1 Tbps. fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp. Penzeys black and red pepper*
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. cold water

Coating and frying oil
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. Penzeys black and red pepper*
peanut oil

Put the chicken nuggets into a gallon-size ziplock bag and set aside.  In a saucepan combine the broth, juice, peel, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Whisk until the brown sugar is completely dissolved.  Pour 3/4 cup of this sauce over the chicken in the bag and make sure that all the pieces are covered in the marinade; press out the air and seal.  Refrigerate for half an hour to an hour, but no longer.

Bring the remaining sauce to a boil over high heat.  In a small bowl whisk together 1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch and the cold water; whisk this into the sauce.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about one minute.  Set aside.

In a pie plate beat the egg whites with a fork until frothy.  In another pie plate mix together the cup of cornstarch, the baking soda, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Place half the nuggets into the egg whites, turning to coat, then thoroughly coat with the cornstarch mixture.  Place the dredged chicken nuggets on a plate, and repeat the process with the second half of the nuggets.

Pour 1/2 inch of peanut oil into an 11-12" frying pan. Heat until a drop of water sizzles in the oil.  Add half of the nuggets.  Fry until golden, turning each nugget with tongs once halfway through the cooking.  Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200-degree oven.  Add more oil to the pan if needed and let it get hot again.  Repeat with the rest of the chicken nuggets.

Reheat the sauce over medium heat until simmering, about two minutes.  Add the chicken and gently toss to evenly coat.  Serve pronto.

* I love Penzeys spices, as you no doubt can tell.  If you prefer, you can substitute 1/12 tsp. grated fresh orange zest, 3 garlic cloves, minced, and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper for the orange peel, minced garlic, and black and red pepper.  If you can't find a Penzeys store locally, but would like to try their spices, click here to order online.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Chinese New Year! We're making dragons in storytime tonight! -T