Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’ve somewhat recovered from the disastrous month of August and my bout with intestinal ischemia—blood clots in my abdomen. I was lucky that I threw in the towel when I did and allowed my mother to take me in for medical treatment or they say that I’d be upstairs cooking with Justin Wilson and Julia Child right now. Thank God we live in 2005 rather than 1905 or my prognosis would have been quite different. Fortunately, I’m a number of pounds lighter, but hardly worse for the wear and ready to get back in the kitchen.
My appetite has been slowly returning and I actually cooked dinner the past couple of days—nothing fancy, just some frozen veggies and a pre-roasted grocery store chicken breast. I think that it’s time for something spicy to test out the old gastrointestinal tract.
Tonight I fired up the stovetop and on the menu was General Tsao’s Chicken. I guess almost everyone has had some variation of this dish if you have ever had carry out Chinese in a large city, but I did a little research and found this entertaining Washington Post article telling us a little more about the dish’s namesake.
Yes, there really was a guy named General Tsao (generally pronounced “Sow”.) He was actually named Tsao Tsungtang and he lived in China between 1812 and 1885. How the spicy chicken dish actually came to be named for the good General is a matter of wide speculation, but I found it interesting to read the article as I made my recipe preparations.
Authentic recipes used in the restaurants use dark meat chicken, but I also found recipes that called for using chicken breast meat. I compromised and used some Perdue boneless chicken thighs that I found very reasonably priced and had never used before.
For my version of “General Tsao’s Chicken, you will need:
1-1/2 pounds Chicken (boneless chicken breast halves, thighs, or whatever)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped green onions
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or as many as you like, be careful)
For the Sauce:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
3/8 cup white sugar
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
`/8 cup white wine or sake
1/4 cup hot chicken broth
Make the sauce first. Combine the cornstarch and water in a mixing bowl and stir together. Now add the sugar, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, white wine, and the chicken broth. Stir it all up, and refrigerate—over night if you want.
When you are ready to cook, preheat a skillet to 350 degrees.
Cut up your chicken meat into bite sized pieces (two bites at a maximum) and place it in a medium mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce and white pepper, and then stir in the beaten egg. Add the cornstarch and toss the chicken pieces to coat, and then stir in the vegetable oil to separate the pieces
Add the chicken in small batches to the skillet and stir fry until crispy. Drain the cooked chicken on the side on paper towels.
Did I mention making some rice? Well, make yourself some rice if you want—it’s your dinner.
Puttin’ it all together…Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and allow it to come up to temperature, then add the pepper flakes and green onions and stir fry briefly. Remove the sauce from the fridge, stir it up, and add it to the skillet along with the chicken pieces and cook until the sauce thickens and everything has heated though.
Get out a couple of bowls, spoon in some rice, and serve the General’s chicken and sauce on top. Teach yourself to use chopsticks while you’re at it—I’m still training Pat.
The Redneck Gourmet