Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sweet and Sour (Chicken :-)

Last week, my husband had a craving for sweet and sour chicken. Being the wonderful, sweet wife that I am I had asked him what he wanted for dinner. Now normally, I would say, "Sweetie, I'm am making... How does that sound?" Then, my wonderful, sweet husband says, "Honey, that sounds great!" For some reason, however, my brain was functioning on low power and I didn't give him an option to approve as normal. So, out of the blue, James decides that sweet and sour chicken would be nice for dinner. "Sweet and Sour Chicken!", I exclaimed. "Sure," James says, "I have been wanting some good sweet and sour chicken for a while. You know most places around here just don't make it well." Sighing, I could not help, but agree. If you have lived/worked/visited China and had true sweet and sour chicken, anything served here woefully disappoints. Typically, I would be up for the challenge of duplicating a more complex dish (that I have not eaten an authentic version of in almost six years) than hot pot or simple stir frys. That night, though, I was in a lazy mood and complained (sadly I must admit) up until the very end. And then, I took a bit and was transported through time and space as my taste buds luxuriated in the ecstasy of my husband's favorite Chinese dish. Yes, it really was that good, lol.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

5 chicken thighs, skinned and cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 cups peanut oil or flavorless vegetable oil

Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup pineapple juice (reserved juice from canned pineapple)
4 tablespoons white vinegar
4-6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water


Prepare ahead:
1. For the chicken: In a large bowl, mix together the egg, cornstarch, flour, chicken stock and salt. Set aside.
2. For the sauce: Mix pineapple juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce in sauce pot. Have cornstarch mixture within easy reach.

To fry the chicken:

1. Just before cooking add the chicken cubes to the egg and flour mixture and stir until each piece of meat is well coated.
2. Preheat the oven to 250°F/130°C.
3. Pour the 3 cups of oil into skillet or wok and set it over high heat. When the oil almost begins to smoke or reaches 375°F/190°C on a deep-frying thermometer, drop in half of the coated chicken cubes one by one. Fry for 5-6 minutes, regulating the heat so the chicken turns a crisp, golden brown in that time period without burning.
4. Remove chicken with a strainer or slotted spoon to a small baking dish and keep warm in the oven.
5. Continue the process with the rest of the chicken.

To make the sauce:
1. Bring pineapple juice mixture to a boil. Boil rapidly for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Make cornstarch slurry with 3 tbsp water and add enough cornstarch mixture until sauce thickens to appropriate constancy.
2. When the sauce is thick, pour the entire contents over the fried chicken and serve at once.

Note: this recipe can also be made with pork.