Thursday, August 18, 2005

If you want something done right...

The utter lack of General Tso's chicken on the West coast has forced me to take drastic measures. I sniffed around the house, trying to remember what gives General Tso's that crack-laced quality and addictive flavor, and threw some things together in an educated guess. I consulted recipes online, but they all varied so wildly that I just ditched 'em, deciding to forge my own path. The one thing they had in common was a cornstarch batter for the chicken. I mixed coriander, white pepper, egg white, soy sauce, and corn starch together to form a batter that resembled ooblek (if you've never made ooblek I highly encourage it...just throw corn starch and water together and have fun). I had trouble with my first batch of chicken pieces sticking together, decreasing the crispy golden brown surface area. To fix the problem I threw some oil into the batter, and vigilantly broke them up while frying (which was pretty dangerous...I gotta figure out a better way). General Tso's is usually made with dark meat, which is why it's so tender, but I didn't have any chicken thighs lying around, so I used breast pieces instead, not as good, but they worked. They fried up pretty quickly, and on their own they make some pretty damn good chicken nuggets. You could easily season the batter more if you were gonna eat these on their own. I'd also recommend battering hunks of cheese with this batter and frying them up, giving you something close to a cheese curd (Midwesterners will know what I'm talking about).

I wasn't about to stop though, determined to be eating General Tso's before the day ended (or High Fidelity came on Comedy Central), I threw together a sauce. I mixed equal parts dry sherry and vinegar (I used white, but prety much anything that isn't sweet will do) with soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, garlic, ginger, chili paste, hoisin sauce, and chicken broth. I couldn't tell you measurements...the liquid pretty much filled up a soup bowl. I took some of the frying oil and sauteed scallions and dried hot chilis before dumping the sauce in. I reduced it quite a bit, letting the sugar and corn starch do their thing, before dumping in the chicken pieces and giving it a toss. Here's the final result:

It tasted pretty damn close, certainly far better than anything I've tried in California Restaurants. It could've been a little more vinegary and a bit more spicy. Also I couldn't find any broccoli in the house.

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