General Tso’s Chicken

This week Josh requested General Tso’s Chicken for our Saturday night meal.  My prior experience with General Tso’s was at most a taste or two from Josh’s plate at Panda Garden, so I welcomed the adventure of making something entirely new to both myself and my kitchen.

I found several recipes online that varied in complexity.  Tracey’s Culinary Adventures presented a recipe that caught my eye, with lovely photos and a fairly simple procedure.  Though I am not above enjoying some KFC, as a rule I don’t like to deep-fry in my own kitchen.  For one, it’s messy as all get out.  And for two, I fear that deep-frying in my kitchen would make all my lovely, healthy, organic foods in my fridge and cabinets hang their heads in shame.  So, naturally, the pan-saute method used in Tracey’s recipe was more preferable to me than the deep-frying method in the other recipes I’d found.

General Tso’s Chicken is, like many of our take-out favorites, not at all authentic as far as actual Chinese food goes.  However, it is unbelievably scrumptious.  I feel that the delicious factor totally earns it a free pass in the authenticity department.

As per usual, I tweaked this recipe quite a bit.  I will forewarn you, this recipe is not spicy at all.  A hallmark of General Tso’s (according to Josh) is a considerable amount of heat, provided by those lovely little dried chili peppers that the server at Panda Garden always warns us not to eat.  Since this was my first time making the dish, I wanted a baseline that was not too spicy, so I could then determine how to tweak the heat in the future.  If you like really spicy General Tso’s, I suggest adding crushed red pepper flakes or some cayenne to the dish.  Next time I will add a second fresno chili, because I like the flavor that fresh chilis add.

This recipe is absolutely delicious.  The sauce is salty and sweet, with a little bit of heat (very little) in the background.  The chicken, despite not being deep fried, had a crunchy coating on the outside and a tender, juicy center.  I served this with long-grain brown rice and some steamed snap peas.  Very simple and quick to make.  The dish comes together very quickly, so I highly recommend that you prepare all your ingredients before you start.  Once you start stir frying the peppers, you won’t have time to chop your garlic and ginger, so make sure everything is chopped ahead of time.  Josh agrees that he would like more heat next time, but he said that the dish as-is was ridiculously tasty.  This is yet another great dish to add to our weekly meal rotation!  Give it a try, and let me know if you find interesting ways to kick up the heat.

General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, who adapted from Coup De Pouce Magazine (seen on La Table de Nana)

Ingredients:
Sauce:
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons organic ketchup
2 tablespoons organic soy sauce
1/2 cup water

Chicken:

3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins or thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 red fresno chili pepper, minced with seeds and membranes included
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
Directions:
Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
Dredge the chicken cubes in the cornstarch. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbs of the the canola oil over medium-high heat and saute the chicken until golden brown and cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and quickly wipe any extra cornstarch particles out of the skillet with a paper towel.

Add the remaining Tbs of canola oil to the clean skillet, which should still be fairly hot.  Add the fresno peppers and stir fry for one minute on medium-high heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add the garlic, ginger, and sesame oil and stir fry about one more minute, until fragrant.  Pour the sauce mixture into the pan, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened somewhat (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the chicken to the sauce, toss to coat, and continue cooking another few minutes until the chicken is heated through and the sauce is thick.

Serve with cooked rice and steamed veggies, if desired.

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