I’m feeling a tad mischievous these days; a little silly, a little zany. I’ve had enough, for the time being anyway, of being too serious, and trying to hold things in place. I’m ready to let go, kick off my shoes and let them land where they may, and have a blast of a time playing with my food. I’m hungry; hungry for a pop of flavor, for a hint of sweet, for a zip of spice. I’m raring to get creative and to see what I can cook up that’ll make me smile, and give me a little kick in the taste buds, a tasty punch to the kisser. And since I’m no different than so many of you out there that consider the occasional order of Chinese take-out a precious little guilty pleasure, I thinking I’m gonna let that be my guide, and my inspiration; but I’m also thinking that I’m gonna introduce the famous “General Tso” and his tasty chicken to another General and his tasty chicken, that just may give him a little run for his money. Pow!
When it comes to dreaming up a new recipe, or creating a twist on a known recipe, letting your whimsical side fly with abandon is the best way to approach things; a recipe can benefit so much from the healthy sense of humor of the one creating it. When “freedom to play” is a part of the ingredient list, then all sorts of delicious kitchen alchemy can take place, and what you end up with just may be a recipe that you’ll go back to again and again, to your surprise. When my love for food gets coupled with my desire to have a blast in my kitchen preparing a fun meal, I quickly find myself so very liberated to let my imagination be a guide and to see what comes about. For me, Asian-style food is so great to experiment with because it contains those wonderfully awakening elements of sweet, salty, spicy and sour that when put together in one’s own unique way, can create an amazingly vibrant and new meal to savor; and simply enough, a staple item like chicken can be used (which everyone’s always looking to prepare in a new way), and it gets a lip-smacking, Chinese take-out-inspired make-over. Crispy-coated and flash fried, then tossed in a sweet, spicy and tangy glaze with a hint of black pepper and chilies, your kisser’ll be getting the pop of flavor that it’s looking for in a dinner that’s a winner; and really, what could be funner?
Mischievousness — silliness, zaniness — with food can only lead to one thing, in my opinion: a good meal. Playfully and imaginatively combining ingredients using a pinch of this and a dash of that just may yield a plateful of a whole lot of happiness, and a new recipe that just may sweetly stick. General “Pow’s!” Chicken may have been born out of sense of humor, but it’s a bold little meal that I know I’ll be cooking up again and again. And to General Tso? Yes; we know you’re chicken’s truly beloved, but there’s a new General in town. Now it’s time for both of you to get in the kitchen, tie on your aprons, draw your sharpest knives, and have yourselves a little duel of the culinary kind. Winner-winner, chicken’s for dinner.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
General “Pow’s!” Chicken in a Sweet ‘n Spicy Glaze, with Green Onions and Toasted Sesame Seeds
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(Serves about 4)
1 ½ lbs. chicken thigh meat, skinless and boneless, cut into bite-size chunks
¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided use
1 garlic clove, pressed through garlic press
• General “Pow’s” Sauce (recipe below)
4-6 cups peanut (or vegetable) oil for frying
¾ cup cornstarch
2 eggs, whisked
1 cup rice flour
2 green onions, chopped
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds
-Place the cut-up chicken thigh meat into a bowl, add the soy sauce, ½ teaspoon black pepper and the garlic, mix together, and marinate the chicken for about 15-20 minutes.
-While the chicken marinates, prepare General “Pow’s!” Sauce, and set aside.
-Next, heat the peanut or vegetable oil in a medium or medium-large size pot, and bring the temperature slowly up to between 350°- 360° while you work on coating your chicken pieces.
-To coat the chicken pieces, add the corn starch to a large, ziplock bag; add the whisked eggs to a bowl, and add the rice flour plus the remaining ½ teaspoon black pepper to another, large ziplock bag; take the chicken pieces out of the marinade, and working in two batches per step, add them to the bag with the cornstarch, shaking very well to coat each piece, and then remove the pieces and place them onto a plate for 5 minutes to set; next, add the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces to the eggs and coat, then add them directly into the rice flour bag, and shake very well to coat the pieces; remove the pieces from the bag and place back onto the plate, and allow to set for 5 minutes.
-To fry the chicken pieces, work in batches by adding about 1/3 of the coated chicken pieces to the hot oil, and frying for about 5 minutes until a pale, golden color (they will not be golden-brown, but a bit lighter on the outside); remove the fried pieces, and place onto a wire rack set over paper towels to drain; repeat the process with the remaining chicken pieces until all are fried.
-To finish the dish, place a large heavy-bottom pan or skillet (or wok) over medium-high heat, and add in General “Pow’s” Sauce; once nice and hot, add all of the fried chicken pieces directly into the sauce, toss very well to coat, and turn the glazed chicken out into a large bowl or serving platter; garnish with the chopped green onions and sesame seeds, and serve with rice.
General “Pow’s!” Sauce ingredients:
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
2 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons plum wine (optional)
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon, scant, soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons chili paste (“sambal oelek”)
½ teaspoon grated ginger
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon, scant, orange zest
1 cup chicken stock
-Combine all ingredients through the orange zest in a bowl, whisking well to combine and incorporate the corn starch; add the chicken stock into the ingredients, whisk to blend, then add the entire mixture to a small pot set over medium heat, and bring to the simmer, whisking occasionally; simmer for about 3-4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and is glossy; set aside and keep warm until ready to add to the fried chicken pieces.