Take-out food and the holidays go hand in hand. Since you have a house full of guests it seems like an easy decision to make. Whether it’s pizza, Chinese or Thai, you can bet you will be paying premium prices to feed your guests. Even if everyone pitches in, it can be somewhat expensive per person.
I don’t know about you, but I try to be as frugal as possible during the holidays so I can put a little more under the tree. That’s why, when it’s time to pick a menu from the junk drawer, I suck it up and head to the grocery store instead. Sure, I give into to the take-out temptation on occasion, and wouldn’t consider myself a Foodie if I didn’t know the best place to order pizza or chow mein from, but I really do try to take the high road when I can.
This week I have decided to share a recipe for one of my favorite Chinese take-out dishes. General Tsao’s chicken. I have searched and searched for the best version of General Tsao’s chicken with some surprisingly bleak results. So, like any self-respecting Foodie, I have fine-tuned my own recipe for some time now and today, I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!
General Tsao’s Chicken
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch cubes (you can substitute breast meat or tofu if desired)
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup thin sliced carrots
8 dried whole red chilies (you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper instead)
1 1/2 cups well-seasoned cornstarch (Season with salt & pepper)
3-5 cups vegetable, or peanut oil
2 egg whites beaten
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese plum wine (rice wine or sherry will also work)
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoons Chinese plum wine (rice wine or dry sherry will also work)
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon Szechuan chili paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil (chili oil if you like it extra spicy)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the marinade ingredients. Add in chicken pieces and coat well. Store in the refrigerator for at least two hours. In a second mixing bowl combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.
In a deep fryer (if you don’t have one, use a thick-bottomed medium-sized pot like a dutch oven), heat vegetable, or peanut oil to 350 degrees F. Remove chicken pieces from marinade and roll them in the seasoned corn starch, shaking off excess starch before carefully adding them into the oil a few pieces at a time. Cook the chicken in batches of 4-5 pieces setting them aside on a plate lined with paper towels. In a wok over high heat add 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil. Add in chilies, broccoli, carrots and garlic and stir-fry for one minute. Add in pre-mixed sauce ingredients and stir continuously to ensure it does not burn for about 30 seconds or until it starts to thicken. add in your fried chicken pieces and coat well. Serve hot with steamed rice (recipe follows). Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds if desired.
1 cup long grain brown rice (you can use any kind of rice you like and follow the directions on the bag)
2 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a pot with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil stirring once to prevent sticking. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 50 minutes. Turn off heat and allow rice to rest, still covered, for an additional ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
If you still don’t feel like cooking but want to find the best take-out and/or restaurants in your area, I recommend guided food tours. Lucky for you, Brown Paper Tickets has a ton of great food tours that you can choose from. As usual I have sorted through and selected some for you to check out, but you should feel free to browse the Brown Paper Tickets website and find something in your neck of the woods. Best wishes until next time!
Seven days a week until Monday, December 31 I 2012 Greenwich Village Food Tour – New York, New York
Seven days a week until Monday, December 31 I October through December tours of Pike Place Market – Seattle, Washington
Tuesday, December 11; Friday, December 14; Monday, December 17; Friday, December 21; Monday, December 24 and Friday, December 28 I Chinatown Discovered Food Tour-Fall/Winter 2012 – New York, New York
Tuesday, December 11; Wednesday, December 12; Thursday, December 13 and Friday, December 14 I Memphis BBQ Food Tour – Memphis, Tennessee
Saturday, January 19 I Global Groceries: A Tour of Ethnic Markets in Columbus – Columbus, Ohio
Sunday, January 20 I Jewish Cuisine Tour – Food by Foot – Boston, Massachusetts