Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Chicken Cutlets, Kung Pao Style

We Minxes love kung pao chicken, but find restaurant versions to be so inconsistent. We like our sauce to be somewhat sweet, but also well balanced. Some restaurants do cloying, others just do salty but otherwise flavorless. Sometimes it's best to take matters into one's own hands and just cook the stuff at home.

But I don't want to mess with chopping chicken into small pieces and dealing with a wok. We have at least two woks but never use any of them. The flat bottom-style wok isn't really a wok, IMHO, just a pan with tall sides. And a classic round-bottom wok that fits on a burner cover is a bit too dangerous for clumsy oafs like the two of us. (Hard to believe that when I was a pre-teen, I was daring enough to attempt making tempura for the family in a round bottom wok. My Mom thought for sure I'd burn the house down.) Plus, it doesn't seem that a home range can generate enough heat to develop that lovely wok hay flavor that good Chinese food should have. So I decided to simply pan fry the cutlets in a bit of corn starch. A more fussy flour-egg-panko crumb coat would have been lovely, too, but I didn't feel like going all out. If that's more your speed, then go for it. I just wanted to make something that was fast.

The sauce turned out really well. Sweet, but not too, plenty garlicky, and lightly spicy. Would be great over shrimp or strips of sauteed pork tenderloin or fried tofu or however you like your kung pao best.

We served our kung pao with a new rice bowl product from Healthee USA. The Fried-Style brown rice is USDA-certified organic, and fortified with coconut milk. Best of all, it cooks up in the microwave in 60-90 seconds. Perfect for those nights when you're in a rush or just plumb forgot to put on the rice cooker (that would be me). I was really glad the company had sent us a few varieties to try, as they provided a tasty starch that I didn't really have to think about.

Kung Pao Chicken

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or rice vinegar)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
10 dried red Chinese chiles
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

For the chicken:
Corn starch
1 pack thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breast (18 - 24 ounces)
Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon butter

To serve:
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

To make the sauce: Combine the vinegar, stock, sugar, hoisin, soy, and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar and cornstarch and ensure there are no lumps.

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, peppercorns, and chiles and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil.

For the chicken: Put about half a cup of corn starch in a gallon-sized zip top plastic bag and add a good teaspoon or so of salt. Shake to combine. Add chicken pieces one at a time and shake to coat. Pat excess corn starch off each piece and put on a plate until all are coated.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil and the butter in a large saute pan. Add as many pieces of chicken that fit in your pan and cook until lightly browned on both sides and cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm until all pieces are cooked. Cook the remaining chicken, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.

To serve: Arrange chicken cutlets on a platter pour some of the sauce over top. Garnish with scallions and peanuts and serve remaining sauce on the side.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $ at no cost to you! Please buy!

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