Food by the Howells for the Howells...

Food by the Howells for the Howells...and anybody remotely related to a Howell, or who may have met a Howell at one point in their life, or...yeah, pretty-much anybody.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Restaurant-worthy Orange Chicken

I have been joking for years that if only I could figure out how to make perfect orange chicken, I could die in peace. No matter what I tried, though, it never worked. Either the breading would fall off, or it would never get crispy in the first place, or once the sauce was added, everything would get soggy. I was just about to accept the possibility that I might actually die without ever uncovering this mystery. But Eureka! One day I tried a new combination, and, again, Eureka! (I know I just said that. I may have said it prematurely the first time). Anyhoo, I don't want you to be tormented by orange chicken the way I was. So I am going to reveal the secret of how to make restaurant-worthy orange chicken in your own home. And, I am also going to give you three--yes, three sauce recipes so that you can also have sweet and sour chicken and sesame chicken. Oh, and if I have time, I'll add a lemon sauce as well.

There are two great secrets to making this perfect chicken. The first one is this:
This is called "Frying Mix" and can be found at your local Asian market. What? You don't have a local Asian market? Well, I guess you'll die crying bitter tears because you are unable to make perfect orange chicken. Or you might get over it. Or you might not care. ANYHOW, to continue, you really need this.

The second thing you absolutely must have is one of these:

This is an electric skillet. You must get one that goes up to 400 degrees. You must. It is essential. Anything lower will not work. We have a proper deep-fat fryer, but it only goes up to 375 degrees. I have searched and searched for one that goes up to 400, but they must be illegal in America. I was thinking I was going to have to go on the Chinese black market to get a fryer that goes up to 400. But I have no idea how to go on the Chinese black market, so I came up with the skillet idea instead.

Now, here's how you do it. For the chicken part, you only need three ingredients:
Chicken (1-2 breasts)
Frying Mix

Just cut up your chicken into 1/2 inch squares. Put some Frying Mix into a plastic bag, then add your chicken and shake it all about. Then do the Hokey Pokey and stick your leg out and open the fridge with it. Wait. First take the chicken out of the bag and put it on a plate (or a couple plates depending on how much chicken you are using) and put it in the fridge while you complete the Hokey Pokey. Then wait at least 1/2 hour. That's what it's all about.

Get out your electric skillet, pour in 1-2 inches of oil (enough to cover the chicken pieces when they are dropped in). Heat oil to 350 degrees. When it's about ready, get some more Frying Mix and follow the directions on the package (on mine it said to just add water, but I added ice-water). Get out your chicken and drop a few pieces at a time into the wet frying mix, then take out and drop (carefully!) into the 350 degree oil. Fry until golden. It should look like this:

See how it's kind of light and not really as brown as you would expect? That's o.k. Don't fry it longer, because no matter how long you fry it in 350-degree oil, it will never get any browner. Trust me--I've tried.

Once you've done this first fry with all the chicken, turn the skillet temperature up to 400 degrees and wait for the oil to be ready. Then re-fry all your chicken for another minute or so, until it turns a nice golden brown. It should look like this:

See how much more golden and delicious that looks? This won't work at 375, folks. It MUST be 400 degrees! Now you can make one of the wonderful sauces listed below, or just buy some sweet and sour or orange sauce at the store to make it easy on yourself. Pour it over the chicken and enjoy! Enjoy it thoroughly, because now all your dreams have come true :)

Orange Sauce (taken from The Everything Chinese Cookbook)
1/4 cup water
5 tsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. chili paste
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. corn starch

Cook sauce in small pan on stove over medium heat until it boils and thickens.

Sesame Chicken Sauce (also taken from the same cookbook)
1/2 cup water
1 cup chicken stock or broth
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp. chili sauce with garlic
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. rice vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. corn starch

Cook on stove over medium heat until it boils and thickens. Pour over chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Lemon Sauce (from the same cookbook again)
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. corn starch mixed with 4 tsp. water
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar (or rice wine)
2 tsp. soy sauce

Mix together and cook over medium heat until it boils and thickens.

Sweet and Sour Sauce (from my awesome friend Annie Easterbrook)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/2 Tbsp. corn starch
3/4 cup pineapple juice

Cook until clear and thickened.

1 comment:

  1. I remember this is how my mom did it as well (double fry); once to cook the chicken, second time to crisp the coating.

    It's also good to not put too many pieces of meat in at the same time, it drops the temp of the oil, which then increases the cooking time, making the food soggy and greasy.

    When I was younger I asked my mom how to know when the oil was hot enough. I was told to use a wooden chopstick. If you put the chopstick in and it formed bubbles, it was hot enough; if it started to smoke (!!!) then it was too hot.

    To say the least, I haven't built up enough guts to do any deep fry cooking.