21 May 2012

Eats: honey chicken

Selling your home really is all-encompassing. I don’t think the real estate advice blogs make this clear: showings suddenly dictate your life. Mr. P and I are relatively neat, clean people, but the fact that we could have showings at any moment made us neurotic about leaving dishes on the counter or clothes on the floor or a single teeny toothpaste spot on the mirror. I even felt guilty brewing coffee in the morning because it made the house smell like a Starbucks. At best, that signals PEOPLE LIVE HERE, and at worst, it totally grosses out the potential buyer (just ask Mr. P how he feels about coffee).

So it was definitely a gamble when our house was on the market and I decided to fry up chicken for dinner for this dish. A gamble because, you see, the showing-coordinator people always seemed to want to schedule a showing when we had company or when we had someone working on our house or when I just wanted to take a nap for the love of all that is good and holy. This particular evening, I figured my phone would ring just as soon as the oil was hot and smelly, followed by frantic opening of windows, dumping the hot grease in the backyard or something, and hopelessly masking the smell by spraying “bamboo room mist” everywhere on our way out of the house.

But we got through it without the Showing Overlords calling to disturb our dinner! And now I can share with you this tasty dish, originally from here.

The main difference between the original recipe and mine is the breading. You all know how I feel about breading chicken. DISLIKE. I’m sure the batter in the recipe makes a delicious dish, but I instead sprinkled salt and pepper, then cornstarch and flour all over the chicken bits and mashed them around. In the end I used a few tablespoons of each, but I should have used more than you see here.

While I was fake-breading the chicken, I added enough oil (mostly vegetable, some olive) to my skillet to make it a quarter-inch deep and heated it over medium heat until it shimmered. I know that shimmering business sounds weird, but trust me, it’s a know-it-when-you-see-it sort of thing.

Then I tossed in the chicken and fried until cooked through:

The house officially smelled un-buyer-worthy after that, but it sure did look tasty draining on a paper towel:

Then it’s time to make the honey part of honey chicken! Per my usual, I roughly doubled the sauce part of the recipe without doubling the chicken part. If the amounts in my skillet seem huge, that’s why.

First, I removed most of the oil from the pan, then sautéed a ton of garlic (okay, several large spoonfuls of the jarred, minced stuff) in the remaining oil. I skipped the ginger because I don’t care for it, but I added salt, pepper, and several shakes of red pepper for heat. Then I added about a quarter-cup of red wine vinegar (far more than in the original recipe) to cancel out a bit of the sweetness from the ginormous glob of honey I added next:

In total, I added about a third of a cup of honey. I used some homespun, farmer’s-markety stuff that was quite thick, but it thinned out in the heat.

While that heated over medium-low heat, I stirred up this cornstarch-water mixture as noted in the original recipe:

I actually added a few tablespoons of each, rather than a teaspoon, because I prefer a thicker sauce. But then – this is crucial – I made sure the heat was LOW, and I added the cornstarch-water mixture SLOWLY. Why is this important? Well, you eat one dish with quick-cooked cornstarch globs in the sauce, and you never make the mistake of dumping cornstarch into a hot liquid ever, ever again.

When I was done adding the cornstarch mixture, the honey sauce looked like this:

But after a few minutes, it had thickened up like this:

Then I just tossed the cooked, drained chicken with the sauce:

And that’s it! Honey chicken! Made almost entirely of pantry ingredients, which makes it extra full-of-win.

Again, I’m sure that this is tasty with the proper batter, but we liked the sauce enough that the batter didn’t matter that much. I will say that the red pepper and extra vinegar made a BIG difference to us. I skimped on those when I made this dish another time, and it was a little too sweet for us. On the whole, though, I’m adding this one to the informal meal rotation!

The sauce by itself could work with chicken prepared any way – which is why, in retrospect, I felt a bit foolish frying chicken when a potential buyer could suddenly pop in. If you’re worried about the calories or cholesterol of frying, or if your house is on the market and you’re not a risk-taking idiot like me, you could make the sauce and serve over grilled chicken. Or even over veggies! Mmmm. Enjoy!