General Tso’s Chicken

Personally I’ve never heard of General Tso, but his chicken sounds a lot like the sweet and sour dishes we order from takeaways. Not normally the healthiest of dishes… but thanks to America’s Test Kitchen and their Comfort Food Makeovers book, this version is half the calories of the original, and without any trans fats!

I first found this recipe online and I think it might be what turned me on to America’s Test Kitchen in the first place. However yesterday was the first time I actually cooked it – and I’ll certainly be cooking it again as it was amazing: proper sweet & sour Chinese taste, with really crispy chicken you’d think had been deep fried.

The main trick to making this healthier is baking the chicken rather than deep frying it. The secret to faking the crispiness of deep frying it to coat the chicken in crushed cornflakes. I actually used crunchy nut cornflakes, both because that’s what I had, and because I liked the idea of the nutty taste with the chicken.

So you start by chopping chicken breasts into chunks, then coating with flour, then egg whites, then the crushed cornflakes.

IMG_20130707_190025To get them as crispy as possible you want them heated from all sides, so I’m using a lattice mat to cook on. The recipe suggests using a wire rack, but the only wire racks I’ve got are cooling ones, and I’m not sure they’d be safe in the oven.

IMG_20130707_190523These go into the oven at maximum temperature for 12-15 minutes. I left them in for the full 15 without checking… and they’re a little over done.  Next time I’ll keep an eye on them.

IMG_20130707_192501The cooked chicken gets added to the sweet & sour sauce. The recipe suggests making the sauce while the chicken cooks. This seemed a bit ambitious, so I made it first then cooked it down while the chicken cooked. This made a really thick sticky sauce, so I’d certainly do the same again next time.

The recipe calls for 1/8 tsp of chili flakes.

IMG_20130707_182624That’s not how we do things in our house. More chili!

IMG_20130707_182635To that you add hoisin sauce, apricot jam, cornflour, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and water. That goes into a frying pan to reduce.

IMG_20130707_185508After reducing it goes really dark and sticky. Mmm…

IMG_20130707_190530The chicken gets added to this, just long enough to get coated.

IMG_20130707_192603The recipe wanted to serve with just rice, but I decided to add some veg, so I stir fried some baby corn, mange tout, beansprouts, onions, spring onions, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. For seasoning I used garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, Chinese 5-spice and Szechuan pepper.

IMG_20130707_191758

Finally I served it up with some nice cold British ales :)

IMG_20130707_192925

4 thoughts on “General Tso’s Chicken

  1. Another winner. BTW metal racks (usually used for cooling cakes & biscuits) are safe in the oven. I line the bottom of my oven with aluminium foil so that if anything spills, it’s easy just to throw away the messy foil and use new. Cleaning an oven bottom which hasn’t been protected by foil is a chore. At first the foil used to flap about in my fan oven, so I placed 2 cooling racks on top of the foil and it doesn’t move. Never had a problem with metal cooling racks in my oven and I heat it to the highest temperature possible for rye bread.

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