General Tso's Chicken
This dish was supposedly invented by a famous Hunan general before a big battle. Whoever the inventor was, he or she discovered that three successive dips in oil produces the very crisp crust that makes this a deep-fried classic.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Japanese soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups broccoli florets
Peanut, corn or vegetable oil for deep-frying
1/4 cup homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
10 small whole dried red chiles
- At least 1 hour before serving, coat the chicken: Place a large wire cake rack over a jelly roll pan. Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Add the soy sauce and sherry and mix well. Add the egg and mix again until well coated. Put 1/2 cup cornstarch in a shallow bowl. A few pieces at a time, roll the chicken in the cornstarch. Place on the wire rack without the pieces touching each other. Set the bowl of cornstarch aside. Cover the chicken loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate to set the coating, at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours, the longer the better. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before deep-frying.
- In a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water, cook the broccoli to set the color, about 1 minute. Using a wire mesh skimmer, transfer the broccoli to a bowl of cold water and set aside. Keep the water boiling.
- Heat a large flat-bottomed wok or deep Dutch oven over high heat until very hot. Add enough oil to come about one third of the way up the sides of the wok or to a depth of 2 to 3 inches in the Dutch oven. Over high heat, heat the oil until very hot, but not smoking (the surface of the oil will shimmer slightly), or to 400°F (205°C) on a deep frying thermometer.
- In a small bowl, combine the broth, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, and vinegar, stirring to dissolve the sugar as much as possible. In another small bowl, dissolve the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch in the water.
- Roll the chicken again in the bowl of cornstarch. In batches without crowding, deep-fry the chicken pieces until the coating sets, about 30 seconds. Using a wire-mesh skimmer, remove the chicken and count to 10. Return the chicken to the oil and cook until golden, about 15 seconds. Remove from the oil, count to 10, and deep-fry a third time until the coating is crisp and golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter and set aside while deep-frying the remaining chicken.
- Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok. Return to high heat and add the chiles. Cook until the chiles are dark red (the longer they cook, the darker they get and the spicier the dish, so adjust the cooking time according to taste). Stir in the soy sauce mixture into the wok, then stir in the garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 seconds. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat them with the sauce. Transfer to the center of a platter. Drain the broccoli from the bowl of water and return the broccoli to the saucepan of boiling water. Cook just until heated through, about 30 seconds. Drain and arrange the broccoli around the chicken. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.