Friday, January 21, 2011

Recipe (sort of): Mandarin Chicken - needs improvement!

It was my turn to cook last night. I had fully intended on finding something new and creative to make on my lunch break yesterday, but with last week's "snowpocalypse" I'm completely behind on work stuff and didn't get much of a break at all. Therefore, when I got home at 6:15, I had a bunch of thawed chicken but no plan.

Desperately tearing apart my fridge and pantry, I found the beginnings of a Chinese-style orange chicken dish, so I punched a few ingredients into and found a Mandarin beef stir-fry recipe.  Bingo!  Just needed a little bit of improvising, right?  I'll tell you what I did, then what went wrong.  However, I think I'm actually on the right track with this one for once!
2-3 chicken boneless skinless breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes (it was actually a handful of chicken strips, but that's about what it comes out to in breasts)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 can of mandarin oranges (10oz, I think?)
1/2 c sugar
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
2 c broccoli, steamed
1 c rice, steamed
Olive oil

Combine soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and juice from mandarin oranges.  Place chicken in a bowl and pour just enough of the mixture over it to cover the chicken.  Marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  (Don't put the oranges in the marinade - trust me on this.  Just set them aside.)  Set the rest of the sauce aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sautee onion and pepper until onions begin to caramelize and peppers are tender.  Drain chicken and add to skillet.  Cook until done.

(Here's where it went wrong)  Add sugar to remaining sauce, then pour the sauce and mandarin oranges into the skillet and bring to a boil.  Heat for about 2 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Pour over rice and broccoli and serve.
So what went wrong?  When I read the original recipe that I based this off of, I could have sworn I had corn starch.  However, I got to the part that said, "Combine the cornstarch and reserved marinade until smooth," searched for the cornstarch, and panicked.  I was out and that must be what thickens the sauce!  I tried to think of what thickens sauces, but what the hell do I know about cooking?  And I'll be damned if I ask The Bastard since I was so fucking confident walking into the kitchen that I didn't need help with this meal.  I mean, my pride was on the line here, people!  (Speaking of which, I rest my case about the Taurus thing.)

I finally settled on sugar because I knew that worked; I just didn't know what quantity.  I started with 1/4 c, then bumped it up another 1/4 when that didn't work.  It thickened just slightly, but not nearly to the extent I was going for.  Finally after about 10 minutes of simmering, I said, "Fuck it," turned off the burner, and started scooping the meat, onions, and peppers into the bowl with the rice and broccoli.  I slowly poured the sauce into the bowl so I wouldn't end up with rice soup.  After staring at it for a few seconds, trying to work up my courage, I tasted it.

Hoars, it was actually good!  Slightly sweet, slightly tangy - I actually improvised something that tasted good, and I didn't even set the kitchen on fire!  This is a major kitchen breakthrough for me.  There's just one thing left to sort out:  fucking sauces!  How do they work???  I don't want to ditch the sugar, so would I need to add the whole 2 tbsp of cornstarch?  Or am I off base about that being the thickening agent?  If anyone wants to help me out on this, hit me up in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. heya
    That meal sounds so yummy!
    cornstarch is a thickening agent but i had no idea sugar would work.
    you could've also added arrowroot powder, or a couple tablespoons of ordinary flour.

    I always keep the laptop nearby when cooking. that way you can just type into google, "Thicken sauce cornflour substitute" or something. I'm sure you'd get plenty of hits.