Sunday, June 10, 2012

Asian-Inspired Sweet and Spicy Chicken

I can't find the original recipe for this chicken, but I'm pretty sure it came from Southern Living. [UPDATE: I found the original recipe.] Over the years, I have changed what was a pretty sweet dish into a sweet spicy dish that reminds me of tong cho chicken that I grew up eating at China Palace in McComb, MS. We're not much for restaurants in our town of about 14,000 people. Last I checked, your best choices are China Palace, fried catfish, or the Dinner Bell, but my years there were pretty good ones, so I'm not complaining. If you ever happen to be driving down I-55 through McComb, I highly recommend the Dinner Bell. I've never had anything else like it. But back to the chicken...

Tong cho chicken is sweet and sticky and spicy. In fact, it is a near perfect blend of these things. The sauce is served with little nuggets of fried chicken, which is just icing on the cake. I have wondered for years how to duplicate that sauce. I haven't yet found it, but this chicken is a nice mix of sweet, sticky, and spicy. I keep it a little healthier by using seared chicken and adding in some vegetables and fruit, and although it's not tong cho chicken, I'm pretty satisfied with the results.

Start with some boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenders, or thighs. I generally use breasts, but have used the others at different times. If the breasts are large, I suggest cutting them into two or three strips of reasonable size.

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in the bottom of a skillet to medium-high. Just make sure the bottom of the pan is covered. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook it for a minute or two on each side to sear it. Alternatively, you can oil the chicken, which may actually yield better results.

When the chicken is browned on both sides, remove it from the pan and set it aside. If using peppers and onions, cook those now. If not, drain the oil from the pan and get the sauce ready.
 Mix one pouch of onion soup mix with water and add some hot sauce. I suggest 1-2 T., but we tend to like things a bit spicy.

 Bring the sauce to a boil and add in the jar of preserves. Peach, apricot, or pineapple are my choices.
Let this boil until the preserves are dissolved and the sauce begins to thicken. Then return the chicken to the pan and cook until done. 
Then add a can of pineapple chunks, and cook about 1 minute more until warmed through.
Taste and add more hot sauce, if desired. A cornstarch slurry can be added, if the sauce is too thin. I should have done that on this night, but we were out of cornstarch, so we just had really thin sauce. Serve with rice, and enjoy!

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