Monday, May 7, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

I was sitting in my office one afternoon wondering what I was going to make for dinner.  I remembered I had purchased a fresh pineapple a few days before and decided I really wanted to have something with chicken and pineapple.  I remembered that a certain Chinese fast food restaurant has a sweet hot chicken with pineapple and knew I would be trying to recreate that.  I love the combination of sweet and spicy with the crunch of the vegetables and the tang of the pineapple.  

As I was making dinner that night my daughter and her boyfriend came in and tried the sweet chili sauce I had made and declared it better than that certain restaurant.  I liked that the flavors are fresh, the chicken isn't battered and deep fried and I can add as many vegetables and as much pineapple as I desire.  

When making the sauce I used fish sauce which can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store or at most Asian markets.  It is usually only a few dollars for a 750 milliliter bottle.  If you can't find it locally you can order it here on Amazon.  It can also be used to make curry and many other Asian sauce and soups.

I chose to use a blend of juices because that is what I had on hand but mixing these juices in any combination or using only one or two of them will work fine also.  This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups worth of sauce so there is plenty to use as a dip for chicken fingers or spring rolls, coating chicken wings,  sauce for pork and shrimp or what ever else you would like.

Sweet and spicy chicken stir fry
Serves 4-6

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 1/ 2 - 2 bell peppers (red, yellow and/or red - your choice), cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion,chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cups pineapple chunks or 20 ounce pineapple chunks, drained (may reserve the juice to use in sauce)
Sweet Chili Sauce (recipe below)

Place chicken in a gallon size Ziploc bag with the cornstarch.  Seal bag and shake to coat chicken with the cornstarch.  Heat oil in in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1/2 the chicken to the skillet and cook until lightly browned and until juices run clear.  Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and repeat with remaining chicken. 

Raise heat to high and add onions to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes.  Add peppers and pineapple, cook until peppers soften slightly but are still crisp, about 2 - 3 minutes.  

Add chicken back into the skillet, stir to combine with onions, peppers and pineapple.  

Add 3/4 cup to 1 cup sweet chili sauce to taste. Stir quickly to coat. Remove from heat immediately and serve.


Sauce:
1/2 cup rice vinegar  
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 cup pineapple/orange/apple juice (I used a combination - “Lagers” brand)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried crushed chili  (may adjust to your own preference in heat)
3 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water

1.    In a small saucepan combine both vinegars, sugar, water, fish sauce, juice, garlic and dried chili.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat
2.    Reduce heat to medium and allow sauce to boil until reduced by half (about 10-15 minutes).  Just before it is done boiling combine the water and cornstarch in a jar and shake it up to combine and dissolve the cornstarch.
3.    Reduce heat to low and slowly add the cornstarch-water mixture. Stir to combine.  Cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring often (2-3 minutes).
4.    Remove from heat and adjust taste if needed.  You may add more chili if you like it spicier, more sugar if you want sweeter.  If adding more chili or sugar allow the sauce to set for a few minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Typically you will initially taste sweet with a touch of sour following finishing with the spiciness.
5.    Use this sauce for spicy and sweet chicken stir fry or use to coat chicken wings for a “spicy Asian” wings.  It can also be used as a dip for chicken, pork chops, shrimp and spring rolls.

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