Chris has a freakish love of General Tso chicken. General Tsao, General Cho, General chicken, whatever you want to call it, it’s his favorite. The exception to this is PeiWei’s version of General Tso, which he absolutely detests. He forgets how much he hates it in the months between PeiWei visits, and always tries to order it, and I always say “Chris, you hate PeiWei General Tso,” and he always responds “I don’t hate the General. The General is awesome.” Occasionally he listens to me and orders something else, and occasionally he orders the General and then gets home, declaims its awfulness, and then proceeds to take surreptitious bites of my dish in between morose bites of his. I don’t know why he won’t listen. I guess he just really loves the General.
General Tso chicken is basically crispy-fried chicken pieces and whatever veggies might please you, coated in a sauce that is equally ferociously spicy and cloyingly sweet. It’s good, I’ll admit. I wouldn’t ever really eat a whole order of the stuff (me being more of a beef with garlic sauce kind of girl), but it’s nice enough. Since San Antonio is a city with a strong tradition of reporting about how filthy the inside of local restaurants are, I’m afraid of ordering Chinese food here. Unless it’s PeiWei, which is really, really overly rich and about as authentically Chinese as Renee Zellweger.
The result of this aversion is that I try to make Chinese food at home pretty frequently. I’ve ranted before about how poorly the average American makes what they call “stir-fry,” which is pieces of overcooked protein and limp, frostbitten “Chinese Medley” vegetables tossed in a sauce that is usually garlic, soy sauce, and cornstarch. It’s icky. I used to be the same, believing stupidly that one could wok on a plain ‘ol home stove, and also believing that soy sauce was the holy grail of ethnic seasoning. Now I know better. But I’ve never attempted the General, because I figured if I fucked it up I would lose kitchen credibility with Chris, who has always assumed that I stand alone in the kitchen with a wand, muttering incantations until a pot roast appears. I didn’t want to lose that sense of reverence. That sense of respect. That sense of appreciation for the hard work that takes place in our kitchen, and why he has to clean it up after dinner (because I’m exhausted from all the wand work). Yesterday, I attempted it.
I called my brother to ask him what was for dinner. He knew that I meant “what should I personally make for dinner?” because he’s family and we understand each other like that. He came up with “bourbon pork pot roast.” I don’t think he knows what that means, but it was a solid approach. I thought I’d whip up some bourbon chicken. When I searched the recipes, though, they were all kind of lame. But I did see, on one site, an advertisement for General Tso recipes. It inspired me to tackle the challenge. Man. What a payoff.
It’s a sauce of sugar, shoyu, white wine, rice vinegar, truckloads of chilis, some other things I forget, and cornstarch. There’s a great sweetness to it, and a kick of heat that distracts you gently from the front end, while the back end fire sneaks around and punches you in the uvula. I cut up some skinless chicken thighs and tossed them with eggs, white pepper and more cornstarch, then put them in the fryer. Twice. Vegetables (zucchini, carrots, green bell peppers, and water chestnuts) were blanched separately to crisp-tender, then both the chicken and the veggies were tossed in the thickened sauce. SO good. I’d make it again tonight, but I don’t want to ruin the magic.
Also, we got something called the EGO-light, which has helped enormously with our photos. It was pretty inexpensive, but MAN is there a quality difference. For example, the photos aren’t yellow. Hocus-Pocus!