In years of travel for a Texas firm, John Lopez "never met a food I didn't like." This exposure to various cuisines eventually caused a career change and brought Lopez to Southern California.
With his wife, Kathi, Lopez operates Kitchen Koncepts in the Belmont Shore section of Long Beach. In addition, he conducts classes in Oriental, Mexican, Cajun (his specialty), New American and California cuisines, and each fall he holds cooking demonstrations at the Orange County Fair. Intrigued by the array of spices used in Indian dishes, Lopez is also studying Indian cooking techniques.
Oriental dishes such as Smoked Chicken Hunan Style are popular with his students because "they're quick and healthy." For a striking presentation, Lopez serves the chicken on a black platter garnished with red and green vegetables, along with rice, stir-fried fresh vegetables and white wine.
JOHN LOPEZ'S SMOKED CHICKEN, HUNAN STYLE 1 cup water 2 boneless chicken breasts, halved Salt, pepper 2 tablespoons peanut oil 4 small, hot red chiles 2 green onions, cut in match-stick-size pieces 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 quarter-size pieces fresh ginger root, peeled and minced 1 teaspoon cornstarch 2 tablespoons water Hunan Sauce
Pour water into wok fitted with steamer. Place chicken breasts in small dish on steamer rack. Turn heat to medium high and bring water to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and steam chicken 10 to 15 minutes. Remove chicken and pour out remaining water.
Line wok and wok lid with foil and place smoking chips in bottom of wok (use only about 1 cup chips). Replace steamer in wok and place chicken on plate on steamer rack. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and smoke on high heat 15 to 20 minutes. Remove chicken, slice and arrange on serving platter. Discard foil and wood chips.
Heat wok until it smokes. Add peanut oil. Add chile peppers and stir fry about 10 seconds, pressing peppers into oil. Add green onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry 30 seconds. Add Hunan Sauce and cook, stirring, over medium heat about 1 minute. Combine cornstarch and water and add to sauce, stirring until sauce clarifies. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Hunan Sauce cup chicken stock 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce 1 tablespoon soybean paste Peel from one orange, cut into match-stick-size pieces 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry Sherry 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar teaspoon chili oil 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
In small bowl, combine and blend chicken stock, soy sauce, soybean paste, orange peel, sugar, rice wine, vinegar, chili oil and peppercorns.