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Microwave . . .

At-Home Version of Crispy, Fried Chinese Chicken

July 14, 1988|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

Whenever our family goes to a local Chinese restaurant, one of us always orders a dish called war su gai. It's a combination of crusty deep fried chicken breast, shredded lettuce and a hot brown sauce. And it is wonderful.

Because this dish is so good, I wanted to adapt it to the microwave. Since the sauce that coats the chicken pieces softens the crisp-fried exterior, I decided a flavorful crumb coating could be a close and easy substitute for the deep-fried version.

An Easy Adaptation

The result is the recipe for Chinese Chicken Chunks that follows. My teen-age daughter, who adores Chinese food, called it "awesome," so perhaps I hit the mark. It is delicious and easy to make at home.

While researching this dish, I came across another idea that uses many of the same ingredients in a different presentation. This idea was inspired by a Chinese dish in which marinated chicken chunks wrapped in lotus leaves are steamed. Change lotus to lettuce and you have a beautiful, bright package that doesn't demand any hard-to-find ingredients and is low in calories and delicious.

CHINESE CHICKEN CHUNKS

2 whole boneless chicken breasts, skinned

1/2 cup butter, melted

3 eggs

1/2 pound salted round butter crackers, finely crushed

3 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup Sherry

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 medium head lettuce, shredded

Sliced almonds

Hot cooked rice, optional

Trim fat from chicken and cut into large bite-size chunks. Stir together butter and eggs in small bowl. Coat chicken chunks with butter-egg mixture, then roll in cracker crumbs until all chunks are coated.

Arrange coated chunks in 12x8-inch microwave dish. Drizzle any leftover butter-egg mixture over chicken and sprinkle with leftover crumbs. Cover dish with wax paper and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 7 to 10 minutes, until thickest pieces show no pink when cut through.

Whisk together chicken broth, green onions, soy sauce, Sherry, sugar and cornstarch in 2-quart microwave bowl. Microwave at HIGH 9 to 12 minutes, whisking every 2 minutes, until mixture is thick and clear.

Make bed of shredded lettuce on each of 4 plates, distributing cooked chicken chunks and drizzling each serving with as much hot sauce as desired. Sprinkle each serving with sliced almonds and serve with hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.

LETTUCE-WRAPPED CHICKEN BUNDLES

2 whole boneless chicken breasts, skinned

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Sherry

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 to 6 large lettuce leaves

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons cold water

Sliced almonds

Hot cooked rice, optional

Trim fat from chicken and cut into large bite-size chunks. Toss chicken chunks with green onions, soy sauce, honey, Sherry and pepper in large bowl until well mixed.

Place 1 or 2 (depending on size) large lettuce leaves on flat surface. Spoon 1/4 chicken chunks onto lettuce and fold lettuce up and over top of chicken. Turn bundle over so overlapped ends are on bottom and arrange in 12x8-inch microwave dish.

Use remaining lettuce and chicken to make 3 more bundles and arrange evenly in dish. Spoon any extra chicken marinade over tops of bundles.

Cover dish with wax paper and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 9 to 12 minutes. To test doneness, select thickest or centermost bundle and cut through thickest chicken piece. No pink should show in chicken. Remove bundles to warm platter, cover and keep warm while thickening sauce.

Pour juice from cooking dish into 2 cup measure. If necessary, add water to equal 2/3 cup. Stir together cornstarch and cold water in small bowl. Add to chicken broth. Microwave at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute, until sauce is thickened and clear.

Pour sauce over chicken bundles and sprinkle almonds on top for garnish. Serve with hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.

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