There was a time when one of my favorite things to "make" for dinner was a phone call to our local Chinese restaurant for take-out. These days, I'd rather make my favorite take-out choices from scratch. I even took it one step further this time by making a homemade chile garlic sauce. I read labels like a hawk to check for ingredients I'd rather avoid, and one tip-off about a product is whether or not it's on the shelves at Whole Foods. A chile garlic sauce I've used in the past is no longer sold at Whole Foods, and that's because of a preservative it contains. So, I decided to make my own. You can do whatever you want with homemade take-out. You can also decide if you want to use dark meat or white meat chicken, and Kurt prefers white meat, so that's what I used. And, another important issue is that when you make it yourself you can make it as spicy as you'd like, and that tends to be extra spicy for us. With all these considerations, our General Tso's chicken was tailor-made to suit our tastes. The original recipe came from the May issue of Food and Wine, and the crispy chicken and sweet-spicy sauce were quick and easy to prepare.
To make the chile garlic sauce, you can use fresh red chiles or dried. I used dried because I had several stored away with my spices. I chopped them in a food processor with garlic, salt, sugar, and rice vinegar. Just add a little vinegar as you begin to puree, and then add more as needed for the paste consistency you want. The paste can be stored in the refrigerator for a few months, or you can just make what you need and not have one more thing cluttering the refrigerator which is what I should have done given the state of my refrigerator. To start the General Tso's chicken, sesame oil, an egg white, soy sauce, and cornstarch were combined. Chunks of boneless chicken were added to the mixture, turned to coat, and were left for 20 minutes. In a separate bowl, chicken broth, chile garlic sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and cornstarch were whisked together for the sauce. In a sauce pan, minced ginger and garlic were cooked in oil for a minute, and the sauce mixture was added. This was cooked while stirring until slightly thickened and then kept warm while the chicken was fried. The coated pieces of chicken were pan fried for a couple of minutes per side and then drained on a paper towel-lined sheet pan. Last, the chicken was added to the sauce and stirred to cover before being served with rice and broccoli.
This meal really was a breeze to make, and next time, I'll already have my homemade chile garlic sauce ready to use assuming I can find it in my packed refrigerator. We no longer live near that Chinese restaurant, so our old, favorite take-out isn't an option anymore, but with recipes like this, that's ok.