Thursday, September 5, 2013

Spicy, Sweet and Sour Sesame Chicken

It seems we are in the midst of a pin now, read later culture, and I'm as guilty of it as the next person.  I've pinned hundreds, maybe even thousands of images that look interesting, but that I don't have the time to explore further at the moment.  So I pin them, along with so many others, thinking that some time, some day, I'll have the time.

And how disappointing is it when you do finally find the right moment, only to discover that the image has a broken link or doesn't lead to the quality content you were hoping for.

Disparaging other sites or cooks is not something I'm interested in doing here, so I won't go into specifics, but I had recently pinned an image for sesame chicken, thinking it would make a good weeknight dinner, but when I looked at the recipe later, it was so undeniably awful that it made me cringe, so I quickly deleted the pin before someone thought I was recommending it as a good recipe.

It called for a whole cup of sugar - and we're talking about dinner here, not cake.  One and a half cups of corn starch - surely that was a typo?.  No spice except for salt and pepper.  Then baked for over an hour - those little pieces of chicken must have gotten so dry and tough.  And ironically enough, not even a hint of sesame seeds or sesame oil were mentioned.  Strange, considering it was sesame chicken, don't you think?

At any rate, my heart was set on sesame chicken for dinner, and so I worked on a recipe that turned out so yummy that I will definitely be putting it in our dinner rotation a few times a month.  I dusted the chicken with a little whole wheat flour and a touch of corn starch, seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne and garlic, before browning it lightly in olive oil.  Then I drizzled the chicken with a savory, sweet and sour sauce of apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, sweet chili sauce and a little soy sauce, sesame oil and light brown sugar.  I baked it for just long enough to finish cooking the chicken through and slightly thicken the sauce before sprinkling it with sesame seeds.

I wished that I had a sweet yellow onion to chop up and add to the chicken, or at least some fresh green onions to sprinkle on top, but it was fantastic as it was and I was so pleased with how it turned out.  Between the vinegar, cayenne, chili sauce and brown sugar, the sweet, spicy and tangy blend of flavors was balanced so nicely.

I'd like to say I've learned my lesson about pinning things without taking the time to actually look at them, but the fact is, well, I still don't always have the time, and I suppose I'll just have to be okay with that.

One Year Ago:   Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies with Ganache and Sea Salt
Two Years AgoPasta with Zucchini, Lemon and Parmesan

Spicy Sweet and Sour Sesame Chicken

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Note: Although I didn't have any on hand, some fresh, sliced green onions sprinkled over the chicken would be beautiful and delicious.  A sweet yellow onion could also be cut into pieces and cooked with the chicken for added texture.

Preheat the oven to 325.  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl.  Toss with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne, then add the flour and corn starch and toss until coated.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat until very hot, then add half the olive oil.  Add half the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning the pieces once, until lightly browned.  Set in a greased baking dish.  Cook the rest of the chicken with the rest of the olive oil and transfer to the baking dish.

In a bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, soy sauce, brown sugar, sweet chili sauce and sesame oil.  Pour over the chicken.  Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes, then check the chicken for doneness.  When it's cooked through, sprinkle chicken with the sesame seeds and bake for 2 more minutes to lightly toast the seeds.

Serve with cooked brown rice.

Yields 4-6 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

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