The only reliable thing about Chinese food delivery is the fortune cookie at the bottom of the bag. Wait, no, I take that back. I recall a traumatizing meal in which, after finishing my mediocre orange chicken dish, I reached into the takeout bag only to feel napkins and chopsticks. The memory is burned into my brain.
Assuming you do get your prophetic little treat, your meal isn’t totally ruined. But everything else is a crapshoot. Soggy egg rolls, chewy mystery meat, limp veggies, dry rice: all potential land mines packed neatly in gleaming white takeout boxes.
Forgo your next round of Chinese Takeout Roulette, spring for some real chicken and heat up the frying pan. And for the love of God, don’t forget the fortune cookies.
Better-than-takeout Orange Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-2-inch pieces
1 12-oz beer
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Extra flour for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
2 cups orange juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch or flour
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper (if you don’t like a touch of spice, leave this out)
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir and heat for several minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat oil (enough to cover chicken pieces completely once you put them in) in a pot to 375 degrees. Prepare beer batter by mixing beer, flour and salt. Set up your batter station close to the fryer so you can bring the chicken immediately out of the batter and into the fryer. This can get a little messy.
First dip chicken in flour to coat, then, using tongs, dip chicken pieces in the beer batter, then put them immediately into the hot oil. Here’s an important tip: slowly submerge each chicken piece in the oil for a second or two to let the batter firm up before you release the piece into the oil. This will prevent the chicken from sticking to the bottom or sides of the pan. Be careful though, you might get spattered with specks of hot oil. All in the name of homestyle faux takeout.
Cook chicken pieces in batches for about 3-5 minutes in the oil, or until golden brown. Cut a piece to test for doneness and gauge cooking time. Place on a plate with paper towels.
When the chicken is almost all fried, re-heat your sauce, if necessary. Toss fried chicken pieces in hot sauce or drizzle over the top of the chicken. Serve over a bed of rice and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.