Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peach Chicken Cheap Out

Sometimes I am shocked at how this year has changed my 'tude. Let me put it to you this way. Even when I was an editorial assistant, scrounging around to figure out quarters for the laundry, delighting in a free (and bad) chardonnay-doused book event, unafraid to pick up my coffee/table trunk on Avenue A at 2 am (this was pre- the bed bug epidemic -- horrors!), I ordered in.

And there was one thing on the take-out menu that I ordered, no matter that it was an overpriced Chef's Special: Peach Chicken from China Fun. My brother, Brother Lemon if you will, introduced me to this rare treat--not to be found on just any Chinese take out menu. No the Peach Chicken is just, well, beyond. Basically, from what I can tell, because there is definitely a mystery to the whole affair, it's thickly-battered deep-fried white meat chicken covered in a sweet, sticky peach-juice sauce and accompanied by half a canned peach, some wilted broccoli, and always *always* a maraschino cherry. Yes, there is actually a cherry-on-top of this fried debacle.

So this year, I've held back. Peach Chicken has not graced our table but once. And to be honest, I miss it deeply. It was good at night, hot and a little greasy (although the broccoli somehow made it seem healthy.) It was even better cold and direct from the box the next morning. Yes, that's how much I love this dish -- it entered the ranks of cold pizza as a great morning after option.

But now, peaches are in season and I'm eating about 2-3 a day. And the old memory of my beloved fried friend haunts me. So it was time to figure out a DIY, healthier option. It wouldn't be pretty. It wouldn't be fried. But it certainly wouldn't be $12 (that includes the rice and fortune cookie...maybe not such a bad deal after all?)

I have almost no Chinese cookbooks, so an online search commenced and turned up healthy-food TV cook Ellie Krieger's version. It looked good and so I went for it, with a few slight changes. The result? Tangy sticky sauce, check. Peachy sweetness, yes indeedy. Crunchy? For crunch I roasted the broccoli, so a healthy answer to my take out urges.

Peach Chicken

1 Tablespoon oil (olive)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 peaches
2 chicken legs, pre-poached
2 scallions, sliced into rounds

In a medium size saute pan, heat the oil over high heat.

Make the sauce by mixing the honey, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and orange juice in a separate bowl. I added a little pepper and salt.

When the pan is very hot, pop in the ginger and garlic and stir to cook quickly about 30 seconds. Add the sauce and it will boil quickly, so turn back the heat. Slice the peaches thin and add them to the sauce, spoon to cover.

Now, I had those 2 chicken legs from the stock-making-paella-fest of Monday evening, so I took off the skin and shredded the meat. I think legs or thighs are a nice match here because they add a little richness, although the original recipe calls for breast meat. My inspiration is deep fried, so some tender thigh meat is hardly worse for me, right? If you don't have cooked chicken on hand, cook whatever cut you have until done in the pan before you add the ginger and garlic and reintroduce it at this point. Add the scallions and get this nice and steamy.

Roast the broccoli while the chicken and peach sauce are melding. At 400F, roast the broccoli florets with a little olive oil and a splash of water for 7-8 minutes. They will get a little brown and slightly crunchy.

A Chinese delight goes healthy
Using up my poaching poultry cleans out the fridge
A thrifty answer to my take-out urges

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