Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken, Fried Rice and Steamed Pears

Each month I get together with two of my long time girlfriends, Bonnie and Dawn.  Many times we go out for a nice dinner, but as of lately we have been meeting at one another's house and cooking dinner together.  On Monday night we met at Bonnie's house for some Chinese.  I chose Chicken Friend Rice, Bonnie did Sweet and Sour Chicken and for dessert, Dawn made Steamed Pears.  Each of the dishes turned out wonderful- definite "make again's". 

Sweet and Sour Chicken

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
a small amount of ground pepper, ground ginger, and garlic powder to season flour (not a lot)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
vegetable oil
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and trimmed, sliced thinly on a diagonal
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks in juice (no added sweeteners)

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4-6 drops red food coloring
2 rounded tablespoons corn starch mixed in enough cold water to make a slurry

Directions for making Chicken:
Trim chicken of all visible fat and cut into bit-sized pieces.  In a small frying pan heat 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Heat to deep-frying temperature.  In a bowl mix eggs and milk and beat until well blended.  Place flour and seasonings in a shallow bowl and mix.  Dunk pieces of chicken into the egg  allowing excess to drain.  Dredge the chicken in the flour coating thoroughly.  Drop pieces into the hot oil and fry until deep golden brown.  Turn as necessary to cook evenly on all sides.  When golden brown  remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain.  Repeat until all chicken pieces are cooked.  Set aside until assembly. 

Directions for Making the Sauce:
Place pineapple and water in sauce pan and heat over a low flame.  Slowly add sugar while stirring.  When sugar has dissolved, slowly add the vinegar and lemon juice while stirring.  Add corn starch slurry and stir while heating.  Bring to a boil.  Stir constantly until thickened. Add food coloring, a little at a time until you get the coloring you like and stir well to mix.  Continue to heat and stir until almost a syrup.  Remove from heat and set aside.  

Note: You will be judging the thickness of the sauce while it is hot.  It will thicken considerably when it is set aside and cools.  Later, when added to the vegetables, the moisture from the vegetables will thin the sauce quite a bit.  
Directions for Assembling Completed Dish:
Add a little vegetable oil to a large frying pan or wok.  Bring to frying temperature over medium heat.  Add all vegetables but the pineapple and cook, stirring frequently , until onions begin to caramelize.  Add sweet and sour sauce and continue cooking and stirring until vegetables are bite tender and sauce has re-thickened and clings to the vegetables.  Add pineapple and chicken and fold into the vegetables and sauce.  Simmer until heated through.  Serve over rice.

Chicken Fried Rice

4 cups leftover, previously chilled cooked rice
Two large chicken breast cleaned of all visible fat, chopped into small bite sized pieces
1 cup diced ham
3 eggs, beaten
half green pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt 
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, divided
2 green onions (scallions), sliced
2 teaspoons fish sauce or 1 tablespoon soy sauce
3/4 cup frozen peas and carrots, defrosted
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Gently seperate the grains of rice with a fork, being careful not to smush them.  

Set a wok or large saute pan on high heat.  When oil is hot enough to make water sizzle, add one tablespoon of the cooking oil and swirl to coat the wok.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add the chicken and fry until almost cooked through.  Remove from the wok to a plate, leaving as much oil in the wok as possible.  Saute the pepper and onions, until the start to become translucent but still remain crisp.  Add ham to begin to caramelize.  Remove onions, peppers and ham from the wok and add to plate with chicken.

Turn the heat to medium and let the wok heat up again.  Add the eggs, stirring in a quick motion to scramble the eggs.  When the eggs are almost cooked through (they should still be slightly runny in the middle), dish out of the wok into the same plate as the chicken.  

Use a paper towel to wipe down the same wok clean and return it to high heat  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, swirling to coat.  When the oil is hot, add the green onions and fry until fragrant, about 15-30 seconds.  Add the rice and stir well to mix in the green oinions throughout.  Spread the rice all around the wok surface area and let the rice heat up, untouched until you hear the bottoms of the grains sizzle, about 1 minute.  Use a spatula to toss the rice, again spreading the rice out over the surface of wok and let cook for 1 minute.  

Drizzle the fish sauce (or soy sauce) all around the rice and toss.  Add the peas and carrots, the cooked eggs, mostly cooked chicken, ham, peppers and onions and sesame oil, tossing to mix the rice evenly with all the ingredients.  Repeat the tossing, spreading and 1-minute frying until each and every grain of rice is heated through.  Taste and adjust with additional soy sauce if needed.  

**this recipe is adapted slightly from Jadin Hair's Shrimp Fried Rice recipe in Steamy Kitchen

Steamed Pears

4 Asian pears or if unavailable, bartlett pears
4 teaspoons honey
4 dates, pitted
lemon juice to brush on pears to avoid discoloration, optional

Wash and dry pears, cut off top and core.  Reserve the top of the pear.  This will become the lid.  Fill each pear with a date and fill with honey.  Put the top back on the pear and place in steamer.  Steam for 30 minutes or until tender. 

**The flavor of these we soooooo delicious.  We all agreed that the dates completely made the dish.  The three flavors blended together beautifully.  We steamed the pears for well over 30 minutes and due to our impatience we took them out of the steamer before they were completely tender.  They had more of a crispness to them.  Although this didn't take away from the flavor of the dish, we all agreed that a more tender pear would be nice.  I will most definitely be making these again and will have to play around with the recipe a bit.   But please give them a try- just wonderful!

Stay tuned for our next months' Girls Night In.  We already can't wait!


  1. Dawn I found the Asian Pears at Giant Eagle by me last night. They look so different. They are also called "Apple Pears", my guess is because they look like an apple but must taste like a pear. I am curious how different they taste! My curiosity will definitely get the better of me!!

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