19 June 2009

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken (with title)
Sitting on my virtual desktop I actually have a text file that contains several topics I think I may eventually want to talk about on the blog. Whenever I think of something and it turns into an essay in my mind, I file it there just so my food, for some reason, can have a pinch of loopy in it. However, looking at the file and scouring my brain for any sort of content I want to accompany this dish (it also determines the subtitle in the picture), I realize I didn't want to talk about anything at all. I am aware that sometimes you probably don't feel like reading or commenting on anything except the dish, and sometimes I just go on and on not realizing I didn't say anything about the dish. Oops. Well, today's a good day because this one's a no-brainer. Aaah!

Lemon Chicken
I keep talking about how the first cooking shows I watched were Caprial's Cafe, Baker's Dozen, and Biba's Italian Kitchen (and something I'd rather forget, Cooking with the Urban Peasant). But I just remembered that that's not true: the first cooking shows I ever watched, and probably the case for most Filipinos my age, were Wok With Yan (with Stephen Yan) and Cooking It Up With Nora. The former is US-produced and I'm sure it rings a bell with a lot of you. I loved that show. He'd ask us to put 3 tablespoons of oil (cups?) in the wok, and for that he'd pour a smooth stream from his little pitcher of cooking oil in a circle just within the circumference of the wok's bowl, a circle for each tablespoon (or cup?). At the end of the episode, he'd carve a swan or an Eiffel Tower or Buckyball out of an apple or carrot for garnish.

Come to think of it, I can't remember a single episode where he didn't fry anything. I don't know what happened to Stephen Yan (he was eventually replaced on my television with the less charismatic but goofier Martin Yan in Yan Can Cook), but I hope his efforts to try to appeal to "American" "Chinese" tastes did not result in intractable hyperlipidemia.

I don't know who started what but there was this movement to just coat everything "Chinese" in thick cornstarch batter and serve it with a sweet glop. This version of lemon chicken is not that. It is all-natural, has no day-glo/ radioactive colors, just the right amount of tart and sweet, comes together in almost no time at all, and is delicious to the last bite without making you feel ill. Honest lemon chicken that tastes of actual lemons. Who knew?

Lemon Chicken adapted from Chinese food master W.K. Leung's recipe on the eGullet forums (the link has a step-by-step pictorial.)
You may also use 360g (1-1/2 cups) packaged lemonade (Minute Maid or such) and the juice of one lemon in place of the lemons, sugar, and water indicated in the recipe.

  • 670g (1-1/2 pounds) chicken breasts, filleted (2 breasts. You may leave the skins on, but I took them out.)

  • salt and fresh ground pepper

  • 1 large egg

  • 50g (6 tablespoons) cornstarch

  • 50g (1/2 cup) unseasoned bread crumbs (dry or fresh, doesn't matter much. Use panko if you like.)

  • 4 lemons

  • 50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar (you may use even less sugar if you want a tarter dish.)

  • 10g (1 tablespoon) cornstarch

Using a meat tenderizer or food mallet, pound the chicken breasts to flatten them. Cut each breast into 4 pieces and season with a little salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat the egg lightly. In a skillet, heat about half an inch of cooking oil over medium heat (I didn't take any temperatures, but you'll want a light sizzle on a bit of the of breadcrumbs tossed into the oil). Coat each piece of chicken in a cornstarch (use the 50g quantity), slapping off the excess, then dip each into the egg, then coat completely on both sides with bread crumbs. Shallow-fry each piece for about 3 minutes on each side, then park onto a plate lined with paper towels.

Juice the lemons, saving 2 thin slices of lemon for garnish. Add enough water to the lemon juice to make 360g (1-1/2 cups). In a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, add the diluted lemon juice and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let it boil and reduce to half the quantity, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, stir together the 10g cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until dissolved. Add the cornstarch slurry into the reduced lemonade and stir together. Let it boil until it reaches the desired consistency-- I waited for the sauce to hold a track drawn by my finger on the back of a spoon dipped in the sauce, about 2 minutes.

Place the chicken on a serving plate (cut them up into bite-size pieces if you wish), and pour the sauce over. Garnish with the lemon slices and serve immediately with plenty of rice.
You may also like:
Kung Pao Chicken Imperial ShrimpStir Fried String beans with Sa-Cha Sauce

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