On any Chinese restaurant take-out menu, this famous chicken dish (which might be called General Tso's, or General Tsao's, or General Gao's, which is our local spelling) would rate a few hot red peppers next to the name. It's spicy, or should be, and it's one of the two dishes by which I judge all Chinese American restaurants everywhere. (The other, lo mein, I make at home all the time, and my version is pretty good, so I'm a tough critic on that one, too.)
In our house there's never enough General Gao's chicken to go around. This recipe makes plenty, it can be made ahead, and the leftovers are the best snack ever when grabbed with chopsticks right from the refrigerator (ask me how I know). The slow cooker method, while not yielding the same crust as fried chicken, brings all of the flavor of the traditional recipe, with no stand-over-the-stove time for the cook. Adding the broccoli at the end keeps it crisp. If you love General Gao's chicken, you'll love this easy home-cooked version.
Slow cooker General Gao's chicken
From the pantry, you'll need: chicken breasts, cornstarch, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, hoisin sauce, reduced-sodium soy sauce, rice vinegar, granulated sugar, mild red pepper flakes, fresh ginger.
Adapted from this recipe on Creme De La Crumb. Be sure to use gluten-free condiments for a gluten-free dish. Serves 6-8, with rice.
5 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (approximately 3 lbs), cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil (or peanut oil)
For the sauce:
6 Tbsp hoisin sauce (or gluten-free hoisin)
6 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce (or gluten-free soy sauce)
6 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp mild crushed red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp if you want a milder dish)
1 tsp minced gingerroot or ginger paste
4 tsp water
3 cups broccoli florets, blanched in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, removed into a bowl of ice water
3-4 cups steamed white or brown rice
Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, and blot them thoroughly with a paper towel.
In a smaller bowl, combine the cornstarch, salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Mix well.
Add the chicken and the cornstarch mixture to a large ziploc bag. Shake to coat the chicken pieces.
Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick frying pan or wok (I heated mine right in my Ninja Cooking System slow cooker, which has a stovetop high setting). Sauté the chicken for a few minutes, until the pieces are starting to brown. The chicken won't be cooked at this point.
While the chicken is browning, mix all of the sauce ingredients in a glass measuring cup.
When the chicken is lightly browned, add all of it, along with half of the sauce, to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Stir gently to coat the chicken pieces with the sauce.
Cook on LOW for 3 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through (the original recipe says 4 hours, but mine never takes that long).
After the chicken has finished cooking, add the blanched broccoli florets and the remaining sauce into the slow cooker. Stir gently.
Serve hot, with steamed rice. Garnish individual bowls with sesame seeds.
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