Slow-Cooker General Tso’s Chicken
‘Tis the season for slow-cooker meals once again! I would say I don’t know what prompts me to bring out my Crock-pot again, but truly by dinner time it’s been much colder — and darker, too — so not ideal for cooking on the grill here in Dayton, Ohio.
Blogger Tiffany, of Creme de la Crumb, started her site in 2013 “as a way to catalog [her] kitchen endeavors.” I found her August 2014 recipe for General Tso’s slow-cooker chicken when researching an easy recipe with a short cooking time: http://lecremedelacrumb.com/2014/08/slow-cooker-general-tsos-chicken.html. She gave the cook time as 4 hours, but it’s more like two-and-a-half hours in my Crock-pot. She used to waitress at a Chinese restaurant where they served “General Tsao’s chicken.” She changed the name a bit since she knew that most people know the dish spelled “Tso.” Tiffany had a comment from Lucy who explained that both are correct; it’s really just a difference in Chinese dialect. “Tsao,” pronounced “sow,” is Cantonese, while “Tso,” or “so,” is Mandarin, she said. See, now you can weave this topic into dinner conversation when you make this recipe.
I made Tiffany’s recipe the first time and kept to the original ingredients with no substitutions. Well, except that I did ensure that the hoisin and soy sauces were gluten free and preservative free, as well as had no MSG. (I think I could write a rap off that somehow.) The inclusion of the crushed red pepper flakes were killer when hubby Dave and I started to eat the meal. My mouth was on fie-ya! I think my lips were chapped. I do not kid. I had to stop eating my meal. It was a great-tasting dish, but it was definitely a hotter version of Gen Tso’s chicken. I decided that I’d give this recipe another try without those red pepper flakes.
Last night, I started the prep for this recipe. That first time around, I spent longer than 15 minutes prepping everything to go into the pot. I first whisked together 1 cup of corn starch (I know. It seems a lot, but it replaces flour in most breadings.); a teaspoon each of salt and garlic powder; and half a teaspoon of black pepper in a bowl before storing in a gallon-size zip-locked baggie. I got to work on the sauce from there and again doubled the recipe, using a half cup of hoisin sauce, a half cup of soy sauce, and a half cup of rice vinegar. I added to that 4 tablespoons of sugar; 2 tablespoons of dried, minced garlic; 4 tablespoons of water; and instead of the crushed red pepper flakes, added a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
I put half a cup of the combined sauce in a smaller glass Pyrex container that I would add at the end of the cook time the next day. My house smelled strongly of garlic and I went to sleep content that I had it all together for the next day.
Today, I cut up four, boneless, skinless chicken breasts — the kind that are individually wrapper — and dredged those through the dry ingredients in the zip-locked baggie. I’d forgotten what a mess it turns into when using corn starch in a recipe. You can see that in the photo of the plate with the chicken pieces. It’s not unlike powdered sugar really.
I would advise giving all your chicken pieces a ride in the zip-locked baggie twice. It just gives more of a coating for the chicken. I used a large skillet the last time that wasn’t cast-iron. My oil darkened by the time I had all the pieces browned. Cast-iron pans can cook at lower heats. I added the oil to the pan once it heated to medium heat. The chicken came out evenly browned.
I placed the finished chicken on a paper-towel-lined plate to get rid of some of the excess oil. Then, I put in a liner for my slow-cooker and arranged the pieces into the bottom, pouring the sauce on top.
At first, you might think like I did: “That doesn’t look like the sticky sauce I see when I order General Tso’s.” That magic happens in the two-and-a-half-to-3 hours of cook time on low in the slow cooker.
I did keep checking the slow cooker and stirred the sauce after two hours because I was concerned it would burn along the sides. Others who tried this recipe said you could turn this into a one-pot meal and just pour the sauce over the chicken, cover the pan and let it simmer for a bit if you don’t have 2-3 hours to cook. Here’s the after photo of this dish. The “heat” was less this time using the cayenne powder. I could have used 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne probably to make the heat more subtle. I serve this over Uncle Ben’s rice (the kind that’s portioned out in pouches you boil for 11 minutes) and include steamed green beans. Hope you enjoy!