Foxfur’s Savory Sesame Chicken

Eat me.

Eat me.

OK, I’ll admit it, I like Americanized Chinese food. I love authentic Chinese food but with just a touch of sweetness. Not a jawbone ringing sweetness, just a touch. It doesn’t necessarily have to balance the dish, unless it’s supposed to. A simple wave from the wings will do me just fine most of the time. This is not one of those times.
Another admission; I *LOVE* Safeway’s sesame chicken. There, I said it. I love, above all others, the most white bread American supermarket on the continent’s (no matter what they decorate it like) deli sesame chicken. This is why I developed this recipe. I’m far too proud to ask an establishment for their secrets. Although many will provide them upon request, I’d much rather develop a recipe by making it four or five times and perfecting it with every revision. This applies to nearly all recipes you will see right here in Foxfurville. If you loosely follow my recipes I can guarantee arrival at the fifth plateau of NOM!

Safeway’s sesame chicken is characterized by its sticky and sweet coating of yummy sauce and whole sesame seeds. It is pretty damned close to “Oh hell, I’d better book a visit to the dentist” sweet. I can’t eat it on a regular basis, nor would I want to, but as an occasional treat it’s a kick in the pants free-for-all that fits rather nicely in your mouth.

What I ended up developing is a more savory version; a perfect balance of sweet and salty with a savory edge that will bring tears of joy cascading forth from your salivary glands. Just see if it don’t!
BTW, you won’t find cilantro in Safeway’s version. This was suggested by Sweetpea and is key in sending the dish into low earth orbit.

I recently scored a deep fryer. Holy cow, folks! It’s now my favorite implement of culinary devastation in the continuing war against empty tummies. I limit its use to once or twice a week, three when developing new weapons of mass deliciousness. If you don’t have one you can use a wok, dutch oven, or big rig hubcap (automobile hubcaps are too shallow).

Foxfur’s Savory Sesame Chicken

1 Pound boneless / skinless chicken breasts (2 large or 3 small)
1/4 C pineapple (tidbits are the only way to go)
Chopped cilantro
Oil for frying

For the marinade / batter:
9 TBSP Cornstarch (1/2 C + 1 TBSP)
6 TBSP Water
2 TBSP Sesame seeds
1 TBSP Ground sesame seeds (methods below)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Soy sauce
1 tsp Sesame oil

For the sauce:
1 C Sugar
1 C Water
3 TBSP White vinegar
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

There are many ways to grind sesame seeds. I have a suribachi (Japanese mortar & pestle) but rarely use it for the seeds unless I’m incorporating other stuff in with them. I also have a Japanese handheld grinder / dispenser but it doesn’t give the mashy, pasty texture that I like for this recipe. For this I use one of two field expedient Macguyver methods. The first is with two spoons. Put a small amount of seeds in a spoon and mash with another spoon. Simple.
The one that I prefer is to use a small stainless steel measuring cup (mine is a 1/8 C) and the end of the handle of an old Eklund bottle opener. It’s a good old fashioned maple handled dinosaur from the 1950’s that I inherited from my grandmother. Drop the seeds in the cup and beat and grind the hell out of them.

Blah blah blah, let’s get cookin’…
Mix up the marinade / batter and set bu your cutting board.
Dismember the chicken into 1/2 to 3/4 inch chunks and toss them in the marinade. Let the chicken rest in the goo until they coo with relaxed little clucks, about 30 minutes.
While they’re relaxing, mix up the sauce. Set aside.

Heat your oil to 350 – 360 deg F.
Use a thermometer or chopstick (will bubble at the tip when at proper temp) to know when you get there.

Using a fork, stab the chicken one piece at a time and drop in from as low an altitude as possible. No Bellyflops! You’ll want to do this in batches of  7 – 9 pieces. Don’t crowd the pond, chickens aren’t social swimmers.
Fry until a straw or golden brown color. Cut open a piece from the first batch. Pink means it’s medium rare, not good. Throw her back in the pool for another minute.

I drain mine using two paper towels atop a brown paper grocery sack. transfer to a paper plate lined with paper towels between batches. Drop chicken in oil, remove to towel / bag, drop in more chicken, move drained chunks to plate.

Once all the chickens have had their turn, heat up a frying pan or skillet on medium-high heat. Dump the chicken into the pan and heat, stirring and shaking every 10 – 15 seconds until they’re good and hot. Turn down to medium. Now pour in about 2 TBSP of the sauce. Stir around to coat the pieces and let it cook down to a sticky goop. Don’t let it burn. Now shake in 2 more TBSP of sesame seeds. When it gets goopy go ahead and dump another 2 TBSP in and do the same. You can actually do this with all of the sauce and end up with chunks so sticky that they’ll stick upside down to the range hood. I’ve done this and Foxfur was amused. I’ll pour and goop 2 – 3 times otherwise it gets too sticky.

Dump in the drained pineapple, cook for about 30 seconds, then flood with the remaining sauce. Cook down a bit until it reaches your ideal thickness or add a bit of cornstarch water to thicken it up.

Serve over rice, sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy!

Have some toothpicks on hand…
This stuff is finger lickin’, molar stickin’ good.

Cooking with Foxfur: Kitsune Tofu Salad

This one is for Serenity, a fellow WordPress blogger, and my friend Jenny who saw the photo I put up on Facebook (I like to tease my friends with foodporn).

I had a tofu salad at a very nice Japanese restaurant 15 years ago. I was looking at what I had left for food stocks the other day and decided I’d try to recreate it. Not only did I come close, I surpassed the original.

Kitsune Tofu Salad

1 14 ounce package extra firm tofu, drained
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (sweetened rice wine)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, sliced paper thin
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Sesame seeds

Free the tofu from its plastic prison and slap it on a plate. Place another plate on top of Mr. Tofu and put a few cans on top to press it down a bit. It Mr. T starts to crumble, I pity you, fool. The idea here is to press lots of water out of the tofu so it will be able to soak up the yummy dressing it will eventually be bathed in. The ‘fu will need to be squeezed for up to an hour. Pour off the expelled ‘fu juices every 15 minutes or so. After draining, cut it up into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes.

Mix the soy, mirin, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a cup. I added a teaspoon of sugar the second time I made it. It was pretty good but I think I like it better without. If you have kids, they may be more likely to eat it. The second time I made it I also sauteed the garlic and ginger to see what it was like with them a bit crispity. Yum! It’s not necessary but kinda fancy…

Combine the ‘fu, tomatoes, and cilantro in a serving bowl. I like to get in there with my fingers to mess it up real good. Follow your heart here. Don’t worry it the ‘fu crumbles a bit. You’re never gonna get it Cooks Illustrated perfect. I sure don’t. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix it around a bit more. It’s just great right after you finish it and possibly a bit better after an hour or so in the fridge.Shake some sesame seeds on top of each serving before eating.

If you don’t have mirin, either don’t worry about it, or, go out and get some. I use it in everything from marinades to stir fry sauces.

Red onions give the dish a nice look. I ended up using Walla Walla sweet onions and it blew my mind.

By the way, kitsune is fox in japanese.


Cooking with Foxfur: Foxfur’s Black Bean Salad

Last month while blowing shit up at a friend’s house, his wife made the most deeelicious black bean salad I’ve ever tasted. Hers was much more involved than this recipe but again, my aim is to show those who think they can’t cook that they actually can and quite well at that.

Y’all know I’m not big on measurements. I play fast and loose when I make this stuff (much like I typically conduct my daily affairs). Well, Sweetpea likes it so much that she wants to make it when I go out of town so she made me calcumalate whatall it takes to do it right. Now you, dear reader, get to reap the benefits.

This is an easy one. If you can drive a spoon, you’ll do just fine.

Foxfur’s Black Bean Salad

  • 2 Cans black beans
  • 1 Can corn
  • 1/2 Red, orange, or green bell pepper, minced or chopped
  • 1/2 Onion (red is real purty), minced or chopped
  • 5 – 6 Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 12 – 15 chopped black olives (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Lime juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp Lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 3 Shakes + 1 Dash Black pepper

First off, open the cans and rinse the veggies well! This is the secret to good bean salads. The thick goo in the bottom of the beans does not look good at all and will earn you detention with Foxfur. After draining, throw ’em in a great big bowl. One big enough to toss the stuff around in and lose less than a few spoonfuls.

Wash and slice up the onion and pepper. I like using Vidalia sweet or red onions. As stated above, reds are all purtylike. For peppers, red is really dazzling and gives the best contrast, orange will make your hair soft and silky, and green peppers will allow you to find parking spots up to 40% faster! Why no yellow? Because it looks like the corn, silly! Here’s a place where color coordination just doesn’t work. The only coordination I want to see here is in the form of manual dexterity adequate enough to ensure a complete absence of severed digits in your completed salad. When done, toss ’em in the bowl.

While we’re on the subject of peppers,

Get a good look now, kids. OK, let’s move on…

Olives: You can buy the pre-chopped kind but they’re three times more expensive than whole olives. After rinsing, smash them flat with the side of your knife or machete then chop coarsely. Then, yep, toss ’em in the bowl!

Tomatoes > Chop > Bowl.

Wash and finely mince the cilantro and then? The bowl? Nope. Set aside for the moment.

Now pour the oil, juices, sugar, salt, pepper, and cilantro into a container with a splatter-proof cap and shake the living crap out of it. Then pour it in the bowl.

Getcha a big spoon and stir well. Toss and turn to mix it all up. Now I’d suggest putting it in the fridge for an hour or two to let it stew in its juices and get all flavory but I’d never ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. Hell, dig in! If there’s anything left over it’ll taste even better the next morning (if that’s even possible).

I highly recommend doubling this recipe. One batch doesn’t usually see the light of day at the Foxes den…