One, and quite possibly the only, thing that I miss about living in Manhattan is Trader Joe's. Specifically, their Mandarin Chicken. But, I traded the city for the smell of honeysuckle, road side produce stands and wild rabbits scurrying across the yard, but mostly the honeysuckle.
Out of nostalgia, I've visited Joe's website, and on more than one occasion, I emailed their powers that be with a location suggestion. A location suggestion is a bit of an understatement. In my emails, I listed the multiple colleges, estimated the total enrollment of college students, and included the ideal address for their new store which would give Trader Joe's the maximum exposure to commuters from the various corporate campuses. I might have offered a first born child if they granted my request and opened up shop in Princeton, New Jersey.
Imagine my surprise, when I moseyed over to Joe's and found that a "coming soon" location is good ole Princeton! Delighted doesn't come close to describing my demeanor! Ecstatic, elated, euphoric--none of those adjectives accurately describe the magnitude of my emotions. Unfortunately, their grand opening is the dreaded "tbd." I guess that beats living in a town without Joe's, but it's still going to be a long, difficult wait.
Until then, I'll have to make do with a recipe I found, and tinkered, to make a Mandarin Chicken that almost passes for Joe's.
"Traitor" Joe's Mandarin Chicken
2.5 to 3 lbs chicken breast (cut into 1-2" cubes)
1.5 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs (beaten)
1.5 cups water
juice from two Valencia oranges
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/8 tsp grated ginger root (use more if you love the flavor of ginger)
1/2 tsp minced garlic (pre-minced garlic from a jar works nicely)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
1. Combine flour, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.
2. Put the chicken cubes in a large mixing bowl, pour beaten eggs over chicken.
3. Stir chicken to thoroughly coat with egg.
4. Using a clean, large grocery store paper bag (I take an extra bag on occasion for this purpose) dump the flour mixture into the paper bag.
5. Add the egg-coated chicken to the paper bag.
6. Fold over the top of the paper bag several times to seal closed.
7. Firmly grasp the top of the bag with both hands.
8. Shake the bag vigorously to ensure the chicken becomes completely coated with the flour mixture. Set aside.
9. Pour vegetable or canola oil in skillet and heat until oil becomes 375°.
10. Working in batches, deep fry chicken cubes until completely cooked. (make sure the oil returns to a temperature of 375° before beginning a new batch)
11. Put all cooked chicken cubes into a large serving bowl.
1. Pour 1.5 cups water with lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce into a medium size sauce pan. Stir well.
2. Gently heat the water/juice/vinegar mixture for several minutes, until just barely simmering.
3. Add the brown sugar, orange zest, ginger root and garlic. Stir well.
4. Bring mixture to boil.
5. While waiting for the mixture to boil, stir 3 tbsps cornstarch into 1/4 cup water. Mix completely! (The mixture could begin to resemble Elmer's glue. Continue stirring, and make sure the cornstarch has evenly and completely adsorbed all of the water.)
6. Once the water/juice/sugar mixture has come to a boil, slowly add the cornstarch/water mixture to the sauce pan. Be sure to stir the mixture while you are pouring in the cornstarch/water mix. The addition of the cornstarch will temporarily change the color of the sauce from a translucent brown to a lighten, muddy brown. Keep stirring! The cornstarch will thicken the sauce, giving the sauce its consistency.
7. After all of the cornstarch/water mix has been completely incorporated into the water/juice/sugar mix, add 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
8. Pour the sauce over the cooked chicken cubes.
9. Gently toss the chicken cubes in the orange sauce to completely coat the chicken with sauce.
10. Serve over brown rice or quiona, adding steamed veggies like snow peas or broccoli compliments the dish nicely. I use Green Giant Steamers for convenience.
11. Bon appetit!