Awhile back I was CRAVING my favorite Chinese food, Mandarin Chicken. But alas, there are no gluten free Chinese restaurants in town where I can go to feed my addiction. After a disappointing search on the web for anything resembling my favorite orange sauce, I had a “duh” moment when I realized that I don’t need to make the sauce because it doesn’t contain any wheat. A quick call to the Chinese restaurant down the road confirmed my suspicion that they sell the sauce as an optional side – for only $.89, which is cheaper than buying most jarred sauces at the grocery store! So I drove down to the restaurant and introduced myself as “the weird lady who called about just buying Mandarin sauce,” and returned home with a gelatinous, unnaturally red, nectar of the gods.
All that remained was to fry up some chicken. For this, I turned to my Texas grandmother’s chicken fried steak recipe because southerners know how to fry stuff. Instead of round steak, I substituted chicken breasts that I floured, fried, and cut diagonally to look like the restaurant version. I’m happy to report that it tasted just like we remembered (only with no MSG!), although I must confess that I’d probably eat cardboard if it was covered with that sauce. The great thing about this recipe is that you pound the chicken flat, so it fries quickly and a little chicken can go a long way, especially when paired with a filling side dish like the one below. (The chicken pictured is just 1 large chicken tenderloin!)
To round out the meal, I suggest the GF crock pot fried rice recipe by Stephanie O’Dea. We. LOVE. It! You can check out the hilarious recipe on her awesome blog, or follow the instructions for my version below. I decided to try to make a healthier version by substituting quinoa (a gluten free grain that’s uber healthy) for half of the rice, and my husband agreed that it’s even better than the all-rice version because the quinoa seems to make it fluffier. (If you’ve tried quinoa and been creeped out by the little round grains – my nephew calls them “eyeballs” – do try mixing it with rice because the texture is totally different than plain rice or plain quinoa.)
Even if Mandarin sauce isn’t your thing, this versatile chicken recipe would taste great with any dipping sauce. My daughter dipped her chicken in cranberry mustard, which we encouraged because it left more sauce for us. Check back later this fall for my Country Fried Chicken with Biscuits and Gravy variation on this recipe. (Did I mention I have Texas roots?) In the meantime, grab some chopsticks and boil a pot of Oolong tea because gluten free Chinese food is back on the menu!
Versatile Fried Chicken Breasts or Tenderloins
4 small chicken breasts or 2 large breasts cut in half or 8 tenderloins
Salt and Pepper
Gluten free flour blend (I used Gluten Free Pantry’s blend, but any would do)
2 eggs, beaten
3 – 4 T. milk
Canola oil for frying
Place chicken on a piece of waxed paper with plenty of space between each piece. Place another piece of waxed paper on top and pound chicken with a meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/4-in. thick. For best results, pieces should not be larger than the palm of your hand when frying, so cut large pieces in half, if necessary. Blot chicken dry with a paper towel, then season BOTH sides with salt and pepper. (You’ll be tempted to think it’s not necessary to season both sides, but trust me, it really is.)
Pour about 1/3 c. flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate and dip both sides of each chicken piece in the flour. Set aside floured chicken, and add additional flour to the bowl for the next step. Heat about 1/2-in. oil in a large skillet over medium high. When it begins to shimmer, flick a little water into the oil. If it sizzles and pops a little, you’re ready to fry.
While oil is heating, beat 2 eggs in another shallow bowl or pie plate with a fork. Beat in 3-4 T. milk. Line 1 or 2 plates (enough to hold all your cooked chicken) with paper towels, and get out tongs for turning the chicken. (You want to have everything ready so you can work quickly and keep an eye on the chicken.)
When the oil is very hot (but not smoking), coat a piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then use the fork to transfer it to the bowl of flour. Coat both sides with flour, then carefully lay the chicken the pan. Immediately turn the heat down to medium to keep the chicken from browning too quickly. Continue with the remaining chicken until the pan is full. (I like to lay them in a clockwise pattern so I can keep track of which ones have been in the longest.)
By the time the last piece is in (you may have to do 2 batches or use 2 pans), the first piece should be ready to turn. Cook the chicken for about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. (Trying to keep them warm in the oven will result in soggy chicken.) For a fancy presentation, cut the chicken diagonally into strips and cover with reheated sauce from your favorite Chinese restaurant (we used Quick Wok) or whatever sauce you like. (Warning: If you order any other type of sauce, check to make sure it’s not made with soy sauce, since most Chinese restaurants don’t use GF soy sauce.)
Crock Pot Pork Fried Rice/Quinoa
1/2 c. enriched white rice (also called long grain rice – not instant)
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained (or another 1/2 c. rice)
3 T. butter or nondairy margarine
2 T. GF soy sauce (we use La Choy brand)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 c. frozen peas and carrots (or whatever veggies you like)
1 c. diced ham (we use half of a 12 oz. package of Hormel’s nitrate-free cubed ham)
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 c. water (minus 2 T. for fluffier rice) to boiling. Stir in 1/2 tsp. salt, rice and quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. While rice is cooking, chop onion and gather remaining ingredients.
In a 4-quart crock pot that’s been sprayed with nonstick spray, put 3 T. butter cut into cubes, chopped onion, and cooked rice/quinoa. Stir in remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Add veggies, ham, and egg. Stir until combined, then with the back of your spoon, press mixture against the side and bottom of the crock pot for maximum crispy pieces.
Cook on high for 3 hrs. If possible, I like to stir it after about 2 1/2 hrs. and press against the sides again to get more crispy pieces. If rice/quinoa seems too soggy, shift the lid so some steam can escape and let it continue cooking on high for another 15 minutes while the moisture is allowed to get out. Serve with the chicken recipe above or by itself.