Spicing up a friendship


This tale begins a long time ago, during my former adventures in the mythical land known as Corporate America. Some people from that land embark on a journey to a fabled destination referred to only as “lunch away from work”. I was one of those adventurers. This is the story of how that journey begat spicing up a friendship.

Now I must relate to you the most improbable secret of all about that mystical era. Astounding as this may be, you need to believe I speak the truth. Steel yourself, for here it is:

Some people enjoyed going out to lunch with me.

There. It has been said and now, it can never be unread. Yes, I am actually a pretty fun lunch partner.

So, amongst all the various people of that land with whom I sallied forth, there be one that was both fun and frustrating. This whole post is both an homage and a wink to her.

Yes, I said “her”. Before my hermithood, there were women who would actually find me good company. Woe that I can no longer recall why.

But, this young lady is funny and quirky. An excellent lunch date, though it did take some effort to pull words out from her. Tougher still were her eating preferences. Because, there was so much she did not like.

Especially sauces. Oh, the travails with sauces. Still, we managed to find places. But, I took it as a special quest that I would one day find a sauce she would like.

Many times I ventured forth, only to be shattered on the rocks of her saucy resistance. Indomitable in the face of her stringent tastes, I tried again and again. Sisyphus himself wept in sympathy.

And then, one day, the dam broke, the seas parted and light and beauty spread once more over the Earth. For therein, within the chilled walls of a place called P.F. Chang’s, I didst get her to taste Chang’s spicy chicken. And thus was her love born.

(For the chicken, not me, you silly geese – this is an adventure tale, not a love story. The title is spicing up a friendship?)

Fast forward a decade and we arrive at my Monthly Cooking Challenge for August. Alas, the years have not treated Chang’s well. After a heartbreaking article a few years back about roaches in the local Chang’s, I have never been back.

But! Faced with confusion over what to make this month, I thought quite clearly and quickly of the delectable Chang’s spicy chicken and here, now, is that tale.

The basics

The recipe itself seems simple enough. I only needed a few things I did not already have. Some green onions. Corn starch(?). Pineapple juice.

The rest comes from my (by now) well-stocked kitchen. A trip to my beloved Penn Dutch takes care of the chicken breasts (along with lots of other stuff).

I combine two online recipes for my final work. I find this most helpful, especially, curiously, on Asian recipes (such as my Chinese ribs).

The sauce

Obviously, this is where the rubber hits the road. I mean, chicken is, well, chicken. But the “spicing up the friendship” sauce is the key to this meal.

One recipe calls for vegetable oil and another calls for sesame seed oil. I opt for the sesame seed because, c’mon, it’s just more oriental tasting.

And smelling. One side effect of this recipe is that my house (still) smells like a Chinese restaurant. Ugh.

Pretty easy, as sauces go, except for – more ugh – corn starch.

My dislike of working with flour should be well-known by now. Let me add corn starch to that group.

Meh. Anyhow, I make it through the sauce and let it simmer while I work the chicken.

The chicken

Cubing chicken breasts is easy enough. Now I only have to fry them up in the pan by…

…oh no! OH NO!! Flour!! What did I ever do to deserve this?

Meh. Anyhow, I make it through the “flouring” of the cubes and begin the frying.

Hey, have I ever told you I can’t fry things? Well, not truly accurate, but I can’t seem to fry things without it spattering everywhere. What the heck is the secret to that, anyway? I have to change into a crappy t-shirt before frying stuff. Not cool!

The finished product

Hmm, those chicken cubes are a little more done than the golden pieces from Chang’s. Not overcooked, mind you, just crispier.

But, you know what? I kind of like my version better. As for the sauce…spot on! I mean, nailed it!

Now to serve this over some rice and…oh, did I forget to mention that as I I’m beginning to prepare the whole megillah that I realize I have no rice? Because, I’m a master chef, obviously. Fortunately, my local Publix is a 2-minute walk away.

So, there it is, gentle readers, is the somewhat long tale of how spicing up a friendship leads right into my August Monthly Cooking Challenge.

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