Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Takeout In!

I don't always want to cook dinner. Neither do you. That's why someone brilliant came up with the idea of takeout. You get the freshness of a just-prepared meal without either cooking or actually having to spend a whole meal at a restaurant. In fact, since you only have to run out of your car to pick it up, you can save even more valuable energy by only expending enough energy avoid breaking indecent exposure statutes.
Of course, if you opt to stay in, you can wear whatever you want. Not that I'm advocating cooking while inappropriately clad, mind you. I always recommend at least an apron, a stack of clean dishtowels, a few potholders and pants.
Now that you know how to dress for the task, perhaps you will want to cook up some faux takeout. Using a variation on a sichuan sauce I made recently, I was able to make a variation of a Chinese-American orange chicken dish that takes less time than ordering in does. Since the chicken isn't deep fried before being plunged into the sauce, it's also quite a bit healthier than the usual take-out fare, though equally as tasty. Cutting the chicken into bite-sized pieces before cooking it allows you to bring the whole meal together, including prep time and cooking up some rice, in less than 20 minutes. If you skip the rice and serve this on a tortilla or a salad, you can reduce the time to less than 10 minutes. And if Rachel Ray is reading this, I would be more than happy to come on your show and demonstrate this to your viewers.

Orange Sichuan Chicken Takeout
1 recipe Orange Sichuan Sauce (below)
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 red bell pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 cups mixed broccoli and cauliflower florets
2 cups cooked long-grain rice

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Chop bell pepper, removing seeds, into thin strips.
Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add chicken and bell pepper and cook for two minutes. Stir, turning chicken, and cook for 1 more minute. Add sauce to skillet along with vegetables and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until broccoli is crisp-tender and chicken is completely cooked. Serve over rice.
Makes 4 servings.

Orange Sichuan Sauce
6 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly. Sauce can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for about 1 week.