I have a cookbook called Classic 1000 Chinese recipes. It's a very workmanlike rendition of all of the recipes that the Chinese restaurants in Windsor Ontario offered in the early eighties. It's got a few exotic recipes as well (squid parcels, red-cooked lamb), but when I get the urge for kung pao chicken, or something similar, I pick it up, and it invariably delivers. I bought it at the Olson's book store on F street in 1992 (Yelp suggests it has since closed), and it has survived the several cookbook culls that have precipitated yet another change of venue.
Today I was looking at some leftover whole grain couscous, a couple of servings of leftover farfalle and a resealable container of canned pineapple that was starting to get a little long-in-the-fridge. I decided to make sweet and sour chicken, but a la famiile, which means cooking the sauce, vegetables and chicken separately. Further complicating matters, the OG has cheer and dance tonight, which means a 5:45 pickup at school, followed by a beeline to the studio; and the BG has tae kwan do from 5:15 to 6.
But no problem: you know who's in the house. I put a couple of boneless chicken thighs (which I had taken out of the freezer this morning, when I got the idea, and quick-thawed in a bowl of hot water) in the toaster oven at 350, and made the sweet and sour sauce. While the sauce was simmering, I put on a cup of white rice, chopped half a small Bermuda onion and the top and bottom parts of a green pepper. I cut up the chicken, and I'll stir fry the vegetables just before I leave to pick up the OG. This means that discriminating diners can choose any combination of chicken, sauce and vegetables, and serve it over rice, couscous or pasta. If my math is correct, that makes 9 possible combinations (or 10 if you're on the Atkins diet, 24 if you include carb only options). You ought to be able to find something to like on that menu, right? Right?
Sweet and Sour Sauce (adapted from Sweet and Sour Chicken Livers recipe)
Bring 1/4 cup of vegetable stock and 4 slices of pineapple, with juice to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend 2 tbs cornstarch, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water into a paste. Stir into the sauce and simmer until properly thickened.