June 26, 1994 around 11pm, I called my best friend Julie to see how she was doing after giving birth to her first child, Shellie. Much to my surprise, she answered the phone sounding chipper and wide awake and told us to come meet the new Wee one. So, I called our other friend Nadine, swung by and picked her up, and drove through the remnants of a rain storm to the hospital to meet my "niece."
"No, her nose is fine! She does look a wee bit like a turtle though."
"Well she's very cute!"
Julie and I took Shellie on her first Restaurant Outing when she was ten days old. We went to the Backyard Burgers (which isn't even open in Charlotte anymore). Shellie hung out in her little Baby Car Seat Thingy, and we ate burgers, chili cheese fries and cobbler while Random Patrons oohed and ahed over the new wee bairn.
Other best friend Lizzie and I were there to see Shellie's toes hit the sand on the beach at Oak Island, NC for the first time. I think she was 6 weeks old. If you're Julie's kid, you best be Ready to enjoy the beach.
The Beloved met Shellie right before she turned one. I brought new-to-all-my-friends Beloved to a Memorial Day Party at Julie and Scott's. He sat next to Shellie who was in one of those chairs-you-clip-onto-a-table outside. I'm pretty sure friend Jeff got her to rub ketchup in her hair. Don't worry; Jeff has since Paid for that Transgression. (Everyone liked The Beloved, by the way).
I've always been "Jen" or "Auntie Jen," and I've watched Shellie grow up from a cute turtle to a beautiful young woman. Yesterday at brunch, she looked at me as we enjoyed the All You Can Eat Smorgasbord at one of the dining halls at NC State, and she said, "I can't believe this is my first day at college. I can't believe I'm here!"
Neither can I.
Shellie did not get to enjoy dinner with us on Saturday night, because she was spending her first night on campus. She went to a sorority ice cream social and then to Some Sort of Party. (It's probably best that we don't know). The rest of the family, including her younger brother James William (it might be Just James by now to friends at school, but he'll always be James William to me) were here though. And JW eats Very Few Items. He doesn't like cheese. I can't even understand this Thing, but apparently it is true. So, pizza was out. So was Mac&Cheese. And grilled cheese. And quesadillas. And lasagna. And Most Other Tasty Things.
So, I was Pondering and Pondering what I could feed the child, when I saw friend Jenny's post on facebook about crispy honey chicken. Hooray! The recipe she used was for a copy cat of PF Chang's Crispy Honey Chicken, so I used that as my inspiration. I had a big vat of General Tso's sauce* in the fridge. I use it as a quick stir fry sauce every once in awhile, and so I figured I could use that as the base of my own sauce and just add some Items to it. Hence the Faux.
The kid (and all of us, actually) ate it up. Devoured it, actually. It is safe to say that we all were Fans of the Faux. If you ever have to cook for a cheeseless kid, try something like this. I think you'll be glad you did. And thanks, Jenny, for helping me figure out what to feed JW and the whole gang!
- 8 oz AP flour
- 5 oz corn starch
- several grinds of white pepper (or a heavy pinch of ground)
- ¼ t baking powder
- ¼ t baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 12 oz water (or club soda if you have it for crispier end product)
- 2 pounds boneless chicken (I used organic breasts), cut into 1-1½" pieces
- 2 T soy sauce
- 2 T corn starch
- a few grinds of white pepper (or a heavy pinch of ground)
- heavy pinch of kosher salt
- 1¼ cups General Tso's sauce
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 T honey
- 1 T soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- several grinds of white pepper (or a heavy pinch of ground)
- Enough Peanut oil to fill a large, heavy pot by about 3"
- 2 T peanut oil
- 1 sweet yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into strips
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded, cut into strips
- 1 medium onion, halved and then cut either into rings or into long slivers
- Whisk all ingredients together until just combined. A few lumps are no problem.
- Cover and refrigerate while you are preparing the rest of the meal.
- Put the chicken in a large bowl.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients until the chicken is evenly coated.
- If you are cooking within an hour, leave the chicken at room temperature. Otherwise, refrigerate.
- Whisk all ingredients together. Set aside.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350F-360F.
- While the oil is heating, dip the marinated chicken pieces into the batter. Set them on a rack set over a cookie sheet to catch the batter that drips off.
- Place another rack on several layers of paper towel. This is where you'll put the chicken when it is done frying.
- Fry 10-15 pieces of chicken at a time, adjusting the heat to maintain as consistent a temperature as you can.
- Fry the chicken until it is a lovely crispy golden brown.
- Remove to the waiting rack to drain.
- Continue to dip and fry the chicken until you have cooked it all.
- Heat a large wok or saute pan over medium-high to high heat.
- Add the 2 T peanut oil.
- When the oil shimmers, stir fry the onions and peppers for about 2 minutes.
- Add all the cooked chicken and stir to reheat.
- Pour the sauce evenly over the chicken and carefully toss to coat the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
- Serve over your favorite rice.
This dish turned out a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet and a lot savory. Really nicely balanced. To bring out a bit more of the savory side, add a splash of fish sauce to the sauce.
And to all of you who have sent a child out on their next step: to day care, to kindergarten, to middle school, to high school, to college, to work, to marriage, to parenthood---I salute you all. And to those of you who have a child who won't eat cheese, feed them this.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment; I'd love to hear from you. Have a lovely day.
*PS That link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you decide to buy some General Tso's sauce (and that brand is very good), I'll get a few cents from the sale which I'll put towards keeping the lights on here and feeding the kittens. Thanks!