Almond chicken

Almond chicken detailSean and I have had trouble finding a go-to Chinese restaurant since we moved to the Atlanta area. He’s very particular about his almond chicken: he wants it to have thick gravy, and he also likes the chicken to be breaded and fried as a whole breast and then sliced afterward.

One of the restaurant managers I talked to said most restaurants here do a thin soy sauce because their customers are concerned about fat content. We have found one Chinese place near us that does the thick gravy, but they fry small pieces of chicken individually, and the quality of their food isn’t great overall.

I finally decided I would try to create the dish at home and see if I could satisfy my picky husband. Since in terms of cooking I’m a relative n00b, I searched around online awhile for tips. The first recipe I found that involved thick gravy was actually from a vegan blog: Crispy Fried Almond “Chicken” with Gravy (Soo Guy). Using that blog entry as a reference, here’s how I made dinner.

First, I started a cup of white rice in my rice cooker. The thing takes forever to cook rice, but always with delicious results.

Next I started cooking two frozen chicken breasts on my George Foreman grill, 13 minutes on each side. I decided against trying to fry the chicken, especially since I didn’t have time to thaw it, and I knew the chicken would come out nice and tender on my grill.

Then I toasted the almonds. I had a bag of snack pack almonds, so I just used one of those packs. I hammered the pack with a meat tenderizer until the almonds were broken up, then seared them in my wok-like pan. Unfortunately I let them toast for too long, so I had to be careful to pick out unburned almonds when I was finished.

Next I made chicken broth. I boiled some leftover chicken for 3 minutes, then scooped the chicken out of the water and added the soy sauce and butter. (I actually messed up the first time by putting in way too much soy sauce; I started over with the amount listed on the vegan blog and it worked great.)

Making chicken broth   Adding soy sauce and butter

In a larger saucepan I combined cornstarch and water, then slowly added the broth/soy mixture over medium heat, continually stirring until the gravy formed.

Cornstarch   Adding soy sauce mixture

Thickening sauceNext was simply plating: I put down a foundation of white rice, cut up the grilled chicken and laid it across, drizzled the whole thing with gravy, and then sprinkled roasted almonds on top.

It turned out that I hadn’t made quite enough chicken, but Sean loved the gravy. He loved the entire meal. Apparently frying isn’t necessary; he just likes the nice tender chicken combined with the thick sauce. When he was done with his plate he went back for the leftover rice and as much gravy as he could put on it.

Cooking for me is always such an iffy prospect, especially when it’s something new. I’m really glad this turned out well. It is always so satisfying to score a win in the kitchen.

I think next time I’ll cook more meat, and I’ll also make a side of steamed or stir-fried vegetables.

Almond Chicken

Witches’ Fingers

I slightly modified this recipe, using tips from the comments and my own decorating flair. Here’s what I did:


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Green food coloring
3/4 cup whole almonds
1 (.75 ounce) tube red decorating gel


1. Beat the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer; gradually add the flour, baking powder, and salt, continually beating. Fold in the green food coloring, adding enough that the dough turns pale green. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

2. While the dough is chilling, blanch almonds: Heat a pan of water to boiling, then boil the almonds for one minute. Drain. Once the almonds have cooled enough to touch, squeeze them out of their skins.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease baking sheets.

4. Remove dough from refrigerator in small amounts, allowing the rest to stay chilled. Pinch off enough dough for a ball an inch to an inch and a half wide. Roll the dough between your hands to form a finger shape. The spaces between your fingers will cause ridges to appear on the cookie. Lay the cookie on the baking sheet and mold it slightly to play up the look of a finger–slightly wider and taller at the knuckles.

5. Press one almond into one end of each cookie for the fingernail. Adjust the “knuckles” so that they are proportional with the nail. Use a sharp knife to cut tiny lines on top of the knuckles to give the appearance of skin.

6. Bake in the preheated oven until the cookies are browned slightly, 20 to 25 minutes.

7. Paint around the almond “nail” with red gel while the cookies are still warm for a bloody effect. Then dab the “blood” with your finger, smearing it around and trailing it down the length of the cookie.