Sometimes I get requests for dishes I have never eaten. This particular dish was another request from my dear friend Nathalie. Born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, MI, she raves about Detroit Style Almond Chicken. A Christmas Eve tradition, the Detroit area Chinese Restaurants whip up this specialty dish for Christians in the area. Nathalie has been trying to get our two friends, who also hail from the Detroit area and happen to own a Chinese food restaurant, to fess up the coveted recipe for Detroit Style Almond Chicken. As the story goes there is a man from the “old country” (China) who gave the secret recipe to the owners of the local Chinese Restaurants. He completes weekly rounds collecting a fee for this mystery recipe. If ever leaked, they could face a penalty… or death. Sounds like a Detroit Almond Chicken mafia to me and I am not sure I believe it! Unfortunately, she has not won the battle for the recipe to be leaked, nor would she like to see our good friends (Willis and Jimbo) be penalized so one Friday night we decided it was “game on” for Almond Chicken. Nathalie and I did our homework and relied on her eyes and tastes buds to re-create the famous Detroit Almond Chicken dish and then test it against our Chinese Restaurant owning friends.
**Update- one week after making this dish, our friends couldn’t be out “chickened” by Nathalie and I. On a trip home from Detroit they toted back a cooler full of Detroit’s famous Almond Chicken. So what were the differences? Minimal actually! I was pleasantly surprised with my ability to re-create having never tasted the dish. Their version included diced water chestnuts and red bell pepper in the mushroom gravy, no sherry on the chicken and allowing the batter and mushroom sauce to sit overnight to develop more flavor. I might be biased, but I preferred the slight sherry taste in mine! **