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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Skillet Chicken a 15-minute marvel

Thursday, July 15, 1999

Cathy Eddings' recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken was one of the easiest Countdown recipes we've made. An appetizing and filling entrée, it was ready in under15 minutes, although we let it simmer on low heat an extra 10 to blend and mellow the flavors.

We're old hands at preparing this dish the traditional way, making the sauce from scratch, using fresh vegetables and slow baking it in the oven.

So we were skeptical whether the same piquant flavor could come from two cans and a jar in a skillet.

It can, and no one was more surprised than we were. Maybe it wasn't quite as good but, considering the time and energy saved, the difference was minimal.

When you have to get dinner on the table pronto, that counts for a lot.

Eddings, a waitress for 14 years at Monte Cello's restaurant in Ross, got the recipe from a Del Monte green bean can so long ago she can't remember. It's been a favorite ever since.

"I make it often, adapting the recipe depending on who's eating with me," the Penn Hills resident said.

"Sometimes I use more green beans and less pineapple. When I make it for my family, I add extra red pepper flakes because they like it hot."

Her family includes husband Norman, married son Jeffrey, and daughter Jennifer, who lives in Pitcairn and plans to be married next year. She already makes the dish regularly.

While this recipe serves four, it can be scaled down for one person or doubled to feed a crowd. Eddings relies on its simplicity -- all that's needed is a fork -- for buffets and dinner parties.

She recommends serving it over hassle-free boil-in-bag rice, made while the chicken is cooking.

The dish is versatile, so don't be afraid to experiment. If you have fresh mushrooms in the fridge, toss a sliced handful into the mix. Ditto with cooked carrots, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts. -- Tested by Nancy Anderson

Sweet & Sour Chicken

1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 boneless chicken breast halves, cut in pieces
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes -- or more if you like it really hot
1 16-ounce can green beans, drained
3/4 cup sweet & sour sauce

Drain pineapple, reserving 1/4 cup juice.

Heat oil and add chicken cut in pieces. Cook over medium heat until no longer pink (about 6 to 8 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Stir in pineapple juice and red pepper flakes. Add green beans, pineapple and sweet and sour sauce (she uses LaChoy jarred sauce). Cook until well heated through. Serve over rice.

Do you have an entrée, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

Thursday, July 15, 1999

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