Monday, August 7, 2017

Orange Chicken

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Sometimes literally all it takes is a suggestion to make you crave something, right?  Is anyone's hand up? One day recently we got back from the beach and my husband said something like "We could just grab some Chinese food or something."  Well it turned out that I had something else planned to cook for the evening, but boy, oh boy... that thought planted itself in my brain!  Before you know it, I was making myself a grocery list later that week of stuff to buy for Chinese Orange Chicken!  

Orange chicken has to meet certain requirements, right?  The chicken needs to be juicy and have that nice crunchy coating.  It needs that sticky, glossy, luscious sauce. It needs to be somewhat sweet, but not too much so.  There needs to be some pieces of orange peel in there, which counters the sweetness.  Face it, there's a lot going on when you order takeout from Panda Express or where ever your favorite neighborhood Chinese delivery place is.  And for me, there needs some veggies in there somewhere to balance everything out.  That said, after trying a few times with results I was less than satisfied with, I really think this one hits the mark for my family.  Maybe it will for your's, too!

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Ingredients: (serves 6 - 8, we have a large family) Ha!

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
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    • use boneless skinless thighs if you'd prefer
  • 1 (18oz) jar sweet orange marmalade 
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
    • use more if you'd like more of a kick
  • Juice of 1 orange (~ 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced fresh ginger root
  • 2 Tbsp chopped green onions 
    • + more for garnish (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • ~ 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/3 cup flour
    • can sub additional corn starch for gluten free
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/4 cup water to make slurry
  • Canola oil for shallow pan frying 
  • Black and white sesame seeds for garnish
Step-by-Step
I started by making my sauce.  *Tip* Let me also say that you could make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, or even make it in a larger quantity and freeze a portion of it.  This will definitely speed up your food prep time!

This marmalade is a great base because it's a mix of sweetness and bitter orange with the inclusion of the orange rind pieces.
1 (18 oz) jar sweet orange marmalade
Now we will cancel out some of the sweetness and add savoriness!
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
3/4 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
Before you juice your orange, zest it first.  We will use the zest later.

Add orange juice to the sauce, and then it's complete!   *At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the sauce if you need to.
Juice of one large orange (1/4 cup fresh oj)
Now set the sauce aside.  It's time to get everything else prepped. 
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper
3/4 cup corn starch
1/3 cup flour
*use 1/3 cup extra corn starch, omitting wheat flour to make this gluten free*

Notice I have already cut up my chicken into large chunks, making note to make them as equal as possible.   You don't want them in small pieces because they tend to overcook and become dried out.  

When ready to cook, first dip the chicken into the seasoned egg mixture.  

Next, add each "eggy" chicken piece into the corn starch mixture and coat thoroughly.  

Here we go!  Let's cook them up!  
Add some oil (I'm using sunflower oil today.  Use what you like.), allow it to get HOT.  You want to hear that chicken sizzle when you add it to the pan!  
light flavored cooking oil
Do leave some space in between the chicken.  You want them to sizzle.  You want them to SEAR. But if you don't leave space in between them, they will just steam.  Once you put them down, do not move them around.  Resist the urge to mess with them.  They will release naturally/easily when they are ready to be turned.
Add chicken pieces
Try to get all the sides a pretty brown color.  GBD!  Golden Brown & Delicious!   This will probably take multiple batches if you are doing all 3 pounds of chicken.  That's okay.  Just set the seared ones aside on a plate while the others are cooking.
After all the chicken is cooked, I wiped out my pan to make the sauce.  Here we go again with the hot pan, hot oil.
 We will "fry" up our aromatics.  Add in the fresh ginger.
1 Tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
Minced garlic.  Okay, I actually do have fresh garlic in the kitchen, but I have to admit, this stuff is SO convenient!  And none of the stickiness and time.  So maybe shame on me, but you know.  Feel free to use fresh garlic if you prefer.   Just be sure to not let it burn!
1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
Now to add a bit of heat, I'm going to "fry" some crushed red pepper flakes for a minute or so in this hot oil.  Feel free to add a bit more if you'd like.  I have some heat sensitive peeps in my family.
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
When everything is nice and fragrant, go ahead and carefully add in the orange sauce you made.
Stir to incorporate the seasonings.
Now add in the fresh red and yellow bell peppers.  We want to give them time to soften and cook.  I was going for tender crisp.  I didn't want them to be mushy when I served them.
1/2 yellow bell pepper + 1/2 red bell pepper
Bring sauce to a boil.
Once sauce is boiling, add in the seared chicken.
Now while our chicken is cooking in that sauce, let's make our cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.
1/4 cup water + 1 Tbsp corn starch
Add the slurry to the chicken and sauce.  You need to bring this back to a complete boil for the slurry to take effect.
corn starch slurry
Okay, so while that's happening, let's finish this.  Add the orange zest you made earlier.
zest of large orange
Add the chopped green onions.  Can you see the sauce thickening?
2 Tbsp chopped green onions 
Now plate all that loveliness up!  Serve over steamed jasmine rice.  Garnish with additional chopped green onions and sesame seeds.  Some additional Sriracha may be in order for those who enjoy a little extra spice!  Some steamed veggies make a great fresh compliment to this dish.
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I hope you enjoyed this recipe!
Here are some others I think you'll enjoy:

Zuppa Toscana - our knockoff recipe of the Olive Garden favorite.  SO yummy!
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Funky Monkey Morning Smoothies - need something fast before work and school?
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Ritzy Cheddar Baked Chicken - a fun, easy, weeknight recipe that's so family friendly.
menumusings.com

Honey Maple Granola - an easy to make, healthy snack that you'll be happy to pack in your kid's backpack.
menumusings.com

Creamy Italian Sausage and Tortellini - easy, one pot meal for fast weeknight meal that everyone loves!
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Click the link to order the Menu Musings Cookbook!
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Written Method
I started by making my sauce.  *Tip* Let me also say that you could make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, or even make it in a larger quantity and freeze a portion of it.  This will definitely speed up your food prep time!
Add marmalade through orange juice to make a sauce.  Before you juice your orange, zest it first.  We will use the zest later.   Now set the sauce aside.  It's time to get everything else prepped. 

Cut chicken into large chunks, making note to make them as equal as possible.   You don't want them in small pieces because they tend to overcook and become dried out.  

When ready to cook, first dip the chicken into the seasoned egg mixture (egg plus salt, white pepper).
Next, add each "eggy" chicken piece into the corn starch mixture and coat thoroughly.

Let's cook them up!  Add some oil, allow it to get HOT.  You want to hear that chicken sizzle when you add it to the pan!  Do leave some space in between the chicken.  You want them to sizzle.  You want them to SEAR. But if you don't leave space in between them, they will just steam.  Once you put them down, do not move them around.  Resist the urge to mess with them.  They will release naturally/easily when they are ready to be turned. Try to get all the sides a pretty brown color.  GBD!  Golden Brown & Delicious!   This will probably take multiple batches if you are doing all 3 pounds of chicken.  That's okay.  Just set the seared ones aside on a plate while the others are cooking.

After all the chicken is cooked, I wiped out my pan to make the sauce.  Here we go again with the hot pan, hot oil.  We will "fry" up our aromatics.  Add in the fresh ginger. Minced garlic.  Now to add a bit of heat, I'm going to "fry" some crushed red pepper flakes for a minute or so in this hot oil.  Feel free to add a bit more if you'd like.  When everything is nice and fragrant, go ahead and carefully add in the orange sauce you made.  Stir to incorporate the seasonings.

Now add in the fresh red and yellow bell peppers.  We want to give them time to soften and cook.  I was going for tender crisp.  I didn't want them to be mushy when I served them.   Bring sauce to a boil.

Once sauce is boiling, add in the seared chicken. Now while our chicken is cooking in that sauce, let's make our cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.  Add the slurry to the chicken and sauce.  You need to bring this back to a complete boil for the slurry to take effect.

Okay, so while that's happening, let's finish this.  Add the orange zest you made earlier. Add the chopped green onions.  Can you see the sauce thickening?  
Now plate all that loveliness up!  Serve over steamed jasmine rice.  Garnish with additional chopped green onions and sesame seeds.  Some additional Sriracha may be in order for those who enjoy a little extra spice!  Some steamed veggies make a great fresh compliment to this dish.  

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