It's amazing how they take over the house: the laundry room is always filled to the hilt; the dining room becomes a computer centre and my hairdryer moves to another bathroom. But the best takeover ever, is when they take over the kitchen!
Let me tell you about my son, Alex. He is well on his way to becoming a chemical engineer. He has been an engineer since he was very young - crafting forts, coffeemakers, waterways and everything imaginable out of odd objects around the house. "He comes by it honestly!" Grandmother Harris would say in her Southern drawl. You see, her son, my husband and Alex's daddio, is an engineer himself.
More recently, Alex has taken an interest in cooking and has even brewed his own beer! The other day, he came downstairs in chef's pants, yes, chef's pants (gifted to him by his lovely girlfriend), and expressed a craving for Orange Chicken.
I had developed a healthy version of Orange Chicken in which the chicken is the main ingredient and not the greasy, heavy batter that hides it (which is the standard prefabricated fare served in many Chinese restaurants). My chicken consists of fresh orange rind and juice and chicken breast pieces that have no batter at all. What Alex was interested in was a version with a light batter and a thick, spicy orangey sauce. After a short time on the web we found a recipe that had potential and developed it to our liking.
I happily became his minion as he led the way. We fiddled with the proportions of ginger, garlic, sugar and orange. What resulted is an amazing dish with a serious orange punch. Spicy, less sweet, and tender chicken, with a very light brushing of flour. You won't miss the extra fat or carbs!
Alex's Orange Chicken
Adapted from Allrecipes' Asian Orange Chicken
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly grated or thinly sliced dried orange rind (we prefer the fresh rind)
1 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
1/4 cup lemon juice, preferably freshly squeezed
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar (seasoned is ok)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
vegetable or olive oil, as needed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
4 tablespoons chopped green onions
Place 3/4 cup water, orange peel, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger root, garlic and red pepper flakes in a pot and heat for about 5 minutes until the sugar melts and the mixture is barely warm. Cool for 5 minutes.
Place chicken in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of orange mixture and stir to coat the chicken pieces. Set aside to marinate for at least 20 minutes.
Place flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and combine. Drain the chicken pieces and add the marinating liquid to the rest of the sauce in the pot. Preheat the oven to 300F.
On high heat, heat a small amount (about 1 - 2 tablespoons) of oil to cover the bottom of a wok or saucepan. Take about 12 pieces of chicken and lightly coat them in the flour. Using tongs, quickly saute them until browned, turning once. They should not be completely cooked. Remove from wok or saucepan and place in an ovenproof dish. Continue sauteing the rest of the chicken, adding oil sparingly to the pan. Cover the chicken tightly with foil or a lid and place it in the preheated oven to continue cooking while you make the sauce.
Pour the orange juice mixture in the wok or saucepan and, bring the orange juice mixture to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl until well blended. Pour into orange mixture and cook until thickened. Add green onions. Remove chicken from the oven and pour the sauce over the chicken. Serve with steamed vegetables and rice.