Friday, July 13, 2007

Orange chicken at home

It's time for the WC Platinum Challenge Round 3. The ingredients this week: wine, honey, peanut butter, onions, seafood. Dish #1, Orange Chicken incorporates wine and honey. This recipe started innocently enough. I loved the citrus chicken I made last weekend, and thought I would make orange chicken. Everyone makes lemon chicken, but I thought orange chicken would be an interesting twist. Kinda like Duck a l'orange, but with chicken. And the more I thought of it, the more I kept thinking of Panda Express.

Growing up, we didn't have Chinese fast food like Pick Up Sticks or Panda Express. In my small Pennsylvania town we had one Chinese food restaurant and it was pretty "authentic" as anyone who has ever experienced both will tell you, there is a world of difference between authentic Chinese food and American Chinese Food (kinda like that "Chop Suey" number from Flower Drum Song). Combine that with the fact that my parents are New Yorkers who made their own Chinese food at home. There was almost always a duck hanging in the basement, much to the bemusement of the family dogs. My dad certainly knew his way around a wok and his peanut noodles were a family favorite.

My first experience with Chinese fast food didn't come until college when the line for Panda Express used to wrap around the Ackerman Student Union. I got in line thinking "who knows food better than college students." And of course they were right. Their orange chicken was unlike anything I'd ever eaten. I don't know if I'd classify it in the same category as Peking duck, but it was definitely tasty.

How to create this at home? Orange juice, honey, soy sauce, and sake (rice counts....I swear it counts). I made this using chicken breast because when I originally thought of it, I thought it would be more like lemon chicken. Next time I make it, I would definitely use this sauce on chunks of chicken and serve it with rice. What was so great about it was that no one flavor overpowered the other. Jon was worried the orange juice would make it too sweet, especially with the honey, but the saltiness of the soy sauce and the bite of the sake cut through the sweetness.

And know the best part of it? 1 order of Orange Chicken has 500 calories, 27 grams of fat and 810 milligrams of sodium. But because mine isn't fried, a serving has 167 calories, 6.3 grams of fat, and 580 milligrams of sodium. MUCH better.

Orange Chicken at home
2 chicken breasts
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sake
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey

1) Combine chicken, zest, salt, pepper, and garlic and refrigerate for 30 min.
2) Preheat oven to 400
3) Combine juice, sake, soy sauce, and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce is reduced to 2/3 cup.
4) Heat Tbsp canola oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts and saute 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and drizzle with 3 Tbsp of sauce. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve with orange sauce.

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