Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Orange Chicken with Broccoli and Rice

Confession: I put things in the freezer and forget about them. By the time I remember they are there, they're usually expired. While I'm trying to do better about this, it still happens from time to time. So when I remembered the chicken breasts I had in the freezer, I determined to use them...all of them.

I was going to make Chicken Tikka Masala, one of my favorite dishes lately, but my hubby was having tummy trouble and didn't want anything spicy. And really, what's the point of eating Indian food if it's not gonna have a kick of heat, right? So, I had to come up with something else before the chicken went bad in the fridge instead of the freezer.

I got out my handy-dandy iPhone and opened up the Cook's Illustrated app. I can always find a yummy sounding recipe there. I went through hundreds of poultry recipes and found Orange-flavored Chicken. Sadly, it called for deep-frying the chicken. I DO NOT deep-fry. I have had trouble with kitchen/grease fires in the past (I used to take a medication that made it very hard to concentrate and you need to be able to stay on task when frying.) and think it's safer for everyone in my house and the surrounding area if I abstain from deep-frying. Luckily, at the bottom of the first page of the recipe, there was a link to an oven-baked version. Perfect! I can bake, easy-peasy.

The recipe proved to be pretty simple, but very involved. It took a good 90 minutes from start to finish and I was in motion most of that time. It turned out great. I didn't use the chiles or strips of peel, they're just for looks not flavor. I overcooked the broccoli, but everything else was perfect, at least in my opinion. Two of the kids didn't like it, but they hardly ever like Chinese food anyway, and Eric thought the chicken was a little too crispy. Imagine that, getting crispy coated chicken from the oven. Next time, I think I'll leave a little of the chicken and broccoli un-sauced for the picky eaters and maybe cook the chicken a minute or two less and then everyone will love it.

Feel free to add more or less veggies, as much as you like. I prefer at least as much veggies as meat in my Chinese food. You could also switch the broccoli for a mixture of veggies, maybe carrots, peas and baby corn, whatever you like in your stir-fry really. Depending on your tastes, you may want to increase the soy sauce to 1/3 of a cup if you like saltier food.  Enjoy!

Orange Chicken with Broccoli
slightly tweaked from Cook's Illustrated

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast cut in 1 1/2" pieces (original recipe called for thighs, but I didn't have them thawed)
3/4 c chicken broth
3/4 c orange juice
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
1 Tbsp garlic (about 3 cloves) minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 c brown sugar
6 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water
8 small whole dried red chiles          
8 strips of orange peel about 2" long

3 large egg whites
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c flour
1/2 c oil (original recipe called for peanut oil but I used regular veg oil)

1 1/2 lbs broccoli crowns
2 c white rice
1 Tbsp butter
3 c water (I used half chicken broth and half water)
1 tsp salt

Mix together broth through cayenne pepper. Place chicken in a gallon zipper bag and pour 3/4 c of mixture over it. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can and let marinate in fridge for 30-60 minutes.
Pour rest of marinade mixture into a small pot, add chiles and strips of peel and bring to boil. Mix cornstarch and water together and whisk into pot. Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Set aside.
While chicken marinates, cut up broccoli into bite-size pieces. Place in steamer basket in pot with 1" water.
Rinse rice in fine mesh strainer. In large sauce pot, heat butter over med-high heat. Once foaming stops, add rice and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Place a kitchen towel under lid and let sit another 10 minutes.
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Line sheet pan with heavy-duty foil and place in oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, drain the chicken in a fine mesh strainer. Pat dry with paper towels. Place egg white in a pie plate and beat until slightly bubbly. Mix flour and cornstarch together in second pie plate. Add chicken to egg whites and toss to coat. Drain in mesh strainer to remove excess. Coat with flour/cornstarch, shaking off excess. Put on plate.
Pour oil onto hot pan and put back in oven for 5 minutes or until smoking. Place chicken on pan in single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, turn over and bake another 10 minutes.
After putting chicken in the oven, heat pot with broccoli over high heat until water is boiling. Cover, turn down heat and steam for about 8 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
Once chicken is cooked, transfer to paper-towel lined plate to drain. Toss with broccoli and sauce in large bowl and serve over rice.

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