Orange Chicken is food of the gods! My friends and I used to go to Panda Express (or whatever other Americanated-Chinese resturant I go to) and get a 3 item combo. Fried rice and 3 servings of orange chicken. Orange Chicken is the reason I ever go to Panda Express. And so, from
This one comes from a fast-growing chain of take-out Chinese food restaurants, which, in February, celebrated its 300th store opening in Las Vegas, Nevada. As far as Chinese food goes, I think the stuff they throw together in the sizzling woks at this chain is surprisingly tasty. And many of you seem to think so too; I've received many a request for this dish. It's a twist on the traditional sweet and sour chicken so commonly found at Chinese restaurants over the years. However, this popular menu item has a delicious, citrus-laced, tangy-sweet sauce with a spicy nip the regulars find truly addictive. The chain claims to cook all of its food in woks, including the sauces. But this home-grown version will work fine -- whether you go for a wok, or not.

1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced water chestnuts
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 rounded teaspoon chopped green onion
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5 teaspoons corn starch
2 teaspoons arrowroot

4 chicken breast fillets
1 cup ice water
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsifted cake flour

2-4 cups vegetable oil

1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients -- except the corn starch and arrowroot -- in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir often while bringing mixture to a boil. When sauce reaches a boil, remove it from heat and allow it to cool a bit, uncovered.
2. Slice chicken breasts into bite-size chunks. Remove exactly 1 cup of the marinade from the pan and pour it over the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag or other container which allows the chicken to be completely covered with the marinade. Chicken should marinate for at least a couple hours. Cover remaining sauce and leave it to cool until the chicken is ready.
3. When chicken has marinated, preheat 2-inches of vegetable oil in a wok or skillet to 350 degrees.
4. Combine corn starch with arrowroot in a small bowl, then add 3 tablespoons of water. Stir until corn starch and arrowroot have dissolved. Pour this mixture into the sauce and set the pan over high heat. When sauce begins to bubble and thickens cover and remove from heat.
5. Beat together the ice water and egg in a medium bowl. Add baking soda and salt.
6. Add 3/4 cup of the flour and stir with a fork just until the flour in blended into the mixture. The batter should still be lumpy.
7. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of flour on top of the batter and mix with only one or two strokes. Most of this flour will still floating on top of the mixture. Put the remaining flour (1/2 cup) into a medium bowl.
8. Dip each piece of chicken first into the flour, then into the batter. Let some of the batter drip off and then slide the chicken into the oil. Fry up to 1/2 of the chicken pieces at a time for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip the chicken over halfway through the cooking time. Remove the chicken to a rack or paper towels to drain.
9. As the chicken cooks, reheat the sauce left covered on the stove. Stir occasionally.
10. When all of the chicken is done, pour it into a large bowl, and cover with the thickened sauce. Stir gently until all of the pieces are well coated.


Serves four.

Khoresh-e portaqal

Khoresh means stew in Farsi. Stew isn't a particularly evocative or exotic word, is it? It presents an image of hearty, dependable food; something served in the dead of winter when the nights are long and cold, and the days not much warmer. Stews are not inspiring in their colour and neither are they delicately fragranced. They rely on cheap cuts of meat and whatever vegetables are to hand. But when I hear the word khoresh I'm transported to the world of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, conjuring pictures of vast banquets held in domed palaces, marvellously spiced food served on jewelled platters, and entertainment provided by dancers veiled in vibrantly coloured gauzes. The irony is, of course, that to a Persian cook a khoresh is just a stew that uses the cheapest cut of meat available and vegetables and fruits that are in season. Still, for the few hours that I'm cooking this, I can drift over the Middle East on spiced orange thoughts.

I first came across this recipe in Evelyn Rose's Complete International Jewish Cook Book. Evelyn Rose was the daughter of Russian immigrant parents, and the grand dame of British Jewish cooking for fifty years until her death in 2003. I've always had the impression that she regarded Sephardi cooking with a slight sense of derision, as if it were utterly peculiar and loathsomely complicated, and she has to be one of the most prescriptive cookery writers I've read. Rather than just writing 'salt and pepper' on her ingredients list, she'll give you an exact measure of salt and tell you how many grinds of black pepper to include. This is entirely contrary to my exhortation that recipes are guides, not prescriptions, so this is my rather loose interpretation of her recipe. She claims that it was an adaptation of a medieval Persian recipe, so how far I've veered from authenticity is anybody's guess, but when I eat this, I really don't care.

A khoresh will traditionally be served with chello rice - basmati rice that has been cooked slowly and scented with saffron. I'll admit to not indulging in the long cooking process for the rice, but I do add the saffron. As khoresh is a dish that reheats well it is ideal for dinner parties or buffet meals when expecting lots of guests. The flavour's certain improve with maturation. That's if you can bear to wait!

Ingredients, for four


Heat a large flameproof casserole. In it, seal the chicken portions so that all externally visible meat is white. I do this over a slow flame, so that some of the fat can cook out. When the meat is sealed, remove it to a plate. Then add the onions and fry gently in the fat. If you prefer, you can drain off the chicken fat and fry the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil.

When the onions are a soft golden colour, which should take five minutes or so on a gentle flame, return the chicken to the pan and sprinkle over the paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Stir things about and allow the spices to cook through for two or three minutes. Then pour over the chicken stock and orange juice, cover, and allow the dish to simmer gently for around 30 minutes.

Whilst the chicken is cooking, take the segmented oranges and place in a small pan with the vinegar, sugar, and dissolved saffron. Set over a slow-medium flame and allow to bubble and reduce to a syrup. This will probably take twenty minutes. Remember to stir occasionally to prevent the sugars from sticking and burning. When the oranges have transformed into a luscious syrup, tip it over the chicken and stir. At this point, I'd leave the dish uncovered, increase the flame slightly and allow the sauce to reduce a little for the remaining cooking time, which would be ten minutes or so.

You can serve this immediately, sprinkled with pistachios and almonds, and with rice, or reheat later, when you're ready to savour its glorious combination of flavours.

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