Spicy! Szechuan Orange Chicken with Red Chilies
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a strong love for spicy, Asian food. And while I love nothing more than picking up the phone, hitting speed dial to our local China Spring restaurant, if I did this as often as I craved Chinese food, I’d have to have a second job to foot the bill!
Last night I set out to make a chicken stir-fry, of some sorts, and to try and cook those now frozen crab rangoons that I crafted and wrangled with the previous night. No, tonight I’d win, gosh darn-it!
I had all of the veggies all ready to prep. Then it dawned on me! How hard would it really be to make a spicy orange chicken?
Stir-fry’s…while I do love them, sometimes they can be rather flat tasting when homemade. Okay, perchance it got late in the day and I did not want to get into finding some stellar recipe for a chicken stir fry that did not taste like every homemade stir fry, I’ve ever made. Bland. Flat. Uninteresting.
Maybe it’s because we don’t add MSG? Maybe it’s because I’m nothing close to Asian, but am in fact certifiably, 100% Celtic blood. Born and raised on bland o’ food! How can I possibly make something close to my local Asian take-out? I’m still just an Irish gal, after all!
I was determined to make orange chicken instead, Spicy, Szechuan goodness! In truth, not as healthy as stir fry…especially with said crab rangoons added. Yeah, it’s pretty much a diet disaster really! That being said, this recipe could very easily translate into a healthy version by simply omitting the flour and frying part of it and by simply stir-frying. ; )
I decided to look for a few good recipes, as I so often do, to find the perfect combination of ingredients that I (thankfully) had on hand to make a good, spicy, Szechuan chicken for dinner. My three key ingredients I knew I had were boneless chicken thighs, oranges and fresh broccoli. I was good to go!
First in order… Timing is everything and is usually one of the most difficult things for any new chef to master. I like to make my dinners as easy and seamless as possible and I like to have everything come out together at once. It took years to figure that out.
By the by…
I also am a fan of keeping my kitchen clean as I go. There is generally time in between things to wash a pan or two. It’s much nicer to have your work space clean and organized.
Don’t get me going on folks who make a HUGE mess as they cook! Who wants that at the end of a thoughtfully prepared dinner? Not me!
Here’s your timing thing~
Get the rice into the steamer and get it going! Okay, there is 40 minutes at the very least. If you’re cooking on the stove, you got to watch it to be sure it does not boil over or burn. Again, my reason for owning my rice cooker (*see note below).
Next, get the boneless chicken thighs out so they are not super cold. It’s okay as long as your not leaving them out for hours in a warm room. They are going to have to get hot anyway while cooking. Help them out a little. Unless you have a second cutting board, wait to cut the chicken until you’ve prepared your veggies. You don’t want cross contamination.
Chop broccoli and red peppers. Broccoli into sizable chunks and red peppers, diced. Okay, Good!
Now, to make the orange sauce. It’s easy!
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
With your orange sauce ready to go, it’s time to delve into cutting your chicken.
- 1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (keep these separate from the flour blend, till you’re ready to cook)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Pour 1 1/2 cups water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes.
- Take chicken thigh cubes and place in zip-lock bag with flour, s & p and shake till chicken is well coated. It might be wise to do this in smaller batches, with about 1/4 of your cubed chicken, so as not to muck up the flour with chicken bits!
- Heat 1.5″ vegetable oil in fry pan on medium heat. Not too hot!!
- Shake off chicken cubes and place in oil. Cook approx. 4 minutes and flip over. Make sure they are nice and brown.
- Place cooked on toweling to absorb oil.
- Start next batch of chicken. Do not rush and hence overcrowd pan, or you’ll end up with soggy, oily chicken.
Note: Carefully discard your oil from cooking your chicken. This should be done in a separate container (please don’t wash it down the sink or you’ll surely regret it later!)
Wipe or clean out the skillet, and add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cool water (no lumps please); stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with fresh lightly steamed broccoli and some brown or jasmine rice.
Note: Oh, how I wish I had a deep fryer sometimes, even though I’d consider myself health conscientious! But I just cannot bring myself to getting one, for fear of frying everything from Snickers bars to cheeseburgers! So I refrain (for now) in buying one of those evol kitchen products. Ha!!
However: As mentioned before, one of the BEST kitchen products we own is our rice/ veggie steamer from Black and Decker. We’re on our 2nd one because we use it so much, we killed the first one! It’s an invaluable piece of equipment to own. Rice comes out perfectly every time and potatoes and veggies~ Divine. Microwaving is so bad for you and your lovely little veggies. Truly it is!
Here is a good article on the dangers of microwaving! F.Y.I. Our friends tried this and they got the same results.