Monday, April 10, 2017

Blood Orange Chicken

As we've already established, northern Baltimore County isn't exactly the best place for Chinese food. Area restaurants are pretty mediocre, so when we have a craving for kung pao and aren't prepared to drive across town (or to another county), we make it at home.

The cookbooks of Fuchsia Dunlop are a real inspiration and we can't recommend them enough. Not only are the recipes great, particularly in Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, but the backstory for every recipe is fascinating. After reading all of her books, we sort of have an idea of what Chinese ingredients to keep on hand at all times. Two of those are Chinkiang black vinegar and doubanjian, which I employed in this tangy and sweet orange sauce for chicken. You could use it on pork or beef as well.

If you like your sauce a bit sweeter, use more brown sugar. If you like it hotter, use more doubanjiang. You can, of course, use plain rice vinegar in place of the Chinkiang, but you'll be missing out on the lovely caramelized flavor that black vinegar provides. The same for the doubanjian--sriracha will work, but it doesn't have the same mellow heat. It's also more acid-y than the broad bean paste, so you may want to cut back on the lemon juice or vinegar. A good rule of thumb to use when cooking: taste everything at every stage.

Blood Orange Sauce
This makes enough sauce for 3-4 boneless, skinless thighs or 2 boneless breasts. You can also use it as a glaze for chicken wings. In that case, omit the cornstarch and, depending on the number of wings you make, you may wish to also double the recipe. (Minxeats baked wings recipe here.)

2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Vegetable oil
Juice of half a lemon
Zest and juice of 1 blood orange (can use regular orange)
3 teaspoons black vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon spicy broad bean paste (doubanjiang)
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Saute the shallots and onion in a few teaspoons of oil and a pinch of salt until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Cook chicken to your liking - baked, poached, stir-fried, etc. If they're not already in one, put chicken pieces in a saute pan. Pour over the orange sauce and bring to a boil. If sauce needs thickening, make a slurry with a few teaspoons of cornstarch and twice as much water in a small bowl. Drizzle some of the slurry into the sauce and stir. If not thick enough, add more. Toss the chicken pieces in the sauce to completely coat them, regulating the heat so the sauce doesn't boil away in the process.

Serve with rice and a green veg like sugar snap peas, snow peas, or broccoli.

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