Weeknight Cooking: Orange Szechwan Chicken

I have a weakness: Orange Chicken from any Chinese restaurant. I don’t know what my problem is, but I see it on the menu and I must have it. It’s delicious and makes me happy. The downside to most orange chicken dishes is that they’re breaded, deep fried and have more sodium than Scrooge McDuck has money. So, for the past year, I have been on a search for orange chicken dishes that I can make at home and won’t eventually kill me.

If that wasn’t hard enough, it turns out our distinguished web admin does not like orange chicken. That’s unfortunate since I do all the cooking in our house so he has to eat whatever I make, like it or not. I try to do my best in finding a good compromise, but I’ve ended up serving him a variety of orange chicken dishes that he didn’t like. He prefers other, more savory dishes.

Last night, I cooked up the perfect compromise and, dare I say, we are now on a b0x0r r0xing alert. Consider yourselves warned.

The orange in this dish is not too strong, giving it just the hint of citrus that I was looking for. This was balanced nicely by a savory soy/sherry mixture that did not compete with the citrus. I originally found this recipe on Recipezaar about a year ago, and it sat in a pile that I recently went through. This is my version.

Orange Szechwan Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
4 green onions, diced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced and peeled
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup jasmine rice

According to the recipezaar nutrition chart, this makes 4 servings. Each serving has 4.2 grams of fat, 159 calories, 32mg of cholesterol and 582mg of sodium. If you want to bring the sodium down even more, use low-sodium soy sauce and omit the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and still get tasty results. I think the serving size is wrong. Last night I served this on top of jasmine rice and did not serve it with sides. As a stand alone dish, it was 2 – 3 servings.

Now for the directions. As it is with all of my stir-fry dishes, get your rice going first. Follow the package directions.

In a medium bowl, mix chicken, soy sauce, sherry, green onions, red pepper flakes and ginger.

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch, sugar, salt and orange juice. Cover and refrigerate.

Put the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Let the oil heat up for a few minutes before you put your chicken in there. If you aren’t sure whether or not it’s hot enough, carefully place a piece of chicken on the pan. If it sizzles right away, you know it’s ready. If not, then wait until the piece starts to sizzle. Add the chicken mixture to the pan and stir fry until the chicken is browned on all sides and is tender, about 4 – 5 minutes. Once it started to cook, the soy/sherry aroma wafted up and made my stomach grumble.

Whisk the orange juice mixture. I say whisk because getting cornstarch to break up and dissolve in liquid can be difficult with a fork. If you’re having trouble, whisk it. Add it to the chicken and cook until mixture is slightly thickened and coats the chicken, about 3 – 4 minutes. The faint citrus scent made my mouth water – I couldn’t wait to dish this up and try it.

This was delicious and light, and I couldn’t stop eating it. Even after I was full, I had to keep eating. The orange flavor was just a tease in my mouth, and went well with the soy and ginger. This is going in my dinner rotation and will be made until everyone is sick to death of it… and probably still after that.

If you like your chicken extra “orangy” then add 1 teaspoon of orange zest to the chicken and soy mixture before adding it to the frying pan. Overall this took me about 20 minutes to make, and that includes prep time. Not too shabby! Serve this over hot rice and dig in!

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