It’s been a while since we shared a take out fake-out favorite here on the site – so I thought it was high time! I’ve made this orange chicken several times now over the past couple years, and we always really enjoy it. I hate deep-frying anything. Not that I don’t love fried foods, but it makes a mess, isn’t figure friendly, and the smell lingers in the air for hours. But, once in a blue moon it’s a nice treat that we all look forward to.
At first I was leery of the cornstarch batter. But, I’ll tell you – it’s totally the secret of the Chinese restaurants. Browns and crisps up beautifully, and it stays crispy. Even after spending some time in the oven while I fried the rest of the chicken, and saucing – it was still nice and crunchy.
And the sauce? Fresh orange juice and zest, a little tang from rice wine vinegar, and a spicy kick from cayenne makes for a perfect combination. I actually like to use whole dried small red peppers, but I couldn’t find any – so cayenne works in a pinch (heh, in a pinch – no pun intended). I’m looking forward to trying the sauce in other applications as well. I think it would be a fabulous basting sauce for chicken or pork on the grill – which we’ve been firing up a lot lately.
So let’s give your delivery guy a rest, and make this Chinese favorite in your own kitchen tonight!
For the marinade and sauce:
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups vegetable oil
To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.
To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
To fry the chicken, heat the oil in 5-quart Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350 F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350 F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice, if desired.