Spicy Orange Chicken

Another game night. Another adventure. Tonights entertainment: Settlers of Catan.

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Settlers of Catan is a crazy popular and fun strategy board game of territory and resources. You build roads and settlements, which eventually become cities, all the while collecting resources to spend on expansion or development cards that gain you Victory Points. The first to 10 points wins the game (which I epically failed to do tonight). It’s a great game. Family friendly and good for ages 10+. You should check it out, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This game night was again held at my friend Sara and Darren’s place. If you read the last game night entry, you’ll remember that it was bit of an adventure cooking at their place.  Tonight, a different adventure awaits us as we cook Spicy Orange Chicken (p. 119)! The exclamation mark is deserved. This was very, very good.

Not the best ingredients picture, I know. Orange zest, marinated chicken, cornstarch slurry, chili garlic sauce. Not pictured: scallions, tomato

Not the best ingredients picture, I know. I was having an off day. Orange zest, marinated chicken, cornstarch slurry, chili garlic sauce. Not pictured: scallions, tomato

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As for the adventure… well… I sort of, um… forgot my wok. Ugh. But all was not lost! I had remembered the rice maker! Eh. Not that helpful.

Fortunately, our hosts had a large skillet that, although far from perfect, was serviceable for our current situation.

Sear, baby, sear!

So this recipe calls for a brief marinade of the chicken in a mixture of ginger, rice wine, soy, sugar, and some pepper (including Sichuan peppercorn). You could really taste the marinade in the final dish. The first step is briefly stir-frying some ginger and then carefully add the chicken, allowing it to achieve a nice sear. In with the zest and bean sauce (chili sauce) and stir-fry another minute. Add tomatoes and combine. In with the slurry and finally finish with scallions.

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Even with the absence of the wok, we all thought this turned out really well. We accompanied it with rice and roasted brussel sprouts, which were excellent.

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And there you have it. Spicy Orange Chicken! The flavor was very nice and the ginger and chicken really come through. I would definitely try this again.

Mmm, mmm, good.

What I Would Do Differently

  • Hmm, nope. Can’t think of anything. I definitely didn’t forget anything important. No, no, nothing at all.
  • On a serious note, I would definitely try this with the chili bean sauce next time around to see how that might add to the already bold flavors of this dish.

Next on the Menu: Stir-Fried Curried Beef

Kung Pao Chicken

I made this dish for the inaugural evening of what I hope will become a monthly or bimonthly game night. Tonight’s menu: Carcassonne.

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And also Kung Pao Chicken (p. 113)! The evening started off with the intention of a quick stir-fry dinner so we could get to the gaming as soon as possible. Given the common wisdom about good intentions, you’ve probably guessed that the cooking didn’t go 100% according to plan.

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Subtle foreshadowing…

First was the rice. I brought a new bag of white rice that nobody was familiar with. The idea was to get the rice cooked first and then proceed with the stir-fry. My hosts were also planning to prepare sauteed chard from their garden to go along with it. Needless to say, the new rice provided a sticking point. Wrong rice-to-water ratios and a failure to wash the rice ahead of time resulted in a botched first go. Wet and gummy. No bueno.

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The ingredients.

This wasn’t the only do-over of the evening. Cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen can sometimes be an adventure. Sometimes that adventure involves pepper-spraying your hosts. With the best of intentions, of course.

This particular recipe calls for dried red peppers and crushed szechuan peppercorns. When it came time to begin the stir-fry, I heated the wok on the burner as per usual. Upon adding the peanut oil there was a great deal of smoke. I moved forward anyway, adding the pepper and szechuan peppercorn to the smoking oil. This created a great plume of peppery smoke within the kitchen, choking all those within, including myself. It was basically pepper spray.

I immediately removed this from the burner and into the sink. The peppers were charred black after just 5+ seconds in the wok. The heat potential of this stove was clearly far greater than what I had gotten used to at home.

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When a problem comes along, you must wok it.

The lesson here: If your oil smokes, your wok is too hot. Apparently this is possible.

And so, with irritated eyes and heavy hearts, we began again. This time with much better results.

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Before the chiles in too long, you must wok it.

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Now wok it.

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Into shape.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Kung Pao Chicken. I think it’s the peanuts. And also that I’ve only ever had it from heavily Americanized Chinese take-out restaurants. This recipe was different. The peanuts seemed much more subtle, adding just a bit of texture without overpowering everything. The flavor balance of the dish itself was great. We all really enjoyed it. And the chard was an excellent side. I’d go into more detail on that, but I drank too much wine and frankly forget what they did. I think some garlic was involved.

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Shape it up. Get straight.

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Go forward. Move ahead.

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Now do a taste test. It’s not too late.

I will absolutely be trying this again. This recipe has won me over to Kung Pao Chicken… as long as I’m the one making it.

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To wok it. Wok it good!

What I Would Do Differently

  • Try not to burn the hell out of everything.
  • More spice. I couldn’t make it to the asian market, so I substituted chile de arbol for the dried peppers. Most of the chiles sold in market here are of the Southwest or Mexican varieties. I’m not sure these carried the same amount of spicy kick. Next time I make this I’ll be sure to get the real deal so I can achieve the level of heat I crave. Or just double down on the recommended dosage.

Next on the Menu: Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum