Ruhlman's Spicy Orange Chicken

I'm a big Michael Ruhlman fan. His recipes just work. His Dutch oven bread is easy and delicious and his popover recipe is a staple in our house on the weekends. Not only are the recipes fantastic, he explains why they work, or don't. My Ruhlman Badass Perforated Spoon is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

A while back he published a recipe for Spicy Orange Chicken on his blog. I read it and it sounded so good I made it that night. Like all of the other recipes I tried, this one did not disappoint. 

I've made it several times since then and since we like it so much, I thought I'd share it with you.

There are quite a few ingredients in the sauce but that's what makes it so good, right?  Don't let the 10 ingredients scare you away, it really comes together pretty quickly.  The recipe is for one serving, but since I wasn't planning on sharing one serving with my husband I doubled the batch.

The sauce calls for the juice of an orange, soy sauce, lime juice (or rice wine vinegar), brown sugar, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, vegetable oil, minced garlic, grated ginger and chili flakes. You'll note in my picture below there is no ginger.  That's because when I pulled it out of the frig it looked, well, not so good. I sent my husband to the store while I started the rest of the prep.

You know how delicious the butter, onion and celery smell at Thanksgiving as you're starting to make stuffing?  I think simmering garlic, ginger and red chili flakes smells even better. Once these are softened the liquids are added.

While this is simmering until reduced by half, cook the chicken.

The trick to the chicken is a mixture of egg white and cornstarch. You can use flour but per Mr. Ruhlman the cornstarch gives it a better crunch. I've always used cornstarch so I can't tell you if the flour really is different, but I trust Mr. Ruhlman.

Put a little oil in a pan, get it really hot and drop the chicken in. After a few minutes you have beautifully browned chicken strips. That is if they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Which is what happened to me this time. I used one of my Calphalon pans instead of my trusty cast iron. Every other time I have made this I used my cast iron but it doesn't have very high sides and oil splatters all over so I decided to use a deeper sided pan this time.  I'll go back to my cast iron next time! I did still use my handy, dandy splatter shield.

Place the browned chicken on a paper towel lined plate. I totally forgot to take a picture of that. Chalk it up to having not done one of these in a while.

I did snag a picture of cleaning up the little browned bits of egg white and cornstarch that were in the pan, using my Badass spoon of course!

Before it all gets put together a few dried red chilis and more garlic are browned in the pan. Be sure you use dried red chilis.

If you don't, if you use fresh chilis, when you put them into the hot oil they will explode!  And I don't mean they'll pop open like cranberries in the fall when you're making sauce.  I mean they will EXPLODE!  It will sound like gunfire and your spouse will run into the kitchen wondering what the heck you are doing. You will find little bits of chili all over your kitchen and if one hits you on it's way across the kitchen, well that hurts!

End PSA.

Once the chilis are black and the garlic is soft, add the reduced sauce back in the pan, get it simmering then add the chicken and orange zest.

I served it over brown rice with a little roasted broccoli.  My husband and inhale this dish. The chicken has a crispy exterior but is juicy on the inside.  The sauce is hot but not too hot, a little sweet from the orange, thick and gooey over the chicken, just plain delicious.  We love the heat but if you're not a fan of hot, you could reduce the quantity of red pepper flakes and/or chilis and make it to your heat preference. It will still be delicious!

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