I’m a huge fan of orange chicken, primarily because it bills itself as a Chinese restaurant staple, but it’s really not all that authentic to begin with, and was actually invented in Hawaii at a Panda Express, or at least that’s what the internet tells me and as I’ve heard before, you have to believe everything that’s on the internet. I love this dish so much that I even turned it into a delicious Orange Chicken Slider in my cookbook. Crazy or genius (or maybe even crazy genius)? You’ll have to get the book, make the sliders and decide for yourself. This time around, however, I had an idea the other day, while eating orange chicken, that I wish the chicken was bigger. Then I got to thinking about how some of us out there in the world, primarily me and Ina Garten, have a chicken dinner at least once a week. So that’s how this dish came about. It’s basically jumbo pieces of orange chicken, designed to be a complete dinner served with rice and sautéed broccolini. So if you’ve ever wanted giant pieces of orange chicken, your wish has come true. A delicious, crunchy, orangey wish.
Let’s start with the chicken. This isn’t your typical fried chicken breading. It’s not as heavy, but rather light, as light as fried chicken can be. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch and flour.
**Tip: This is a higher ratio of cornstarch mixed with a little bit of flour. This is what creates a crispy and crunchy chicken. Cornstarch really helps achieve a crispy outer layer when frying.**
Dip the boneless skinless chicken thighs into the egg and then into the cornstarch flour. Pat on both sides well to ensure even coating. Shake off excess and place on a baking sheet, in an even layer, while you coat the rest.
**Note: I’m using chicken thighs for this because I love chicken thighs and they have the best flavor. Much more than chicken breast. I’m also using boneless and skinless because it cooks a lot faster than bone-in. You can totally use boneless chicken breasts (cut in half) if you prefer white meat.**
Allow the chicken to sit for a few minutes to air dry a bit. This allows the coating to stick to the chicken, making for a crispier crust. Meanwhile, heat the oil to 375 degrees F.
Carefully cook about 2 to 3 pieces of chicken at a time, depending on how big your pot of oil is. Fry until the chicken is crispy and golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain with a slotted spoon and transfer to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet. Continue frying the remaining chicken in the same manner.
**Tip: Keep the chicken warm while you make the sauce, in a preheated 250 degree F oven.**
For the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the fresh orange juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce until smooth. Set aside.
In a large skillet, with high sides, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, scallions and red chiles. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring often, until fragrant.
Stir in the rice wine vinegar, the orange juice mixture, and the orange peels. Lowering the heat to medium-low, and bringing to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk into the sauce and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken to the thickened sauce, turning over to coat both sides. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes to ensure the sauce sticks to the chicken nicely.
You can transfer the chicken onto a large platter, spooning the sauce from the pan on top of the chicken and then sprinkling with scallions for garnish.
Because this chicken is designed to be a “full” chicken dinner. I like to serve this with steamed white rice and sautéed broccolini to complete this great-tasting meal.
**Tip: You can totally make this with brown rice and some salad greens or a different type of vegetable, sautéed or roasted, if you prefer.**
I don’t really have a recipe for this broccolini, it’s pretty simple. It’s the same broccolini for my cacio e pepe post. Basically you boil the broccolini quickly and then blanche them in cold water to shock them. Then sauté in some olive oil with fresh garlic, chili flakes, salt, pepper, and fresh lemon juice. It’s that simple.
I wrote this recipe as two chicken thighs per person for a serving size, because after you eat one you’re definitely going to want another. But really it all depends on how big your chicken thighs are, and how hungry you’re feeling. I’m always hungry, so two just seems right.
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup cornstarch
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- vegetable or canola oil for frying
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¾ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, from about 4 medium oranges
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 3 to 4 red Thai chiles
- ½ cup sliced green onion
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 4 to 6 (1-inch) orange peels (from the oranges before juicing)
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- cooked rice and sautéed broccolini for serving
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, salt, and pepper. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and flour. Dip each chicken thigh into the egg mixture and then into the cornstarch flour, patting on both sides to ensure an even coating. Shake off excess and place on a baking sheet. Continue dredging the rest.
- Fill a large pot about halfway up with vegetable or canola oil and set over medium-high heat. Bring the oil to 375 degrees F, using a deep-fry thermometer to monitor it. Once hot, carefully place in about 2 to 3 pieces of chicken at a time, depending on the size of your pot. You don't want to over-crowd the pot or else the oil's temperature will drop and the chicken won't cook properly. Fry until golden brown and crispy all around, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Continue frying the remaining chicken in the same manner.
- Keep the chicken warm in a preheated 250 degree F oven while you make the sauce.
- To make the sauce, in a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, and brown sugar. Set a large skillet, with high sides, over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon oil. Once hot, add in the ginger, garlic, and chiles. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the rice wine vinegar, the orange juice mixture and the orange peels. In a separate bowl, stir together the water and cornstarch until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch water into the orange sauce, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Place the chicken into the sauce, turning over to coat both sides evenly. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve two pieces of chicken per person with cooked white rice and sautéed broccolini. Enjoy!