Many of my favorite dinner adventures start with a single ingredient. Sometimes it’s one that I know and cook with often (lemon, garlic, mozzarella cheese, balsamic vinegar), and sometimes it’s completely random and obscure. In fact, sometimes there is virtually no planning at all until I actually walk into Fairway with the intention of purchasing my single necessary ingredient. This past week, during a hectic afternoon, my meal began with a single text to Katie:
“If I can manage to get my hands on a blood orange, I may be able to keep us from ordering takeout tonight”
I was at work and perusing AOL news articles (on my lunch break…of course…) and a picture of said orange popped onto the screen for a brief and fleeting moment (one of those “there and then it’s gone” advertisements for who knows what). I knew right then, I had to cook with it. I’d never cooked with it. The orange was challenging me and I needed to be victorious. It…had…to…be…mine.
I honestly don’t have a clue as to when blood oranges are in season or how common it is to find them in stock. Fairway, despite its obscene crowd levels and inadequate aisle space, is a pretty decent choice for less-than-common food items. The store had a total of five varieties of orange, complete with descriptions, and I flung several of my selection into the shopping cart with giddiness. After shuffling around aimlessly for another 15 minutes or so, I was decently pleased with the contents of my basket, which may or may not have included individually wrapped chocolate crepes (my appetizer, for the 3-block walk home).
Blood Orange & Meyer Lemon Glazed Chicken with Brown Rice
-2 blood oranges
-2 Meyer lemons
-Approximately 1lb boneless chicken breast
-Seasoning: rosemary, thyme, maple/garlic rub (maple sugar, garlic powder, salt, pepper…or substitute a poultry seasoning), dash of paprika, sea salt
-Splash of Crema di Limoncello, if available
-1 cup brown rice
-Olive oil & butter
The ingredient list for this endeavor proved to be surprisingly short, so in order to showcase the flavors involved, I started by generously sprinkling the chicken breast with all seasonings and allowing it to sit for about 20 minutes as a dry marinade. A quick squeeze of one of your Meyer lemons doesn’t hurt either. Doing this allows all those tasty components to sink well into the meat before cooking. Start your rice cooker about halfway into the marinating (if you have one) or measure 1 cup brown rice to 2.25 cups water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then reduce to very low heat and cover. Set a timer for 40 minutes, and don’t open the lid until it’s done or it won’t cook evenly! Squeeze 1.5 blood oranges and 1.5 Meyer lemons into a bowl, set aside.
Next, add olive oil and butter to a large frying pan and place over medium heat. As soon as the combination begins to froth and sizzles when flicked with water, drop in your chicken. I’ve learned how much better my chicken cooks when I use an olive oil and butter combo versus one or the other. It baths in a pool of juices and the pan rarely dries out.
Allow the chicken to cook for several minutes and then flip the pieces over. Splash the pan with a bit of water and cover with a lid, steaming for about 30 seconds. Spoon pan juices over the meat as it cooks. Test to see if it’s done (don’t cut into it! If you do, you will let the internal pressure escape and half of the juices along with it) and remove to a plate, covering with a lid or tin foil. A trick I learned to test for meat’s “doneness” is to touch your index finger to your thumb, and then poke the meaty portion of your hand just under your thumb with your free index finger. This is how “rare” meat should feel. Replace your index finger with your middle finger for medium rare, and so on. Touch your pinky to your thumb, and you’re about to where cooked chicken should feel (or well done steak…which you should never make).
In the same pan, keep the heat on medium and immediately toss in the orange/lemon juice, using a rubber spatula to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook the juice down for at least 10 minutes, until it is well reduced and almost syrupy. About 2 minutes before it was done, I made a last minute decision to add a splash of the Crema di Limoncello that my friend had given me from Italy. I was hesitant to include a milk-based ingredient in a reduction sauce, for fear of curdling, but adding it closer to the end proved successful. The evaporating alcohol managed to cut the sweetness of the juice and provide an extra layer of flavor.
Next, uncover your chicken and pour any juices that have gathered into the sauce. Cook for another minute or so, and then place your chicken back into the pan. Toss to coat and cook for another minute or two, until the sauce is sticky and dark in color.
Serve with salted brown rice and slices of the remaining Meyer lemon and blood orange, and spoon all remaining pan sauce onto the plate. The glaze should be sweet, bold and burst with the tartness of that crimson juice. The rice provides a starchy platform with which to manage the intensity of the glaze, and the seasonings contribute to a hearty protein that holds it all together. My hands might be juice-stained, but my plate is scraped clean.
Sara: 1 Orange: 0