We had a food function at work to say goodbye to a colleague. Someone brought a salad made of oranges, fennel, and green onions. Someone said it was a Sicilian Orange Salad. Whatever it was, it was tasty. And simple to make. In my version to try it out I used a can of mandarin oranges instead of fresh oranges. I made a citrus salad a few years ago and it did not keep well. Let’s see about this one.
Salads, like soup, do not require exact quantities. It is often about what is on hand and what the preferred taste is.
1 15-ounce can mandarin orange, drained, and rinsed if in a syrup
1/2 large fennel bulb, chopped
green onions, chopped into one inch pieces
splash of orange juice
hefty sprinkling of dried oregano
The tops of my green onions were somewhat wilt-y so I have a bit more of the white part than I had planned. Because I used canned oranges instead of fresh, I splashed in a bit of OJ and I think I poured on a bit too much olive oil.
I added a bit of the fennel fronds for interest. I liked it. Haven’t served it to Hubby yet. I’ve been able to take it in my lunch for several days.
This is a recipe from Eating Well Magazine Spring 2004. I was browsing through the magazines for interesting recipes. I have chicken and I have orange juice, so that is close enough. The manner of making the orange sauce is something different that just thickening juice with cornstarch. And of course just a few of the ingredients change. Actually the amount of the liquids were changed. I just thought 4 cups of liquid would make too much sauce.
8 chicken thighs, skin removed
cooking spray to coat the pan and to spray on the chicken
salt and pepper to season the chicken
Place chicken thighs in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled. Spray the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile make the sauce.
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Put the sugar and the vinegar in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Do not stir, but swirl the pan from time to time until the sugar melts and turns a nice deep amber color. This should take 6-8 minutes. Add the broth and juice and bring to a boil. The caramel will harden but do not worry about that. It does soften as the cooking continues. This should be cooked 30-35 minutes until it is reduced and lightly coats a spoon. It smells wonderful at this point.
After the chicken has cooked its initial 35 minutes, pour the sauce on top. Turn the pieces so they are nicely coated. This is a thin coat. Bake 10-15 more minutes. I baked them until Hubby came home so that was just over 15 minutes.
I served this with a tri-color quinoa and green beans. I am trying to have us sit at the kitchen table to eat our dinner. This is to prevent our backsides from becoming one with the sofa too early in the evening! We are binge watching the Inspector Lewis series from Masterpiece Theater from a few years back. Love that Sergeant Hathaway!
This looked so fabulous and fancy in the magazine. And it uses candied oranges which is reminiscent of the candied orange peels my mother used to make. I made those a while back and you can read about that adventure here. The ingredients are simple enough. The time consuming part is poaching the orange slices in simple syrup to take away some of the bitterness. I have a lot of hopes while making this. And doubts.
I spent one evening preparing the orange slices. Scrub 4 navel oranges and then slice thin, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Place these in a wide skillet or pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer one minute. If left too long the slices will start to break a little. Drain and set aside momentarily. Bring 3 cups water and 3 cups sugar to a boil in that pan and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Then return orange slices to the pan. Slices must be put gently in the sugar water or they will break apart. Let this gently simmer for 2 1/2 hours, occasionally spooning the syrup over the oranges. Let cool in pan. At this point I stored these in the refrigerator covering the pan with its lid.
Two days later I am ready to make the cake. This is a sponge cake. I have only ever been successful at making a sponge cake once in my life! But I go for it anyway. Only afterward did it occur to me that I could have just made a butter cake which I have very much more success with.
First, arrange the orange slices in a greased 9-inch round pan. I also added parchment paper to be sure it turned out of the pan okay. Additionally, the recipe said to drain the slices on paper towels and pat dry. Well…I forgot to do this. But I proceed.
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, warmed in hot tap water for five minutes
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (about one orange’ worth)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on low until blended and then on high 8-10 minutes until pale and thick and leaves a ribbon trail when the beater is lifted. I used the whisk attachment for this; not sure if that was the right thing to do. Where is Mom when you need her? I know she is up in heaven looking down and laughing at me! Merry Celestial Christmas Mom and Dad!
Then whisk in the orange zest and vanilla. Sift half the flour/salt mixture onto the batter and carefully fold this in. Repeat with the remaining flour. Then fold in the melted butter. So far, so good. Scrape this into the prepared pan and spread to edges to cover all the orange slices. Now bake this for 25-30 minutes until springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out of the center clean. My cake took 33 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake and let cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto cake plate.
First thing to notice is that they syrup from the orange slices has been absorbed into the cake. The second thing is after a few minutes on the cake plate the middle sank. Just a little bit, but still. Hmm? What is this about?
So now I am contemplating what to do. I could make a new cake and remove all these lovely orange slices and bake them upside down with a butter cake. I could spend 2 1/2 hours poaching more orange slices and make this again with a butter cake recipe. Or I could hope that there will be more than one dessert for Christmas Eve. And that this actually will be just fine, even though I cannot test it first. It is to be served with a chocolate orange sauce which might cover all ills. What to do?
Not content to leave well enough alone I decide to make a back-up cake! This one will have fresh orange slices in the manner of pineapple upside down cake. And will be a plain butter cake from my standard Betty Crocker Cookbook. I peel these oranges before slicing them. Melt 1/4 cup butter in the cake pan and sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar on the butter and then arrange orange slices. Make a batter for a single layer cake, 9-inches. Bake 45 minutes.
I take both for the Christmas Eve feast. The pretty cake is pretty and smells quite orange-y. It is impossible to slice effectively. And there is virtually no cake under the center for at least a 3-inch diameter. The candied orange slices are sickly sweet, almost inedibly so. The cake that is there at the edges is okay, but this did not serve as a slice of cake. And was not worthy of the chocolate orange sauce I made to go with. An epic fail!
The back up cake was ugly. Especially ugly when displayed next to the first cake. The cake was nice, a moist ordinary butter cake. Orange slices because of their fibers do not make a good cake fruit. One should stick to apples, pineapple, pears, and the like.
Luckily a family member had made a nice apple pie and there were plenty of Christmas cookies for dessert…and bourbon…and wine. Did I mention there was bourbon? And everyone was full from the wonderful prime rib dinner.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! Happy Winter holidays to others! Hanukkah is past. Kwanzaa has just begun. And may we all have a blessed New Year in 2018!
So now I am making Orange Chicken with Carrots and Chickpeas from that same 1991 Woman’s Day magazine. The food editor, this time, left out the carrots from the ingredient list! And since the liquids make this dish quite soup-y I am cutting down on the amount of chicken broth.
3 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons oil
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the chicken, both sides. Cook in hot skillet with the oil for 6-8 minutes.
1 cup canned chickpeas; I used the leftovers from when I skillet-roasted a can of these with Middle Eastern spices. (great on top of salads!)
1 cup shredded carrots; these are from one of those packages from the produce department; it’s all I had in the house.
1 cup frozen peas; my addition; I plan to add more vegetables to everything we eat.
The liquids and seasonings:
1 cup chicken broth; this is a decrease from the 3 1/4 cups called for.
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and minced roughly
salt and pepper; a dash of each
When the chicken have cooked for those few minutes add the vegetables to the skillet along with the liquid and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
The finishing touches:
3/4 cup orange juice whisked with 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (original recipe called for one cup)
1/2 can of mandarin oranges; again this is my addition
Remove chicken and vegetables from pan. Add the orange juice to the pan and bring to boiling. This will thicken into a sauce. I added the chicken and vegetables back to the pan along with the mandarin oranges. And kept this warm until Hubby came home from work. (I’ve been home from work for at least an hour; he has a longer commute.)
This will serve as many people as chicken breasts used.
“When the occasion calls for a light, sweet dessert, this delicious orange sponge cake is a perfect choice. Stiffly beaten eggs–first the whites, then the yolks–are the secret of its light, airy texture.”
Thus begins the intro to “the best-ever orange sponge cake” according to the McCall’s Cooking School in its 1984 recipe cards series. I have several of these cards (pages) because they came in the mail as promotional material with the hope that one would subscribe and receive a packet of recipes monthly eventually becoming an entire cookbook. Well, I just saved the pages that I got for free!
I decided to make the cake. I do not do well making sponge or chiffon cakes. I like butter cakes and do pretty good with them. In my past efforts to make sponge cakes they turn out like hockey pucks and inedible. Perhaps my baking skills have improved. I am counting on it as I begin this bake. I figure that a sponge has no butter and actually has less sugar than my usual butter cakes so that is a good thing.
In baking I may change up flavorings but generally follow the instructions exactly. Baking is a science, flavoring is the art.
6 egg whites, brought to room temperature
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, sift before measuring
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
6 tablespoons fresh orange juice (silly me, I only measured out 3!)
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
In large bowl of electric mixer beat the egg whites until foamy then gradually beat in 1/2 cup of the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Sift the sifted flour with the salt onto a plate or sheet of waxed paper; set aside.
In another bowl beat the egg yolks until very thick and lemon-colored, no less than 3 minutes. Do not underbeat. Gradually beat in remaining 1 cup of sugar and continue beating until smooth. At low speed alternately blend flour mixture and orange juice into the egg yolk mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Add orange peel.
Now gently fold yolk mixture into egg whites. I never know if I have adequately folded this together. I did not want to deflate the egg whites but did not want the batter to be unblended.
Prepare the pan. The instructions are to use an ungreased 9 3/4 by 4 inch kugelhopf pan. Or a tube pan without removable bottom. So I use a bundt pan. If desired, one can spray the pan with cooking spray but after baking do not invert over bottle to let cool. Just put it on a rack to cool completely and then remove from pan by running a spatula around the edge of the cake.
Dust with powdered sugar, cut and serve. Success is mine! It is light and airy and has a light orange taste. Hubby says “moist, orangey”, at first he said “lemony” so perhaps the other 3 tablespoons of orange juice is needed. But he likes it, and so do I.
You will never want to make this recipe unless it has some sentimental meaning for you. It is very labor intensive for a small amount of product. I remember my mom making this. I never watched her make it completely. Well, maybe at the very end when they get rolled in sugar, but not the process or the preparation. Well, also the part of removing the pith from our saved orange peels. I do not know which recipe she used. There are two or three possibilities in the notebooks of self-typed recipes and clippings from magazines and newspapers. I made these once before in my adult life but I don’t even remember which recipe I used. For some reason it occurred to make some this year so I set out to save orange peels. I looked up recipes and not many of them scrape the pith from the peel. That is the part I remember the most. I’m confused. But I carry on…
He knows to only use the orange skin and remove the pith. But he does it with a vegetable peeler. I never thought of that! This is an excellent thing to remember. I may be able to make candied orange peel every Christmas season. Yay!
Shall we proceed?
Several oranges were consumed over the course of a few weeks. I dutifully scraped the white pith from the peels. I find a spoon is the best tool as a paring knife will cut through the peel instead of just scraping and of course it will also cut the finger tips if not careful.
I admit that I froze the peels after scraping the pith. That way they would not go moldy in the fridge waiting for me to get around to using them! This may be why the final product is not bright orange in color.
I slice these peels up, put them in a pot, and cover them with cold water. Once this comes to a boil, I will drain the pot, put in fresh cold water, bring to boil, and repeat this process so that there are three times the peels are boiled in fresh water. This process is to take the bitterness out of the peel but retain the essential oil.
After the third time drain the peels and put aside. Now we make a simple syrup with sugar and water. Use two parts water to one part sugar. I will use 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water. Bring this to a boil and simmer for 8-9 minutes. It won’t look syrupy but should have a constant boil. Then put in your orange peels. Swirl the pan so that all the peels are covered. Cook these for 45 minutes. I probably did not do this exactly right as mine don’t look syrupy here at the end of 45 minutes .
Drain your candied peels on waxed paper (I use parchment paper). Sprinkle with sugar while still sticky. Let dry.
I am not happy with the result.
They do not stiffen up like I remember. How to fix? I am thinking of cooking them in a syrup a little longer.
This looks much better.
I continue to sprinkle with sugar until they look right. When very wet they absorb the sugar.
This is a sweet-tart confection. You can do a variety of things with it but we just ate it like candy. Just a taste of childhood for the Christmas season.