Sometimes the secret ingredient that will perk up your next meal is right under your nose, or in the case of the orange, ever present and mostly overlooked. When I teach about marinades or dressings, part of the lesson is about what makes a good dressing/marinade. The goal is to strike a balance using acid, fat (as in oil), sugar, and salt. An orange satisfies 51 percent of the equation; it's both sweet and acidic. I give it an extra one percent for its pleasing flavor.
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When a recipe calls for OJ fresh-squeezed is the way to go. It's always worth the effort to take a few minutes and cut away the peel and membrane so that you end up with only the tender flesh - called Supremes. There's a tutorial on how to supreme an orange on the Pen & Fork blog.
Fresh Orange Vinaigrette is the simplest way to brighten your meal with something orange. Put a supremed orange into a blender with some oil and a little cider vinegar. Puree and season with salt and pepper. It's that simple, and it makes enough to dress a large green salad, or two pounds of grilled or steamed asparagus or broccoli or carrots...
Orange supremes plus avocados (and olive oil, salt and pepper) become a salad that marries culinary opposites in the best of ways. The avocado is rich and creamy while the orange is sweet and tart. The salad ingredients contain the same ratio of flavors that make a good dressing.
Last but not least, there's chicken. Nearly every non-vegetarian who cooks makes chicken, and most of those cooks complain that chicken tends to be boring. In less than thirty minutes an orange or two, some onion, garlic, and a bag of spinach become Spicy Fresh Squeezed Orange Chicken with Spinach. For me this is a summertime meal, but some buttered rice or orzo wouldn't be a bad addition.
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There are two secrets to getting the most out of this recipe. First use a large skillet; the larger the better. You need a lot of surface area to cook the chicken quickly. Second, slice the chicken as thinly as possible. In class I tell people to aim for 40 slices per breast - which is not realistic, but reinforces that concept that 1) slicing is a method of tenderizing, and 2) more slices means more surface area which means more square inches of spicy OJ per bite. The chicken in the picture was made in class; the chicken was sliced into thick slabs which have a tendency to be tough. You can do better!
An extra minute of knife work always gets you better food; whether it's orange supremes or thinly sliced chicken, or a combination of both.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.