Friday 27 February 2009

Two-meals-in-one-go: Roast Orange Chicken Breasts with an Apricot and Nut Stuffing, and Glazed Pork Fillet

My mom used to make a baked orange chicken dish like this when I was in my teens, and I had a nostalgic rush of blood to the tastebuds when I made it again. I've reworked the recipe and added stuffing to make it more interesting (and, besides, my husband likes a bit of stuffing).

This recipe uses a lot of chicken breasts, with the aim of having leftovers for lunch boxes the next day. It's a bit fiddly to prepare the stuffing - leave it out, if you're in a hurry.

Freshly squeezed orange juice is essential - please don't use anything else - and take care not to overcook the chicken breasts. They should be juicy and tender when they come out of the oven.

If you'd like a thicker sauce, reduce the sauce mixture by boiling it for a few minutes on the stove before you pour it around the chicken pieces. I prefer a thinner juice ( please don't make me say 'zhjooo' ['jus'] which has to be one of the most irritating words I have ever heard come from the lips of a waiter or a food critic).

There was plenty of lovely orangey, chickeny zhjooo juice left over, and I used this as a base for making Trish Deseine's lovely Glazed Pork Fillet. This clever recipe - which I saw Trish demonstrating on TV as I was cooking the chicken - poaches a whole pork fillet in a bath of fresh orange juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and ginger; as the sauce reduces, it coats the fillet in a dark sticky caramelised glaze. I managed to snaffle two meltingly tender slices before the family ploughed in, and then the bloody cat pinched the rest off the counter.

Roast Orange Chicken Breasts with an Apricot and Nut Stuffing

10 free-range chicken breasts, on the bone, and skin on (thighs would be good too)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

For the stuffing:
a little olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and very finely chopped
a fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
4 slices brown bread
4-5 fresh sage leaves
2 T (30 ml) fresh thyme leaves
a handful of nuts (about 1/2 cup; 125 ml) roughly chopped (I used pistachio nuts, but pecans or walnuts would be nice)
6 soft dried apricots, finely diced
one large egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the sauce:
the finely grated zest of one orange
300 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
5 T (75 ml) chicken stock or white wine
2 T (30 ml) honey
2 T (30 ml) good soy sauce (such as Kikkoman)
a small knob (about 2cm x 2cm) fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Loosen the skin on the top of the breasts by slipping your hand underneath the skin and easing it away from the flesh to make pockets.

To make the stuffing, heat a frying pan and add the the olive oil. Turn in the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat until softened and beginning to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and fry for another minute or so (but don't let the garlic brown). In the meantime, put the bread slices into the jug of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until fine. Now add the sage leaves and pulse until the leaves are finely chopped. Tip the breadcrumbs and sage into the cooked onion mixture and stir well. Remove the frying pan from the heat, allow to cool for five minutes, then add all the remaining stuffing ingredients. Use a fork or your fingers to combine.

Divide the mixture into ten portions.

Lift the skin away from the top of each breast, and spread a portion of stuffing into the pockets. Smooth the skin over the stuffing and press down well so that the stuffing is evenly distributed. Place the chicken breasts into an ovenproof dish or roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. (Go easy on the salt, as the soy sauce is salty enough on its own).

To make the sauce, whisk together all the ingredients. (You might need to warm the honey so it dissolves easily). Spoon a little of the sauce over each chicken breast, reserving the rest. Tuck a few sprigs of thyme between the chicken breasts, place in the oven and roast at 200°C for 25 minutes, or until the skin is beginning to crisp and become golden brown. Drain off any excess fat by tilting the dish over the sink.

Now pour the rest of the sauce around the chicken pieces and put the dish back in the oven. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 30-40 minutes, depending on the size and thickeness of the breasts, or until the chicken is cooked through but still tender. (Check by cutting through the thickest part of one breast; if there is not a trace of pinkness in the juices, the chicken is done.)

Serve with Basmati rice, and spoon a little orange sauce over each piece of chicken.

Serves 6, with plenty of leftovers for sandwiches.

Pork Fillet in an Orange Glaze

To make Trish Desaine's recipe, I strained the remaining juices from the roasting pan, to remove the fat that had hardened in the fridge overnight, and added a little more fresh orange juice, garlic and ginger, another 2 T (30 ml) honey, and a glug of fish sauce. I poached the pork fillet (a pork neck would be just as good) gently for the first 20 minutes, flipping it often, and then then turned up the heat to a fierce boil for the last ten or so minutes.

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