Orange-Sesame Chicken (Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free)Tilth : Creating Fertile Ground for Good Health : tilthforhealth.com
I love getting blog comments. Everyone does, right? I especially love when someone reports that a post has really resonated with her (usually her) or that she has used one of my recipes to make something she thought she had lost. It’s such a thrill to know that my words and work make someone else’s life more understandable, more meaningful, or more pleasurable. So I was very pleased, last week, when I got a response to my Like-PF Chang’s Orange Peel Chicken recipe (gluten-free, etc., natch), where Kerr said (in part):
THANK YOU!! My half Korean husband was ecstatic. He even broke out into song once…. =) After 4 years of cooking for our multiple allergen and celiac daughter, we were enraptured to eat something that tasted like it was straight out of our favorite, and sadly avoided, Asian restaurant! Hats off to you!
Then she went on to say: Now… off to see if you have a sesame orange chicken recipe…
That, dear readers, is a challenge to me. It’s a bit like a dare. Growing up, I would never turn down dares. I quit taking on all dares without question after my friend Amy dared me to drink 10 shots of vodka in a row when we were in college. (I did. I got very sick. She cried. Thank you, Robbie and Jill, for taking care of me that night, and thank you, Amy, for cleaning up after me the next day.) But I still love a good worthwhile challenge, so after I got Kerr’s comment, I started pulling up orange chicken and orange sesame chicken recipes to see how difficult it would be to make them gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and soy-free.
I could have started with my PF Chang’s recipe as a base, and indeed, some of the recipes I found are fairly similar to that; they offer just a thin coating of cornstarch to the chicken. But I had a feeling what Kerr had in mind is the kind of Americanized Chinese food that many of us grow up eating—where each small bite of chicken is buried in a veritable pile of crispy breading with gooey sauce. (Good trick to save money on chicken, too.) That was what I wanted to create. Egg helps flour cling, but clearly that was out. I decided to do a batter to dip the chicken in. On some of the recipes I read, readers complained that the dish didn’t taste orange-y enough, so I decided to use orange juice instead of water or milk in the batter recipe. And I wanted the batter to come out crispy but not heavy, so I decided to add a touch of baking soda to the batter, as well. (Many batter recipes call for a bit of baking powder, but the acidity of the OJ may have left a chemical taste from the baking powder if I did that.) I considered double-frying the chicken (fry, rest to cool, fry again) to ensure maximum crispiness from it, but I decided that the recipe is time- and labor-intensive enough as it is.
I often think that entrepreneurs would be successful opening restaurants that would exclusively serve gluten-free/allergen-free favorites from a variety of cultures. If I opened a restaurant like that, this recipe would have to be on the menu.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, I think it’d be fabulous made with tofu, as well. I likely would have tried if that way if I could eat soy still.
Orange Sesame Chicken
To make this recipe peanut- and sesame-free, fry in coconut oil and omit sesame seeds and sesame oil.
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chicken stock or veggie stock
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons gluten-free rice vinegar (unsweetened)
2 tablespoons Coconut Aminos (like soy sauce, but soy-free! If unavailable, sub in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt mixed with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon molasses)
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved (by fork-whisking) in 2 tablespoons hot water
2/3 cup cornmeal or superfine brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons orange juice
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh
5 cups of peanut oil for frying
In a small, dry pan over low heat, toast sesame seeds, tossing every minute, until they begin to turn light brown. Remove from pan, and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients except for the peanut oil, garlic, and cornstarch/water slurry. In a small pot, heat the peanut oil on medium and saute minced garlic until fragrant, about one minute. Add the combined sauce ingredients. Simmer until liquid is reduced by about 2/3–about 15 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch slurry. Let the sauce simmer until it thickens a bit. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep sauce warm on lowest stove setting.
While the sauce is simmering, chop the chicken into 1-2” cubes.
Heat up the frying oil in a pot over medium-high. (You want to use a small enough pot that you have several inches of depth to your oil and a large enough pot that the oil is several inches from overflowing.
In a mixing bowl, combine the dry batter ingredients, and whisk together. Stir in the orange juice. Drop the chicken pieces into the batter, and stir them in.
Side note: Deep-frying is a particular process that can be dangerous if not done carefully. For frying like this, you want the oil very hot but not smoking. Smoking oil means you’ve reached a fire hazard. To test your oil, drop a tiny piece of batter into the oil and see if it bubbles madly and rises to the top of the pan. If so, your oil is ready. If you put your chicken in too early, too much of the oil will absorb into the breading, creating a goopy mess. If your oil it begins to smoke before you add chicken to the pot, turn the heat to low for a couple of minutes to cool it; then reheat to frying temperature.
Using your fingers or metal tongs, pull out individual pieces of battered chicken and place them in the oil. (Do not drop the pieces from high up, or you risk splashing yourself with burning oil.) Do not crowd the pieces of chicken; cook it in several batches. Use a metal spatula to scrape off any chicken that sticks to the bottom of the pot. If the pieces of chicken stick together, do your best to separate them with your spatula or tongs, but don’t obsess; the chicken will still cook unless it’s in enormous clumps. Cook chicken about four minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Remove chicken with tongs or a slotted spoon. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
Toss the chicken with the orange sesame sauce, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top, and serve over long-grain brown rice with steamed vegetables alongside.
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