Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Asian Orange Chicken and Organized Freezers

So back when I was settling into the whole stay-at-home-mom gig and I was keeping myself super busy playing Super Homemaker I was really good about keeping a soup file.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it a time or two on the blog.  Just about any time I cooked something that lent itself to freezing I would triple or quadruple the batch and freeze the extra.  After cooling I would divide the extra between freezer bags, freeze them flat, and then store them vertically- it's absolutely amazing how much food you can fit into a freezer when you handle your freezer space that way.  It makes both menu planning and last minute good meals amazingly easy when you're a quick defrost away from dinner.  I'd been handling leftovers like this for quite awhile when I read a magazine article with Jamie Lee Curtis coining the phrase "soup file" and I thought it was pretty great so I stole it for myself.  :-)

Anyway, it wasn't long before I was branching out and freezing all kinds of things this way.  Southwestern and Cheeseburger Eggrolls at the ready for a quick trip in the oven made my family very happy.  Remember the Chicken Broccoli Braid?  I would make up a big batch of the filling to save all of that prep and cooking time- then I just needed to defrost and wrap in store-bought crescent roll dough and dinner was ready.  Chicken Pot Pie?  I'd make an extra-large batch of filling and freeze it in freezer bags.  Then I'd make extra pie crust, shape it in disks wrapped in wax paper and then freeze them in freezer bags to make quick work of a meal later.  However my family was especially pleased when I figured out a way to freeze big batches of Asian Orange Chicken.

First of all, this is a dish that everyone loves.
Really, everyone.  It's one of those magic dishes that even picky eaters love and it's so loaded with flavor.  It's not even difficult to make!  One batch of sauce serves as both marinade for the chicken and sauce for the finished dish- you just remove a little of the sauce to marinade the chicken in and reserve the rest to thicken up with cornstarch at the end.  And oh that sauce...orange juice and zest, a little soy sauce, green onion, garlic, ginger...YUM.

The best part is that I always keep ice cubes of frozen OJ as well as sliced green onions in freezer bags ready to use for cooking so I generally have everything the recipe calls for on hand already.

The only problem is I can't stand frying.  
I almost never fry anything when I cook.  I kind of wish I had one of those home fryers on hand for the rare occasion when I need to fry something- :-) but I'm pretty sure my husband would just go nuts with something like that around.  
"Fried twinkies for breakfast anyone?  Fried corn dogs for dinner?  Fried Oreos for dessert?  Hey, do you think you could fry peanut butter if you froze it first?"
Kind of sure that's what life would sound like if my husband had constant access to a deep fryer.  So that's probably an appliance I'll be purchasing any time soon.

Back to my dislike of frying.  I kind of avoid it at all costs.  I could  just buy popcorn chicken from the freezer section and coat it with this sauce- and to be honest, if you want a time saver you can could do this too- but the marinade in that chicken is so amazing.  It makes a huge difference in this dish.  So, of course I skip the shortcut with this recipe and fry my own chicken.  I just tend to do it in VERY large batches.

That's right, I soup filed Asian Orange Chicken.

I make a quadruple batch or so, freeze the fried chicken flat on a baking sheet and transfer to freezer bags.  I split up all of the thickened sauce in smaller Ziploc bags, freeze them flat just like I do with my soups, and put them with the chicken inside of the larger freezer bags.  That way, any time my family is craving Asian Orange Chicken all I have to do is reheat the chicken, defrost the sauce, and toss them together.

Genius, right?
Ok, maybe genius is an overstatement, but it certainly comes in handy when you're feeding a family and shows that the soup file is for much more than just soup!

I usually serve this over white rice with some sliced green onion to garnish.  Throw in some egg rolls and you have a tasty Asian meal everyone will love!

1 2/3 C orange juice
1/4 C lemon juice
1/3 C rice vinegar
2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
Zest of one orange
1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp chopped green onion
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
6 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp cornstarch

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Enough oil to fill skillet to 1/2" depth

1. Pour 1 1/2 orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into bag. Reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the bag, and refrigerate overnight or for 8 hours.  (You can skimp and marinate for less time but I wouldn't recommend marinating for less than 4 hours)

3. In another resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat to 265° F.  Place chicken into the skillet, and cook through. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels, and cover with aluminum foil.

5. Wipe out the skillet, and add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and water; stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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