Take Out Fake Out Orange Chicken

When ordering Chinese take-out, I feel like there are two schools of thought regarding that ridiculously long menu: 1. You have your regular favorite that you order every time, or 2. You’re either adventurous or completely indecisive and always order something different.  I’m of the first school…but would love to be more adventurous when ordering.  Take Orange Chicken, for example.  Our favorite Chinese place offers a dish called House Special Chicken that is described as, “Sliced chicken with mixed vegetable in orange flavor sauce,” but nothing named Orange Chicken so by this description, one could only assume this is what I’d be looking for.  But the orange “flavor” didn’t sound all that appealing to me – is it flavored with actual orange? Or with something like imitation orange extract?

So when I came across this recipe months ago, I was all over it like…white on rice. Ha!  The outstanding orange sauce is thick and sticky and it beautifully coats the chicken pieces, just as I hoped it would.  There is plenty of natural orange flavor that combines with just the right amount of heat from some cayenne pepper and while I don’t usually eat any rice when we order Chinese, I loved having it with this meal to soak up some of the sauce’s goodness. Kyle and I both flipped over it (and we almost fought over the leftovers) and I promise you that it will definitely satisfy any Chinese take-out craving you have. And what’s better than being able to make a restaurant meal at home?

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Orange Chicken
source: adapted from Annie’s Eats; originally from Cooking at Home with America’s Test Kitchen

For the marinade and sauce:
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1½ lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups each peanut and canola oil

To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well.  Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag.  Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well.  Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer.  Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat.  Bring to a simmer.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce.  Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.

To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy.  In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend.  Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels.  Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat.  Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F.  Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking.  Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces.  Serve over rice, if desired.

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  • December 30, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this as much as we do. I just thought of it the other day and was craving it, and now you’re pushing me further over the edge. Yum!

  • December 30, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    I saw this on Annie’s Eats and I’ve been meaning to make it. Now that I see it here, I HAVE to make it- soon! 🙂

  • December 30, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    I love orange chicken. This looks just like something from a restaurant. I am drooling and it’s only 7 am!

  • December 30, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    Oh my…I should make this before our new year’s diet starts. YUM!

  • December 30, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    I used to love the orange chicken at panda express. This looks so much better and better for you. Great recipe!

  • December 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    Looks great and just as easy and quick as calling for delivery. Cheers!

  • December 30, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    I love the title of this blog post – Take-Out Fake-Out – terrific. I adore orange chicken, but would much rather make it at home where I can control the ingredients. Often take out is so loaded with fat and sodium. Thanks for the recipe!

  • December 30, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    That just looks amazing! Thanks for sharing it. I bet it is much better than take-out!

  • December 30, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Oh my gosh, that looks delicious! I’m gonna have to try this one!

  • December 30, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    This looks AMAZING! I will definitely be trying it out soon…

  • December 30, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Beautiful job on this. I love orange chicken and it’s been too long since I’ve had some. I usually go for my favorites when ordering chinese…any experimentation usually starts with me asking my husband if he will eat if I don’t like it. 😉

  • December 30, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    This looks divine. My husband and I adore Orange Chicken. I buy one from Trader Joe’s but now I have a recipe to make from scratch. Thank you for sharing. Happy New Year and much happiness!

  • December 30, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    I like the Mandarin Orange chicken from Trader Joe’s, and this looks exactly like it. I might have to try making this. Have you tried adding pineapple chunks to this at all?

    • smellslikehome
      December 30, 2010 at 9:37 PM

      Jenna: No, I only made this once but I can’t imagine that pineapple would be a bad addition.

  • December 30, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    Orange chicken is one of my faves and this looks like a great recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  • December 31, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    This looks awesome, I’m making it tonight!!!

  • Chris
    January 2, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    Hey, I made this tonight and it was awesome. Thanks for the recipe! 🙂

  • Jake
    January 30, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    I finally got around the making this tonight. Great recipe, so delicious! Thank you for sharing. I had some broccoli on hand, so I lightly steamed it and tossed it in with the chicken and sauce (and green onions). It went perfectly and helped the dish feel a little healthier 🙂

  • February 3, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    I finally made this tonight, seriously my husband asked a couple times to make sure it wasn’t take out 🙂

  • Liz
    March 15, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Oh, my! This was incredible!! Thank you for sharing!

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