In which it is a new year…

I want so desperately to be one of those people that always has their shit together. You know the clothes matching, makeup wearing, work done-ing, house cleaning, thank you note writing, daily running, birthday remembering, regular haircut getting, money saving, upbeat, energetic type that has everything going on. Instead I am a person that after commenting here on this little spot that I have no wintery garments to brave the elements with, receives TWO winter hats from caring people and then leaves them BOTH in the back seat of my sister’s car so my mom has to send them back to me; a person that eats leftover pasta for breakfast; that can watch hour after hour of Law & Order: SVU (how are there still episodes I haven’t seen?!?) a person that occasionally pulls something out of the hamper and sniffs it to see if maybe I can get away with wearing one more time; and a person that has what feels like thousands of incomplete to-do lists floating around the house.

I LOVE making lists. I have lists everywhere of everything. Books I want to read, things I want to make, things I am going to buy the next time I have an extra grand lying around (HAHAHAHAHA!) promises to myself that I promise I am going to keep this time, etc, etc, etc…My most frequent list making tendencies involve to-do lists. These become particularly profuse in the weeks leading up to events like holidays, parties I am hosting, vacations and Mondays. I used to be the master of the list. In college I was busy (HAHAHAHAHAHA.) I was working, colleging, volunteering and joining committees and I used to plan my entire weekday down to the hour in my oversized day calendar. I set aside class time, work time, homework time, meeting times, and all the rest, and I stuck to it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to sleep until every single thing on the list was checked off. Amazingly, I was not an uptight, high stress person. I was pretty low-key. Wildly high energy, but not high stress. Somewhere along the line, the wheels came off this bus. I am still an effusive list maker, but now, by the time I get home from work and look at my list, it appears so overwhelming and unmanageable that I collapse on the couch, crippled with a feeling of inadequacy and failure. And then I accomplish none of them. Rinse and repeat.

Oh people, you think you know me, but it is only just beginning. Neurosis is my church, and I, its faithful minister.

All this to say, that I think part of my problem is that I often put blogging on my list of things to accomplish, which may be why the month of October 2010, doesn’t exist in the world of Bread & Ginger.

And even as I self-diganose and share my issues with all of you, I am making a list of things I am going to do differently in 2011. Eh, we’ll see how it goes.

I mentioned the Orange Chicken I made the other night, and I have to tell you about it, because it was pretty damn good. Like the takeout Orange Chicken in the best possible way, and then some. And it is actually really easy. I had seen a couple of recipes for this recently out there in the ether, but I ended up deciding on the one from Annie’s Eats. And, for the most part, as I had never made anything similar before, I followed it exactly. It is really very easy to put together. The only tricky part is deep frying, which isn’t really so tricky, actually.

You first put together the orange sauce, which is also the marinade. Ginger, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, chicken stock and vinegar, plus a little cayenne pepper, which in this case was crushed red pepper since I didn’t have cayenne.

orangey-soy goodness

You take a bit of the sauce out to marinate the chicken, and then simmer the rest for a couple of minutes, adding a cornstarch/water slurry to thicken it up. That’s it, sauce is done.

For the chicken, after it’s marinated, it gets dredged in egg whites, then coated in a combination of cornstarch and baking soda and deep fried for in batches for just a couple of minutes, until the chicken is crispy and cooked through.

fried nuggets of wonder

The cornstarch makes this REALLY crispy, which is good, because it means that it doesn’t get grossly soggy when paired with the sauce, even leftovers maintain some texture.

Once the chicken is fried, I reheated the sauce, combined the two and served it over jasmine rice.

Like your very own Panda Express franchise

And that’s it! Oh jeez this is good. Gooood. Make it. You will like it, I promise.

Things I am thinking today:

1. I am sooo glad 2010 is over. As a year, it was totally overrated. Peace out, sucka!

2. Sometimes, just when you think you have it all figured out, life pokes you in the eyes just to make sure you remember who’s really in charge.

3. My family is one of the most remarkable collections of humans in the world and I love them all like crazy.

4. Happy 2011! Be good to one another…

Orange Chicken (serves 4ish)

Adapted minimally from Annie’s Eats

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

For the coating and frying:

3 large egg whites

1 cup cornstarch

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

3 cups peanut or 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. 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. 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 wok if you’ve got it, or an 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven 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 (if you are using a wok, you may have to do this in four batches instead of two, you likely will not have to flip 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.

2 thoughts on “In which it is a new year…

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