Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Chicken, the Orange, and the Great Big Messy Kitchen

Oh wow, so where do I begin on this one? This was supposed to be such an easy, inexpensive, just elegant meal. Hah! Have you ever had one of those nights when no matter what you do, everything just seems to be going against you. I started off with a great plan, a simple plan: Watch new cooking program, buy ingredients, cook incredibly easy recipes, enjoy relaxing meal. The show was the new $10 Dinners with Melissa D'Arabian, the latest winner of The Next Food Network Star. She made it look easy and promised everything was really cheap to make.

List in hand, I rushed down to my local grocery and was very pleased to see bone-in chicken breasts (for the Chicken à l'Orange) were on sale this week, at a mere $.99 a pound, a huge savings! The recipe only calls for chicken, honey, salt and pepper, oil, and some frozen OJ concentrate. Melissa made some crispy potatoes to serve as a side dish, I already had a nice big sack of Yukon Golds sitting in my pantry at home. The remaining items were for the salad, a fennel cole slaw. I wasn't really sure about that slaw, but I thought, what the heck, I will give it a try - it is supposed to be inexpensive and I do like the taste of licoricey fennel even if my daughter probably would not. $2.99 a pound for a vegetable! I dug through the pile and tried to find the smallest, lightest bulb.. plunked it into the scale and gasped ... it weighed in at 1 1/2 pounds. I just wasn't about to spend $4.50 on one vegetable for a salad I was likely going to be the only one eating. So no slaw, just a simple tossed salad instead.

Now you would think that with a recipe that only has 3 main ingredients, I would have easily remembered them all. I somehow managed to forget all about the orange juice concentrate, an ingredient I never usually buy. I had regular orange juice in the house, but I wasn't sure if it would really work in this case without reducing it far longer than I felt like bothering with. So back to the store I went for the missing OJ concentrate.

OK because I don't feel like writing this anymore, some key points: The pan I used to brown the chicken in was too small and I did the thing I have always been warned never to do - I crowded the pan. And alas, my poor chicken suffered miserably. It took forever for the skin to brown, since everything was basically steaming in the very small pot. I eventually gave up struggling with it and used the pan my potatoes had browned in to brown some of the chicken. It worked much more quickly that way, of course. Amazing thing following the directions is, huh? Once my chicken skin was nice and brown, I finally was able to pop it into the oven, glistening with the OJ sauce to bake for... did I read that correctly.. only 15 minutes at 375 F? Well, my potatoes were already roasting and I put my faith in the tv show's hostess and hoped for the best. The chicken was of course not done in 15 minutes. In fact, it took more like 35 minutes. By which point my lovely crispy potatoes had been sitting done on the counter for 10 minutes already and had gotten slightly soggy.

Then came the deboning part of the process. Oh my goodness what a task that was. Trying to remove a sticky orange sauce coated piece of chicken from its bone without destroying the shape of the meat itself was a tricky procedure. After much grumbling and a very messy cutting board, I did manage to pluck out the offending bones and sliced up my lovely looking chicken meat. The skin however did not survive the process, I am sad to report. Since I rarely eat chicken skin anyway, I wasn't exactly heartbroken, but it does look a lot more attractive with the golden crispy skin still on.

The chicken did end up tasting good and I am sure it would turn out even better if I had used the right sized pan. The potatoes were tasty too, if a bit oily and slightly soggy, but overall, no major complaints. Ah well, so much for getting right to the point and making this short.

Sorry for the grumbly mood. I really need to stockpile some chocolate for days like this. If you would like to try these recipes, they can be found here.


  1. Does Melissa explain why the chicken should be de-boned? Personally, I would have taken the lazy/easy route and served the chicken on the bone :)

  2. I feel your pain Heather! I really do. I'd have left it on the bone too though.

  3. I don't think she did explain. I assumed it was so she could spread the meat between 4 servings while only using 3 large breasts. There was indeed plenty of meat for 4 servings. It is very pretty if you can manage to pull the de-boning part off.

    It is a technique I wouldn't mind learning how to do properly, it was just not the right moment to suddenly have to learn ;)