Oh Orange Ginger Chicken, where have you been all my life? Turns out, this recipe was tucked away in my personal cookbook that I’ve had for 20 years, scribbled on a piece of printer paper. I vaguely remember my mom making it when I was growing up – it was one of her “fancy” dinners that she made on weekends.
See, my mom worked as a school teacher, so weekdays were really busy. She was up before us, got us off to school, worked a full day, did the food shopping, the laundry, ran the errands, shuttled us wherever we needed to go, graded papers and did her own lesson plans and still made sure that there was dinner on the table for us every single night. I don’t remember her ever flying by the seat of her pants when it came to dinner. Nope, there was always dinner on the table, and we always ate it together. Every. Single Night.
Weeknight dinners weren’t fancy, but they were always good. Spaghetti and meatballs, beef stew, pork chops and – everyone’s favorite – tacos. On the weekends, when things were a little less hectic, she made really delicious meals like this Orange Ginger Chicken. And while she may have considered it to be fancy back then, it’s not complicated at all. And you probably already have most (if not all) of the ingredients on hand.
I should clarify, though, that this Orange Ginger Chicken is not like the Chinese dish commonly called Orange Chicken. Although I do love that dish, this is different – I think it’s the cinnamon that sets it apart. It adds an unexpected flavor to a savory dish, a flavor that leaves people trying to pinpoint what exactly is in it. The combination of the cinnamon, dry mustard and ginger with the sweetness of orange juice is like nothing you’ve ever tried before. It’s warming and earthy and, as the Big Guy says, “tastes like fall”.
The sauce becomes creamy as it thickens but there’s no cream in this dish. In fact, the only added fat is a little butter. It’s such a heavenly sauce and you’ll be glad there’s lots of it to soak into the fluffy rice. Use whatever kind of rice you like – my favorites are Jasmine or Basmati rice, and plain old boil-in-bag rice never fails. The sauce and chicken are made in the same pan, making this truly an un-fancy preparation.
Because of the simplicity of preparation, I bet my mom could have made this Orange Ginger Chicken on the weeknights, and you certainly can too. But I do understand why she felt like it was fancy back then. It’s definitely special. I can’t wait for you to try it! Enjoy!
- 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ginger
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 3 cups hot cooked white rice
- 1 orange, for garnish (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Cut each chicken breast in half so that you have 6 thinner chicken breasts. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of salt. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it starts to bubble.
Cook chicken (in batches if necessary), 3-4 minutes each side. Remove chicken to a separate plate and keep warm. Add the flour, sugar, remaining salt and spices. Stir to a smooth paste.
Whisk in the orange juice. Continue to cook, whisking, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat, add the chicken back to the pan, and simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes.
Serve chicken over cooked rice, spooning the sauce over top. Garnish with fresh orange slices and parsley.