Entrees · Gluten Free · Poultry

Balsamic Orange Chicken Sauté

There are a lot of annoying little logistics that have to be taken care of when one relocates across the country.

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You have to get your address changed for all your accounts, credit cards, and subscriptions. You have to re-register your vehicle in a new state. (Unless you’re me and *forget* to do so for over a year and a half and hope every day you don’t get caught.) You have to figure out where the grocery store, the post office, the bank, and the best coffee shop are.

And you have to determine where you’re going to buy your favorite salad dressing.

Listen, I’m the first to admit I am not exactly a low maintenance person. For someone who travels as much as I do, you’d think I’d have learned to be more of a “go with the flow” kind of girl, but I haven’t. It’s just not in my nature. I’m working on it, but until then, to not be able to locate the salad dressing I’ve been eating for oh, 11 years now, in a single store in the state of California, has been very upsetting to me.

I first ate this incredible vinaigrette as an eighth grader, from the salad bar at my middle school. Every day I would make a big plate with greens and chickpeas and pour that dressing over the top. It was bliss.

After forgetting about it for quite a few years, I rediscovered it on the shelf of the local natural foods store, when visiting my mom one weekend in college. I bought a bottle, and from that moment on I’ve been eating it nearly every day since. While I still lived in New England, just an hour and a half from my hometown, I saw my parents often enough that it was easy for me to pick up a few bottles while in town, or to have them grab one before coming to see me.

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When I drove myself from Connecticut to California, I traveled with a big old cooler in the backseat and ate a lot of meals on the road so I wouldn’t have to stop. Yes, that dressing was in the cooler. Once I got settled on the west coast, I had enough to last me for a couple weeks in my new home.

When it ran out, I headed over to the nearest earthy-crunchy market, naively assuming they would carry a dressing produced by a company of two women in the woods of Western Massachusetts. To my horror, they did not. At first, I tried to remain calm. I went home, got on the company’s website, and searched the “locate in the store” page. Learning my dressing was not sold within 2,900 miles of me, I still tried to stay serene. “I’ll figure out how to make it,” I thought. For the next two weeks, I continually tried different mixtures of honey, balsamic vinegar, and oil, coming nowhere close to approximating my beloved vinaigrette.

The situation was growing dire, and I was starting to panic. I wish I were underselling it, but let’s just say this whole thing ended in my mother emailing the company, begging them to expedite an overnight shipment of Honey Balsamic dressing from Deerfield, MA to Oakland, CA. Which obviously, they did not.

It’s rare moments like those where I wish I were wildly famous.

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You may think I am completely irrational for not resigning to just eat another salad dressing that can be bought locally, and you are totally right. But rational individual I am not, at least when it comes to food, and my solution to this whole conundrum has been to have my father go to the store, purchase 4-5 bottles of dressing, wrap them in bubble wrap, and bring them to me in his suitcase the two or three times a year he comes to visit.

Problem solved. Thanks, Dad! (By the way, can you make sure to pick up a few bottles before you come next month? I’m running low. Great, love you!)

This Balsamic Orange Chicken Sauté came together using many of the same flavors as the salad dressing I (apparently) can’t live without. Sweet balsamic, a touch of honey, and shallot are key ingredients. For this super fast one-skillet chicken dinner, I thought a citrusy twist was in order. I’ve yet to meet an individual who doesn’t like Chinese orange chicken, so think of this dish like that but with an Italianate spin.

On the weeks when I don’t make anything in a crockpot, quick stir fry’s are my savior. I rarely tire of Asian flavors, but sometimes I’m in the mood for something different. This Balsamic Orange Chicken was just that. All you have to do is brown some cubed chicken and shallots, then pour in a mixture of freshly squeezed orange juice and balsamic vinegar. I recommend you use high-quality balsamic, the kind that is aged, as it’s sweeter and thicker. The plain grocery store generic is very thin and extremely acidic; if you’ve never had the good stuff, it is well worth the extra few dollars!

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To the sauce you’ll add just a teaspoon of honey, a few dried rosemary leaves, and the tiniest dash of cinnamon. I would have never thought to add cinnamon to a dish, but it is the last ingredient listed on the label of my dressing. Apparently cinnamon is to balsamic as espresso powder is the chocolate; it enhances the flavor so much.

Let the chicken simmer in the sauce, and after a few minutes it will reduce and thicken to coat the back of a spoon. At this point, I like to stir in a few fresh orange segments for color and yumminess. I mean when is the last time you had fruit in a savory dish aside from maybe pineapple in Thai fried rice or something? Try it! Speaking of rice, I urge you to cook up a batch for serving under this chicken. You won’t want to leave a single drop of the saucy goodness behind, and rice is perfect for soaking it all up.

Just like that, dinner is served. Even with the time it took to dice the chicken and mince a shallot, this dish must have taken a total of 20 minutes. If you’re looking for a quick, very easy recipe to shake up your typical weeknight dinner routine, give this Balsamic Orange Chicken a try!

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Balsamic Orange Chicken Sauté
Yields 4-6 servings

Lean chicken cooked in a skillet with a sauce of sweet citrus and balsamic vinegar.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary leaves
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 Tbs. minced shallot
  • 1 large or 2 small oranges, sectioned

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, rosemary, and a dash of cinnamon. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook for 4-5 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the pieces are lightly browned on all sides. Add the minced shallot and cook for a minute longer, stirring so that it does not burn.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes, until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Depending on your skillet, this may take a few minutes longer. Add the orange sections and continue cooking for about two more minutes until everything is heated through.

Serve immediately, preferably with rice or another grain for soaking up all the delicious sauce!

 

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