Today we head to Syria for an outstanding orange chicken, studded with sweet golden raisins and figs, more sweetness from caramelized onions, and a very pleasant blast of curry spice. The dish is very balanced, not too sweet nor too much kick to dull the palate.
The recipe comes from Jennifer Felicia Abadi in her book A Fistful of Lentils.
Start with the sauce, where the base of it is fresh, pulpless orange juice. Chopped onions added to the sauce are even more enjoyable in the final plating when they are caramelized. I don’t find that the potatoes, whether yukon gold or red, add a new dimension to the dish nor do they help absorb the excellent sauce. They simply absorb the color it seemed. Cubed butternut squash is an excellent replacement, perhaps with some cauliflower too, which is a better sauce absorber than potato and also provides some levity and another blank canvas to absorb the beautiful curry powder color of the sauce.
Plump golden raisins and fresh Black Mission figs are perfect for the dish, but regular raisins and dried Mission Figs are very acceptable. The fruits with the curry powder and the soy sauce provide the heart of this dish, the perfect compliments to the tender white and dark meat of the chicken. That last part is the key. Like with a coq au vin, do not dare having 100% breast meat. The fat from the skin provides depth to the sauce and keeps the meat more tender.
45 minutes seems to be the more appropriate time simmering for the chicken and sauce together. I have never tried the Syrian rice recipe recommended with the dish, but couscous or quinoa both work beautifully as a platform to absorb the sauce.With this starch base, who needs the potatoes anyways?
Paired with a syrah or even a jammy cabernet franc or possibly even minerally white like Gruner Veltliner, this is a perfect simple and vibrant weeknight dinner proving chicken can be far from boring.