Orange chicken is one of my favorite dishes on the Chinese buffets in town. I usually end up with chicken prepared about 12 ways on my plate with a small pile of lo mein and a couple of crab rangoon when we dine out. I’m easy to please. I also adore the snow shrimp but I’m not quite brave enough to attempt that yet.
I was reading a recipe online and realized it was adapted from one of my idols, the Pioneer Woman. I took the link to her site and followed her recipe. I followed it exactly (the crowd gasps!) but will make revisions next time. I’ll double the sauce as the meat needed a little more sauce and I wanted some for the rice I made to accompany the dish.
I was all set to make my orange chicken the other night and silly me, I’d forgotten I changed my mind and was going to make pheasant. As I pulled the thawed pheasant out of the fridge I decided it could be orange pheasant. It’s very similar to chicken, it would do. And my P.S. walked by and agreed.
I cut the pheasant up into smaller pieces. I had quite a few pheasant breasts in the package, and another package with the meat from 2 thighs. Altogether it was a little over a pound of meat.
In a bowl I separated the yolks from the egg whites with my favorite handy dandy Tupperware egg separator tool. Can I do it other ways? Sure. But this tool is so fun I use it every time. Whites in the bowl, I added the cornstarch and tried to beat it with a fork. The lumps were resisting me so I used the whisk and it was smooth in no time.
I put the pheasant into the bowl and let it set for about 10 minutes.
Next I added orange juice to a large nonstick skillet. I measured the rest of the sauce ingredients and stirred it well. Following Ree’s advice I used a spoon to sample the flavors to “make it mine”. Ugh, it was pretty sour and acidic. My orange juice wasn’t very sweet. I added another tablespoon of brown sugar and it was great.
When the sauce came to a bubbling boil I dissolved the cornstarch in the cold water and stirred it into the skillet. I turned the heat to medium to allow it to thicken, then reduced it to low to wait for the pheasant pieces.
I’d heated canola oil in a medium saucepan to 350°F. I dropped 5 or 6 pieces of pheasant at a time into the oil and stirred them. They stuck on the bottom a bit anyway. I let them fry for 2-3 minutes then used a slotted spoon to scoop them out onto a plate covered with paper towelling. I continued frying the pheasant in batches until it was all lightly browned. They all did tend to stick to the bottom for me but were easily scooped up with my metal slotted spoon.
When all pheasant was fried the first time I put them back into the oil in slightly larger batches and fried them a second time, letting them get a little more brown this time. It only took a minute or two for each batch. As I removed them from the oil I laid them in the sauce in the skillet.
With all pheasant done and in the sauce I stirred well to insure that all pieces were covered with sauce. I could have used more sauce, as I mentioned previously, and would have liked extra for the rice. Next time I’ll just double the sauce recipe.
Before making the pheasant I’d put a saucepan of rice on to boil then let it simmer the 20 minutes. I set it off the heat when the timer buzzed and fluffed it before serving. I also steam some asparagus as a vegetable. I had used the zest of one orange and that always makes me want to use the orange somehow of course. I cut down the sides to remove the peel and cut it into wedges to put on our plates as extra garnish.
Dinner was so good! The pheasant was just perfect, tender and so flavorful. I could have probably been a little braver with the red pepper flakes for a touch more heat. I’m such a wimp that way. But the orange and ginger flavors, along with the contrast of sweetness from the brown sugar and acid from the vinegar were all very well matched.
I had a positive experience with what could have easily been a nightmare. Hot oil, coating on meat, both can be tricky if not done properly. I thought it was probably the best pheasant I’ve ever made!
Orange Chicken (Pheasant)
Canola oil for frying
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs; cut into roughly 1” pieces (I used almost 2# of pheasant)
4 egg whites
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce: (double if you want extra for rice)
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar (I used 2)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
Dash of salt
1 clove garlic; pressed or minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger; minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup water
Sliced green onions for garnish
More orange zest for garnish (I omitted)
White rice (made according to package directions)
Whisk together egg whites and cornstarch in a bowl. Add chicken and mix to coat well. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Add sauce ingredients to a nonstick skillet over medium heat and stir until bubbling. Add cornstarch dissolved in water and stir until thickens. Reduce heat to low.
Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a small saucepan or fryer to 350°F. When fully heated, drop one piece of chicken at a time into the oil, frying 5-6 pieces at a time. Stir to prevent sticking to the bottom. (Mine did anyway). Fry for 2 minutes and remove to a plate covered with paper towelling. They will just barely be browned this first time around.
When all of the chicken has cooked for the first time in several batches, fry a second time for a minute or so, until they are browned. Do not overcook! As you remove them from the oil add them to the skillet and when all are done, stir to coat chicken well.
Serve over hot rice, pouring any remaining sauce over the rice.