Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Orange" You Glad You Gave it a Try? Then Again, Maybe Not

Today as I was again scouring the internet for something new and useful (this time a crock pot recipe for applesauce), I came across and interesting blog by a woman who had challenged herself to make something in the crock-pot everyday for a whole year. Wow! I cook in mine often, so I had to check out her extensive list of meals. Many things called out to me, and I will likely be back to try other things, but the one that grabbed me this morning was "orange chicken." The recipe looked painless, and I had everything on hand. She said it was delicious. I believe hers was delicious. Mine was another story...
Travis and I had to make a trip into Spokane this afternoon for some church business, so I felt sure it was the perfect day to abandon my well organized monthly menu for this tantalizing crock-pot recipe. I could put it on before lunch and by the time we got home, dinner would be ready and waiting. And so I did. I cut chicken into chunks, dredged it in flour and lightly browned it in the skillet. Then I dumped it in the slow cooker and poured the simple sauce of orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and ketchup over the top, making sure every piece was coated. It looked yummy. I don't know about you, but I love Chinese food! And when a nice restaurant can't be had (or even when it can!), I love the fast food chain Panda Express. They make the most delicious Orange Chicken and I hoped that this just might taste like that...if I were lucky. It certainly looked promising!
When we got home from Spokane, it was a little later than I'd planned, and the minute we walked in the door, I knew something was wrong. I've never smelled burnt orange juice before, but in an instant I knew that's what I was smelling. Sure enough, the edges of the sauce in the pot were black and as I stirred the chicken I saw that it, too, was a little overdone. I immediately shut off the crock-pot, hoping to salvage it somewhat while I put on the rice. It didn't help much.
Maybe reading "Garlic and Sapphires" (a book about a New York restaurant critic) has heightened my awareness of flavors, but I'm not so sure overcooking was the only problem with the chicken. The sauce seemed overpowering, until Travis and I decided we really couldn't taste the chicken anymore. It was dry in parts, but really it seemed all I could taste was strong, bitter, orange juice! This may be partially my own fault, as the crock-pot lady warned on her blog that you should use no-pulp or low-pulp orange juice since pulp has a tendency to become bitter when cooked. Live and learn, I suppose.

It really tasted nothing like Panda's chicken, to my extreme disappointment. Reflecting on it now, their chicken seems less "orangey" and has more of a honey sweetness. I think orange juice concentrate is just too strong.
Well, we ate it, but I don't think I'll try it again. I'd still like to find a good orange chicken recipe, but it doesn't have to be in the crock-pot. I don't think oriental foods seems to lend themselves to slow cooking. It just isn't natural! I tried chow mein once and that just turned out mushy. Oh, well. Haha, guess not everything can be done the easy way!
If you'd like to try the recipe yourself (and without overcooking it!), you can find it here, along with what looks like a lot of other great recipes from the crock-pot lady!


  1. I think it's so funny you came across the crockpot lady blog because I saw it for the first time 2 weeks ago! I have her posts coming into my email now, lol!

    I tried a Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe a few years back in the crockpot and it turned out much of the same way...I think it's a Chinese food thing like you said, lol! Better luck next time!

  2. Haha yeah, it looks like she has a lot of good things to try!
    I know, maybe it just isn't meant to be...


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