I made this chicken last night and thought it tasted just like garlicky chicken bathed in a sauce made of melted hard candy. (Well! Anyone still out there?)
Ben and our dinner guest, Seb, didn't agree, but now that I think about it more carefully, Ben really didn't say anything about the meal at all, and I think it's possible that Seb might have just been protesting out of politesse. The silly thing is that when I first read the recipe, I just knew I shouldn't even try it. There's just something about vanilla's cloying perfume that I find difficult, even in luscious sweet recipes. So in a savory chicken dish? I thought it best just to steer clear.
But Elaine Louie's One Pot column has a special little place in my heart and I've had success with the dishes I've tried from it so far (these noodles and this curry - which I'm just realizing I never told you about...delicious, it was!). So somehow I let myself be convinced to try it.
To think, I used two more chicken thighs than called for, a little more cayenne, and only half of the vanilla bean, and I didn't even strip out the seeds - I just split it and let it boil in the syrupy orange sauce. Oh, that orange sauce, so saccharine and sticky, even with the cayenne and vinegar and garlic, and such a strange, unpleasant combination of savory and sweet. Ooh, I'm suppressing a shudder just thinking about it again.
Thank God we had salad.
Chicken with Orange Juice and Vanilla
Serves 2 to 3
6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, Japanese rice vinegar, or other mild-flavored vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1 vanilla bean, split
A few sprigs of cilantro, for garnish
Cooked rice or tortillas for serving (optional)
1. Season chicken with the salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces skin side down, and brown until golden on both sides, turning once, 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
2. When chicken is browned, pour off any excess fat from skillet and return to medium heat. Sprinkle cayenne and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper over chicken, turning pieces to coat evenly. Taste a pinch of the skin, and add more cayenne if additional heat is desired. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add vinegar, butter and orange juice. Scrape in pulp of vanilla bean and add bean. Stir liquid to blend.
3. Cook chicken skin side up, uncovered, basting occasionally with sauce, until sauce is reduced to a syrupy glaze, 20 to 25 minutes. If interior of chicken needs further cooking (it should be 170 degrees when tested in center with an instant-read thermometer), cover and cook over medium-low heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or as needed. Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot, with rice or tortillas, if desired.