Chicken with Orange and Mint
This dish is based on a Spanish recipe that I found while wandering about in my usual dazed manner many years ago. The original was a rich sauce that usually accompanied duck and contained buckets of cream. Times change and if I made that original sauce today then everybody I know would look horrified and refuse to eat it. So this is a much lighter and fresher version that keeps the unusual and attractive flavours without all the fat.
You don't have to thicken the sauce at all but, if you prefer a classic, thicker result then, rather than add cream, just add a spoonful or two of cornflour let down with either a little of the sauce or water or deploy whatever thickener you prefer. (I tend to use a little Ultratex if I really need to thicken sauces these days).
A quick note on the ingredients:
- Sherry vinegars can vary quite a lot in acidity and, in this case, a less acidic style works best. A PX (Pedro Ximenez) vinegar is ideal.
- You could leave out the orange liqueur, but it does add an extra depth of flavour. I suppose it should be a Spanish liqueur, but these days I use blood orange Cointreau.
- Most oranges sold in supermarkets today are sweet or very sweet but if you use sharper oranges, then you may need to sweeten the orange juice just a touch.
- Ideally, the white wine should be relatively dry but flavourful and quite full-bodied. I used a verdejo in this recipe, which was not only from the appropriate country but worked really well with the other flavours.
2 large (or 3 smaller) garlic cloves, sliced thinly
550 - 600g skinned chicken breast cut into large chunks of around 3 - 4 cm
2 tbsp sherry vinegar (ideally a PX vinegar)
2 tbsp orange liqueur
200ml white wine
200ml orange juice
100ml chicken stock
Generous pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
A little cornflour or whatever thickener you prefer (optional)
In a large sauté pan, lightly fry the garlic in a little olive oil for a minute or two without letting it take on any colour. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Increase the heat a little and add the chicken to the pan. Fry the chicken until it's just starting to take on a little colour. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar and orange liqueur and reduce until there's only one or two teaspoons of liquid left. Add the wine and continue on a high heat until the wine is reduced by around half.
Reduce the heat and add the orange juice and chicken stock. Return the garlic and chicken to the pan and season with salt, pepper and the cayenne. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble away very gently, without covering the pan, for 15 minutes. Check that the chicken is cooked through.
If the sauce is a little thin for your taste then thicken it with a spoonful or two of cornflour that's been let down with a little sauce or water or use whatever thickener you prefer. Stir in the mint and leave on a very low heat to infuse for a minute or so.
Serve with rice or couscous or with new potatoes and green veg or, to be honest, with whatever you fancy. Just make sure that you get all the sauce on the plate because it's too nice to waste.