I have recently finished reading Michael Pollan’s The Ominvore’s Dilemma. It is a fascinating book. It did take me a while, but mostly becuase I needed to mentally digest things before moving on, not becuase it was too dense or at all dull. I enjoyed/was most disgusted by/influenced by the first section most. It’s about factory farms, and not for the faint of heart. I was already heading towards eating less meat, but that pretty much convinced me that I don’t want to eat any meat unless I know where it comes from and can live the farming practices where the animal was raised.
I am not morally opposed to eating meat, it is after all, a natural process that many other species take part in. But if I chose to eat meat, I want to consider two things: my health and my general respect for living creatures. An animal may die to feed me, but I don’t want it to suffer before that. Some may call this opinion hypocritcal (you’re raising it just to be killed), but it’s what I’m comfortable with.
So, with the goal of eating healthy and (relatively) happy meat in mind, I have decided I will only purchase meat whose provinance I can track. This is much easier for me here in New York than it was in Boston, as there are many meat vendors at the various Greenmarkets – pastured beef, pastured lamb, “natural” (hormone free) pork and chicken. (I do not think the chickens I’ve seen are free range, but when sold along side 100% grass-fed beef, I feel pretty certain that they’ve had better lives than your average factory farm chicken.) The odd thing is that even after deciding it’s ok for me to purchase meat if I know that it has been raised well, it took me a while to actually make that purchase.
After so long not purchasing meat in markets, not cooking meat myself (though occasionally indulging at restaurants), I had to think carefully about this. I decided it was worth it and picked up a “split” roasting chicken (frozen) on a Thursday. It sat in my freezer for quite a while as Luis and my life got busy, but this week I finally had a chance to cook it.
The chicken took two days in the refrigerator to thaw, and much more time to prepare than store purchased chicken legs, before the actual cooking. Nonetheless, it was worth it. I had not made this lovely recipe in quite a while, since I have rarely been cooking meat at home, and had forgotten quite how good it is. It is one of the better recipes I have.
I lay no claims to creating this wonderful recipe, however – it is almost verbatim from one of the first Eating Well magazines I read (almost three years ago), and it is fabulous. Also, it is VERY easy. Sure, it takes an hour when you consider all the prep and making something to eat with the chicken, but it is wonderfully worth it.
In this picture, you see a perhaps overly-ambitious meal, with roasted beat and goat cheese salad and glazed parsnips as the side dish. A much easier dinner might involve brown rice (perhaps with cinnamon and raisins) and a simple green salad with a light vinaigrette. I think I’d go that route next time. (I was so hungry and ready to move to the table that I can hardly believe this picutres came out in the rush I was in.)
So, with no more ado, allow me to present:
Chicken in Orange Sauce (Catalan style) – 4 servings
- 4 large oranges (organic)
- ½ c. sugar
- 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 14 ½ oz reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 4 legs chicken (2 3/4 lbs)
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt (or to taste)
- black pepper to taste
1. Scrub 1 orange and use a vegetable peeler to remove zest from half of it. Cut the zest into thin strips. Squeeze the oranges to yield 2 cups juice. (You can zest the other oranges as well and keep it stored in the freezer for future use in muffins etc.)
2. Combine sugar and vinegar in a 12-inch skillet. Place over medium heat and cook, uncovered, swirling the pan but not stirring, until the sugar melts and turns a deep amber color, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Stir in broth, the orange juice and zest. (The caramel may harden but don’t worry – it will liquefy as it heats.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the sauce is dark, glossy and lightly coats a spoon, 30 to 35 minutes. It should be reduced to a little more than 1 cup.
4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375F. Coat a large baking dish with cooking spray. Skin the chicken, trim the fat and split at the joint. Rub chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the prepared baking dish and bake for 35 minutes.
5. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken and turn to coat well. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more. Serve the chicken with sauce and orange zest spooned on top.
Note: If you’re dealing as I was with a whole chicken and not just legs, you might want to prep the chicken before starting the sauce and then stick the chicken in the oven as you set the sauce to boil down. If, however you are an expert chicken prepper, the 6-8 minutes while the caramel forms may be enough for you.
Lastly, serve and enjoy!