Nailed It or Failed It: Orange chicken stir-fry

Today’s recipe comes from the February 2019 issue of Real Simple magazine. The photo that accompanied the recipe caught my eye and I knew I wanted to try it one day soon.

Orange Chicken Stir-Fry with Rice Noodles

INGREDIENTS

— 8 oz. rice noodles

— 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided

— 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

— 1 red onion, sliced

— 4 oz. fresh snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise (2 cups)

— 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 lb.) cut into 1 inch pieces

— 1 tablespoon cornstarch

— 1/4 cup orange marmalade

— 1/4 cup rice vinegar

— 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

— 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

— 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

— 1/4 cup chopped, roasted, salted peanuts

— 1/4 cup sliced scallions.

INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare noodles according to the package directions; set aside.

Heat two tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add bell pepper and onion and cook stirring often, until they begin to soften, about four minutes.

Add snow peas and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, two to three minutes. Remove from skillet; set aside

Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet; add chicken in a single layer. Cook, turning once, until browned and cooked through, about eight minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Stir in marmalade, vinegar, tamari, salt and black pepper.

Add cornstarch mixture to chicken; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook undisturbed, until sauce thickens and chicken is glazed, about one minute. Return vegetables to skillet and toss to coat.

Serve chicken and vegetables over noodles, topped with peanuts and scallions.

While I was preparing my grocery list, I was thinking about what meals we would have over the weekend and remembered this recipe. I pulled it out of my stack and added the ingredients I didn’t have to my list.

When I was at the store, I stopped in the produce department first and picked out a large red bell pepper, and after a little searching found the sugar snap (snow) peas.

Next, I needed to find scallions. One of the produce department guys was working close by and I asked him if they had scallions and he said yes. When I asked where they were, he confirmed my suspicion that they were green onions and he told me something else I didn’t know; I could also use chives.

I opted for the green onions, and as I approached them another employee was adding some fresh ones to the bin. He handed me a bunch and I was on my way to continue shopping.

The recipe calls for chicken thighs but I like chicken breast better so while in the meat department I picked up some chicken, even though I knew we had some in the freezer at home. I just wanted this dish to be simple by not having to thaw the meat.

The next item I needed to find was the rice noodles. Of course, I found those in the international section under the Asian sign.

I was going to prepare this dish Sunday, because we had decided to go out to eat before attending “Peter Pan Jr.” which was being put on by Baker Intermediate students Saturday evening. Brad and I had hosted three of the cast members, Lucy, Katie, and Emma, during our church youth’s Elevation weekend and we wanted to support our girls.

Sunday afternoon, Brad was mowing the yard so I decided to go ahead and prepare the veggies I would be using in this recipe.

I rinsed and cut up the bell pepper; rinsed the peas, trimmed them and cut them in half; rinsed and thinly sliced two green onions. I placed each item in it’s own bowl and put them in the refrigerator. I also sliced up a purple onion.

While slicing the onion, I remembered Brad had some shiitake mushrooms in the refrigerator and I knew he’d want those added to the dish so I sliced up a few and sat them aside.

Since I was getting the ingredients prepped, I also cleaned and cut the chicken, then placed it in the refrigerator too.

I felt like the hard part of this dish was done and I went out and pulled some weeds around our blackberry bushes.

I’d talked to my son Daniel earlier in the day and knew he was coming to eat with us; his wife was away visiting her family. I told him we would eat around 6 p.m.

Even though the recipe said it would only take 30 minutes to prepare this dish, I wasn’t buying it so when 5 p.m. arrived, I decided to get started cooking.

I placed a large pot of water on the stove and added half the package of rice noodles as it began to boil. I set the timer for five minutes because I didn’t want to overcook those noodles.

While the noodles boiled, I heated a skillet. When it was hot, I threw in the red bell pepper and the onions. It took longer than the recipe said for the vegetables to soften.

While they were cooking, the noodle timer sounded and I drained them and rinsed them just like the package directions said.

I sat them aside, covering them so they would not dry out.

I turned my attention back to the veggies cooking on the stove.

After a couple more minutes it was time to add the sugar snap peas.

This is when I also added those sliced up mushrooms. I’d sliced the mushrooms big enough that I could pick them out of my portion once it was time to eat.

As the vegetables continued to cook, I put the sauce together and sat it aside.

When the veggies were done, I poured them into a bowl and began cooking the bite-size pieces of chicken. Of course, I cooked the chicken longer than the recipe stated, because I wanted to make sure it was done. The chicken didn’t brown, but when I knew it was done, I poured the sauce mixture into the pan and in no time, it had reduced and thickened.

It was about 5:30 p.m. and this dish was almost done. I dumped the cooked veggies back into the pan and let them slowly heat.

Thankfully, Daniel arrived early and I checked on the meal.

I hadn’t turned the stove up much and the dish wasn’t hot yet, so I just turned up the burner a few notches and waited. When the veggies and chicken were steaming, I poured in the rice noodles. They were kind of clumped up, so it took a few minutes to get everything tossed together.

Then I sprinkled on the sliced green onions and some cashews I’d chopped up — I used cashews instead of peanuts since that’s what I had on hand.

We sat down at the table and Brad blessed the food. The three of us filled our plates and enjoyed our meal and each other’s company.

Daniel was the first to say he really liked this dish. Brad said he liked it too and thanked me for adding the mushrooms.

I have to say I really did like this dish. I think you could add small amounts of other vegetables if you wanted (Brad mentioned asparagus).

If you are not a meat eater, I believe you could leave the chicken out and just add an equal amount of your favorite vegetables in it’s place.

There was just enough of this dish left that Brad could take it for his lunch Monday. He said it heated up nicely and was just as good the second time around.

The recipe said this was an “easy dinner,” and would only about 30 minutes to prepare but I was skeptical. However, with the prep work done ahead of time, it really did just take about 30 minutes to prepare so this would be a great recipe to have on hand when the week is hectic and you really don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing your evening meal.

I will definitely be making this again because. This quick and easy recipe has found a place in my self-made cook book.

I’m looking forward to making this dish over the summer as we gather fresh ingredients from our garden.

Sarah Condley is an amateur baker and chef who is compiling a cookbook of her favorite recipes.