Over the winter we made beer orange chicken several times and are convinced that the combination of Witbier and cara cara oranges creates the most potent partnership of citrusy sweet and tangy. For one, cara cara oranges are sweeter than regular navel oranges because their flesh (red like grapefruit’s) is less acidic. They also bring hints of cherry and raspberry flavors. Even their rich, buttery and fragrant rind tastes sweet. We never let the rinds go to waste. Chris frequently turns them into cara cara powder by dehydrating and then pulverizing them.
In this recipe we take full advantage of the sweet and fragrant rind by way of including large-ish yet thin pieces of peel in the sauce. It makes a huge difference. Crispy rind bits coated in beautiful, thick sauce.
We are fans of cooking with boneless chicken thighs. Occasionally we use chicken breast meat but ninety percent of the time we opt for the juicier thigh meat. If your personal preference is for white chicken meat go ahead and use it – after bathing in the beer orange juice marinade it will not be dry.
The beer we used in this post is a traditional Belgian white ale (find info on the style here) brewed in Pennsylvania. Saucony Creek Brewing Co. Hexerei White Ale is brewed with both orange peel and coriander, has a beautiful creamy head from the wheat and is just so mellow and refreshing. It is slightly sweet (IBU is only 10) and extremely friendly as a thirst quencher or a brew to enjoy lavishly over the course of a sunny, hot afternoon (ABV is 5%). The name Xexerei translates to ‘witchcraft’ from German and I find it befitting. This beer can easily trick you into surpassing your tolerance level. You won’t even know it.
As pairing options for our beer orange chicken we suggest white ales in general as well as New England style IPAs. Both will complement the dish. If you wanted to go the white wine route, look into a Muscat or a sparkling wine made with Muscat grapes ( I am so partial here). I love how the sweetness of muscat and its hints of orange aromas match this juicy beer orange chicken dish.
One last thing – we love preparing the jasmine rice with a tablespoon of coconut oil and generously sprinkling it with toasted sesame seeds to add an element of crunch and an extra layer of flavor. To me the perfect way to serve the beer orange chicken is to ladle it over a small amount of rice. The sauce is so rich and satisfying that I don’t ever reach for the soy sauce.
Have you ever had orange chicken made with a beer? Perhaps with a Hefeweizen? Beer is such a hard working meat tenderizer in addition to flavor contributor. If I were to stand with a plateful of bite sized samples of this chicken and offer them as samples I am pretty sure that everyone who tastes it will order it (from our imaginary restaurant of course). Note to self – we need to have this on the menu if Chris opens a restaurant centered around food cooked with beer. For now, here is the recipe:)
- 6 chicken thighs (boneless), cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 cara cara oranges
- 1 cup Witbier (Belgian wit)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ¼ rice vinegar
- ½ tbsp chili garlic sauce (or a little more to taste)
- 1 cup corn starch
- 2 tbsp cara cara powder (optional)
- 1 cup vegetable or coconut oil
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2 tbsp corn starch + 3 tbsp water
- Place the chicken pieces inside a gallon sized plastic bag and set aside.
- Using a potato peeler or a small sharp knife peel small pieces of the rind of the cara cara oranges, making sure you don't cut into the white part. Set the peeled rinds aside, covered. (Optional step, if you do not want rind pieces in your dish, simply zest some of the peel and add it to the sauce described below).
- Squeeze the juice of the oranges into a bowl.
- Add the beer, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili garlic and stir well, until the sugar is dissolved.
- Measure out ⅔ cup of the sauce mixture and pour it over the chicken. Close the plastic bag and massage the chicken with the marinade.
- Cover the bowl containing the remaining sauce. Place the bag with chicken and bowl of sauce in the refrigerator and let the chicken marinade for about 1 hour.
- When ready to start cooking, take out the sauce and bag with chicken from the refrigerator.
- In a large bowl mix the corn starch with the cara cara powder if using.
- Heat the 1 cup of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Discard the marinade from the bag with the chicken. Working in batches of 8-10 pieces coat each piece of chicken in corn starch and lightly fry on both sides.
- Set fried chicken pieces onto a paper napkin lined plate while working on consecutive batches.
- Discard the oil from the pan and heat 1 tbsp of new oil.
- Saute the cara cara orange rinds for about 1 minute. (Optional step, skip if not using the rinds).
- Add the garlic and ginger and stir around, ½ min.
- Add the remaining sauce and bring it to simmer.
- Add the chicken pieces, stir to make sure they are well coated with sauce.
- Mix the 2 tbsp of cornstarch with the water and add to the sauce.
- Stir gently until the sauce begins to thicken and remove from heat.
- Transfer onto a serving platter. If you don't want too much sauce (why wouldn't you?) use a slated spoon to only transfer the chicken.
- Serve with jasmine rice and garnish with green onions.