Orange Chicken Breasts – A slightly non-conformist, yet delicious dutch oven dish.

Orange_Chicken_BreastOne of the best ways to make any dish stand out is not to overpower it with too much of a contrasting flavor – that’s what amateurs do. Instead, just add a “pinch” of it in your dish, enough to get your guest intrigued enough by this combination to ask you for the recipe. (Trust me, they always do.)

And what food is better prepared for the job than the orange, whose delicious juices can penetrate and infuse chicken breasts with a sweet, yet subtle flavor that will make you and your guests swoon when this dish touches your and your guests’ taste buds.

So let’s look at a recipe for chicken breasts that desperately calls for orange juice from the depths of your Dutch oven, like a baby for its mother’s breast milk.

And just so the menu is complete, we’ll pair this sweet dish (meant both literarily and figuratively) with a more neutral, but just as tasty, mushroom sauce. (Did you just say “yummy?”)

The ingredients

The listed ingredients are meant for 3 servings and are prepared in a 10-inch Dutch oven. You can adapt this recipe for a 12-inch Dutch oven by simply adding an extra 50% of everything or by doubling everything for a 14-inch Dutch oven. The ingredients are listed in the order they’ll be used.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or any cooking oil
  • 3 chicken breast halves
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard or Dijon mustard substitute
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 cubes
  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

Directions

  1. Pour the olive oil into the Dutch oven and pre-heat to 350° Fahrenheit by using about half of the required charcoals at first, both on top and bottom and adding the remaining coals after a few minutes. (Remember, the ratio of coals for roasting is 1:1.)
  2. Cover the chicken breast halves with the Dijon mustard or Dijon mustard substitute.
  3. Place the chicken breast, skin side down, into the pre-heated Dutch oven. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle onion over the chicken breasts and place 2 cubes of butter on each piece. Pour the orange juice into the pan, but be careful not to pour over the chicken as this might “wash away” the seasoning.
  4. Cover with the lid and cook for 25 minutes. Baste once after 10 minutes.
  5. After 25 minutes, gently turn the chicken breast on the other side (the skin side should be yellow or lightly brown) and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
  6. Replace lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, check and see when your chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165˚, which is the temperature the chicken should be when it’s done.
  7. Serve on a plate with some of the orange juice left in the Dutch oven, or check the recipe for the mushroom sauce later in this article.

This recipe will offer your chicken a sweet, but subtle taste. It won’t be overwhelming by any stretch of the imagination. However, you can use more orange juice or any of the oranges’ cousins such as tangerines, mandarins or minneolas, and more brown sugar if you want to “turn things up a notch.”

Would you like to be an apothecary?

As already stated, it’s the orange juice that gives the chicken breasts their flavor. (I bet you didn’t see this one coming). But what if you’re not much of a sweet tooth and want to create your own concoction of something sour or bitter, rather than sweet? You can combine half of cup of orange juice with half of cup of grapefruit, lemon or lime juice. Or, you can forget orange juice altogether – it’s up to you.

Also, you can add a pinch (or more) of lemon sugar to your brown sugar, if you want to experiment. Be careful to not add too much, as lemon sugar has a very strong sour taste that can be unpleasant if over-used.

The mushroom sauce – the chicken’s best friend

Mushroom_sauceSome people would find the taste of the orange sauce too sweet, and would like to match the chicken with a more neutral sauce, but one that doesn’t take long to make. And what better option is there than the mushroom sauce, the perfect companion for chicken dishes?

Let’s see how it’s made.

Ingredients for mushroom sauce

  • Butter or olive oil
  • 2 shallots or red onions, diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 tablespoons cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions for mushroom sauce

  1. In your Dutch oven or Dutch oven’s lid, turned upside down, or in a large skillet, heat up the butter or olive oil over low to medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots (or red onions) and garlic, and sauté for about 2 minutes, until the shallots become translucent.
  3. Add the mushrooms, and cook for about 5-6 minutes until tender, by gently stirring them so all the pieces get cooked. It might be that this amount of mushrooms seems large, but in just a few minutes they’ll shrink considerably.
  4. Add 1 cup vegetable stock (or 1 cup water), stir in ½ teaspoons of dried thyme and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes, stir in cream, tablespoon by tablespoon, and taste after each one, because different creams have different consistencies and different tastes. If after just one or two tablespoons you think it’s enough, stop there.
  6. Let simmer for another minute or two and then add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with the orange chicken breasts.

For those of you who like thicker sauces, you can add more vegetable stock and thicken it with cornstarch or arrowroot. Others might omit the cream altogether, although I think it enriches the taste and gives the sauce a nice color.

Mushroom_sauce_with_orange_chicken_breastYou can also run this sauce through a blender, or use a portable blender to make this sauce smoother – it’s up to you. Another option is to prepare this sauce in advance at home, store in the refrigerator and take it with you when cooking outdoors.

But the story doesn’t end here. Your Dutch oven is capable of cooking many more delicious dishes that will make outdoor cooking times memorable. With this in mind, I invite you to visit my website www.OutdoorDutchOvenCooking.info, where you’ll find recipes for cakes, breads, stews and roasts, etc.

The Art and Science of S’mores

There’s one snack that has been forever etched on the American psyche when camping comes to mind. The S’more, a delectable treat combining the richness of chocolate, the fluffy whiteness of a marshmallow and the course graininess of graham crackers. REI’s infographic shows us that good S’more construction is more than haphazard.

 

By REI.

By REI.

Camp Beverages

by Aih 2006

by Aih 2006

An essential part of any camp packing list is a stock of beverages to stay hydrated during your stay outdoors. Packing beverages can be difficult, because liquids require a large amount of space to store. If your campsite has clean, running water, you can pack beverage powders and eliminate the need to transport liquids. If not, you will have to make room in your packing for beverage storage. You may also want to pack liquid beverages if you do not want to limit your drinking to powdered beverages.

So, what kind of drinks should you take on your camping trip? The beverages you choose depend on your personal taste, time of year, and activities that you want to do. Pack a large supply of water to keep hydrated even if you also bring other beverages.

The Ultimate Hydrating Drinks

Staying hydrated while camping is top priority. Water is the best option for staying hydrated, but there are also other options. When hiking or engaging in other physical activities, an electrolyte-replacing drink can help you maintain hydration. Flavored electrolyte tablets are hydrating and healthy. Avoid electrolyte drinks filled with sugar, or worse high fructose corn syrup. Pickle juice is hydrating and can reduce muscle cramps after strenuous activity.

The Best Camping Drinks for Kids

Always give children water to drink as a first option. I usually make my kids drink a cup or more of water before they are allowed to have other beverages. Healthy drinks for kids include juice and tea- either unsweet or lightly sweetened with honey. While cool-aid, soda, and Gatorade are all popular drinks for children, they are not recommended during outdoor activities because of their high sugar content. Soda is also a dehydrating beverage.

Drinks Just for Adults

Many people enjoy relaxing with a couple of adult beverages while camping. Beer is an ever-popular choice. If you bring beer, stick to aluminum cans to avoid scattering glass shards in the camp site if a bottle breaks. Camping cocktails are also popular, but require more storage space. Hard liquor can be added to other beverages, like tea, coffee, soda, and juice to give them an extra kick.

Powdered Drinks

If you want to pack lightly, pack beverage powders rather than liquid. Beverages that come in powder form include coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate, and Gatorade. Pack the powder and add water once you get to the campsite.

Hydration is one of the most important safety concerns during a camping trip. With the right drinks, you can stay hydrated while still enjoying a variety of tasty beverages.

What is your favorite camping drink?

Make Your Own Jerky for Camping Trips

make your own jerkySince reading the The Hungry Hiker’s Book of Good Cooking by Gretchen McHugh I’ve been wanting to try to make jerky. I’d always assumed it was hard to make, but it’s not! With Gretchen’s instructions and recipes for marinade you can make your own jerky in your dehydrator or even your oven.

Tip: When making jerky, freeze the meat before slicing!
Following the instructions in the book I froze the steak I bought. Then I let it defrost just enough to slice with a heavy meat cleaver. Having the meat still firm and icy made cutting it in very thin strips really easy. After I got it all sliced I put the meat in a Ziploc bag with the marinade and put it in the refrigerator for about 48 hours.

How to dry jerky in the dehydrator:
I have a Ronco dehydrator so I turned that on and laid the strips of meat on the racks. Normally I’d keep adding racks and fill the dehydrator with as much produce as I can, but I was afraid the meat might flavor my fruits and vegetables so I decided to just do the jerky this time around. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can lay your strips of meat on a greased baking sheet and place in an oven at about 140 degrees. The Hungry Hiker’s Book of Good Cooking says the jerky is ready when cracks in two when you break it.

How long should jerky dry?
Our jerky took about 20 hours in the dehydrator to dry completely. Some of the thinner slices were ready within hours, but I went ahead and left it all in there overnight. This morning it was all perfectly done. My husband took it to work and all the guys are raving about it.

Make Your Own Jerky

Making your own jerky is easy and affordable.
I was really surprised at how simple it was to make and at how much jerky one steak made. We spent about $9 to make a quart sized bag full of jerky that is not only tastier but also healthier than the store bought jerky which is full of preservatives. I’m going to stop by the local meat market this afternoon and see if I can pick up some more steaks. I’m hoping they’ll be fresher and cheaper than the ones in the grocery store.

Have you ever made your own jerky?