Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coronado Concerts in the Park - Challenge Citrus

We gathered at the park last night for Challenge Citrus, and music by the Corvettes. Originally, we decided on Challenge Orange but then expanded the Challenge to Citrus, for those who simply couldn't figure out a way to use an orange...I'm just sayin'...Bradley!

That's ok, Bradley and John treated me to a hot date night on Saturday - dinner at one of our favorite Greek Restaurants in La Jolla, Apollonia Bistro, and Julia & Julia. Dinner was fabulous and we all laughed throughout the movie. Needless to say, Brad hasn't let up on his Julia Child impersonation since..."These things are as hot as a stiff cock!”

John and I definitely related to the movie. It's tough maintaining full-time jobs, our relationship, the house, the Newfs, and THE BLOG! But we love to cook and I'm lovin' the blogging. So here we sit, on Monday night, after working all day and grabbing a quick bite out - John on one couch and me on the other, on my computer, trying to finish this post about Concert in the Park last night.

Speaking of which, it's interesting I never seem to recall much of the music during the Concert. Most likely because John and I are so involved in unloading the wagon, dressing the tables, keeping the burner lit under the chafing dish, plating and serving the dishes we've spent all day cooking, taking photographs and notes about the food our other friends have devotedly prepared and, of course, visiting with everyone. It's more about the food than the music.

Unfortunately, what sprouted as an intimate, gourmet, cooking group a few years ago, has now grown into a completely different animal. I won't get into the nitty gritty, but will simply say it's not a very nice or appreciative animal on some nights. The picnic blanket has runneth over with a few who simply don't have a clue.

Thankfully, we still have those we consider to be true friends, as well as some new cherished friends, who get it.

Speaking of cherished new friends, Alec & Nina shared so many wonderful orange-enhanced dishes.

Nina put her past bartending skills to work and mixed up Orangesicle Cocktails, made with Vanilla Vodka, Grand Marnier, and Orange Soda.

For hors d'œuvres, Alec & Nina offered Marinated Olives, and Goat Cheese Crostini with Fig Compote. The Fig Compote was a reduction of figs, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and, knowing Nina, a splash of Grand Marnier. Both were sensational.

They didn't stop there. We loved Alec's version of Grilled Pork Tenderloin à la Rodriguez with Guava Glaze and Orange Habanero, by Bobby Flay.

After seeing Julia & Julia, I briefly contemplated honoring Julia Child with an attempt at Canard a l'orange. Although this is a dish I would love to try, I was not that ambitious and opted for Orange Chicken. I liked the sound of the recipe on BlogChef.net and my version is at the bottom of this post. Basically, I added just added a bit more ginger, garlic and spices and reduced the amount of cornstarch so the orange sauce wasn't quite as thick. I think it rivaled any Chinese restaurant version.

For dessert, Sandra flew solo with her Ambrosia, while Jack lounged in front of the tube watching the Mets pounce the Padres.

Nina continued to impress with her unveiling of totally addictive Chocolate-Almond Saltine Toffee. In keeping with the theme, she spiked her version with a splash of...you guessed it...Grand Marnier! I devoured at least three pieces and confiscated a few to take home. What a surprise to learn this mock Almond Roca is made with saltine crackers! I did an Internet search and found this recipe from Food & Wine.

Minute Chef, Brad, whipped up a Key Lime Pie. Unfortunately, my photos didn't do it justice and his whipped cream lost most of its whip by serving time. It had wonderful tartness.

I couldn't stop with Orange Chicken. Ina Garten tempted me with her Orange Pound Cake, from Barefoot Contessa, Family Style. The batter has the zest of 6 oranges, as well as a little orange juice and buttermilk. The glaze also has orange juice. It was very moist and orangy.

We challenged Kai to participate in Challenge Citrus, while on vacation in Germany. Too many other things to see and do, but he did slice a lemon in half and tease us with a photo of his Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb

More interesting are the photos of an 18th century German smokehouse


And the photo of the eel used to prepare his grandmother's Aalsuppe, or Eel Soup. Kai's hinted at writing a guest blog post with that recipe and more photos and I think I'll hold him to it. Maybe he will make it for us at our Octoberfest Challenge?

Well, I think I better sign off for the evening and go spend a little quality time with my man. Here's the recipe for Orange Chicken:

Orange Chicken
For Chicken
2 lbs chicken tenders, or boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1-1/2” cubes)
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence
Canola oil

For Orange Sauce
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon orange zest (grated)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ginger root (minced)
1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
4 tablespoons green onion (white and light green parts, chopped), plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Combine flour and Essence. Add whisked egg to bowl of cut up chicken pieces and mix well to coat the chicken. In small batches, roll chicken pieces in flour mixture and shake off excess. Deep fry chicken in batches at 375 degrees in a deep fryer (or use a wok) until completely cooked, about 4-5 minutes. It will only get slightly brown in spots. Place cooked chicken on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

For the sauce, combine 1 ½ cups water, lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce and stir over medium heat for a few minutes. Add brown sugar, orange zest, ginger, garlic, green onion, and red pepper flakes, and bring to a boil.

Combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water and mix thoroughly. Slowly stir cornstarch mixture into sauce until it thickens to the desired consistency. Pour sauce over breaded chicken. If desired, sprinkle additional red pepper flakes over the top and garnish with additional green onions.

Bon Appétit!