Seared Chicken Thigh with Carmelized Leeks & Orange


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I adapted this recipe from Chanterelle as well — I can’t seem to get my nose out of this cookbook.  The pictures are not only breathtaking but the flavor combinations are absolutely stellar, so I couldn’t help but try all the recipes before returning it to the library.  This recipe originally called for Sweetbreads, which are the thymus glands on a calf — not exactly for the faint hearted.  Personally I am not a fan and it is quite hard to find in your local store so I substituted chicken thighs for this recipe.  You can also use chicken breast if you prefer, but I stick with thigh meat because it is a moister and more flavorful meat.

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Ingredients for Seared Chicken Thigh with Carmelized Leeks & Orange:

  • 2 pounds of chicken thighs/breast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 2 large onions, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 2 large carrots, unpeeled cut into large chunks
  • 2 garlic heads, in their skins, cut in half horizontally
  • 1/2  cup cubed fresh ginger unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 cups veal stock or chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 large pieces dried orange peel
  • black pepper from a mill
  • 3 cups leeks (white parts only) cut into 3 1/2- x 1/4 inch ribbons and wash well
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened at room temperature

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For the sauce, heat 1/4 cup of oil on high heat in a large pot.  Add the ginger, garlic, carrots and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir often to prevent the vegetables from burning.

Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar and water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Continously stir the mixture until it comes to a boil, then stop stirring but continue to heat until the sugar carmelizes into a medium golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Carefully add 1 cup of orange juice and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the caramel.  Please be careful during this step, add the liquid slowly or else the caramel will bubble over.  Continue to simmer at a medium-high heat and stir until the hardened caramel has dissolved.

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Add the caramel mixture to the vegetables and add the stock and soy sauce along with the orange peel, and bring to a slow, steady simmer.  Cook until the sauce is fragrant and slightly reduced, about 50 minutes.  Strain the sauce through a sieve and discard the vegetables.  Place the sauce in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook until the mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.

This is a method called a “gastrique“, common in a lot of French cuisine.  It is a thick sauce made from a reduction of sugar, vinegar and some type of fruit.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat.  Add the chicken thighs and brown on each side, about 8-10 minutes.  Do not rinse the pan.  Transfer to a plate, cover and set aside.  Sautee the leeks with 1 tablespoon of sugar over medium heat in the same sautee pan you used for the chicken.  Once it is browned and caramelized, turn the heat high and add the remaining 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, stirring and scraping any brown bits that may be stuck to the pan.  Reduce until the pan is nearly dry and add the sauce, chicken and butter.  Coat the chicken well with the mixture and plate immediately.  Finish off with spooning the sauce around the plate and garnishing with leeks and scallions.  Serve with a side of bok choy steamed or sauteed.

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This recipe is a little bit more difficult than others, however the results are worthwhile.  I initially attracted to this recipe because of the Asian influences.  It tastes like a General Tso’s Chicken sauce, but with a French twist.  The sauce is rich and complex with the leeks and orange creating a harmonious balance of flavor.

6 responses to “Seared Chicken Thigh with Carmelized Leeks & Orange

  1. That looks so pretty and delicious. I love the orange flavour.

  2. Okay, this looks pretty good and I may have to try it, even though I’m a disaster in the kitchen.

    Also, Mengfei and Angie (and another girl you don’t know but I showed her your blog) and I all think your food looks fabulous! 😀

    • Aw thanks Kristan!! I really enjoy reading your writings on fb as well as you and Angie’s joint blog. Please let me know if you need any help with cooking advice because I will probably be bugging you for writing tips 🙂

  3. I saw this recipe today and immediately tried it, a simpler and lower calorie version, but still delicious (http://cookingrookie.blogspot.com/2010/01/chicken-thigh-with-leeks-in-orange.html).
    Thank you for the inspiration! I will certainly come back to your blog for more ideas 🙂

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