Salvaging a disaster: Ni-Vanuatu chicken with oranges

We’ve mentioned before that our Sunday roast dinner – a time for relaxing and enjoying good food and wine before the working week rears its monstrous head – is something we enjoy immensely. Exploring international recipes has sometimes given us an opportunity to cook something exotic but also enjoy a roast dinner, and we found that opportunity in Ni-Vanuatu cuisine. We did initially consider making the intriguing juice cake on the linked page, but the reality was that we made this shortly after Christmas when we still had a healthy supply of Ash’s mum’s homemade tiffin (as well as ‘healthy’ readings on the scales) and we decided another cake probably wasn’t necessary. So chicken with oranges it was.

Initially the concept of chicken and orange seemed a little strange, as it is duck that is traditionally served with orange. However, after frying the chicken, onion and garlic and adding the orange juice, the smell in the kitchen was delicious. This boded well for our Sunday feast!

The difficulty was choosing the correct pan to cook the chicken in. A frying pan was chosen as per the recipe, though in hindsight, we would recommend a more traditional cooking pot with deeper sides and a lid. Attempting to create a lid using tinfoil was not a success and apparently allowed much of the heat to escape. The result of this was chicken which took longer than expected to cook and a sauce which was over-reduced and burnt. Suddenly, not so promising after all.

Chicken with oranges

3 1/2 pound chicken
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup orange juice
1 orange, peeled and segmented
Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sear the chicken until well-browned on all sides.
2. Remove the chicken and pour off all but 2 tbsp of drippings.
3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft.
4. Return the chicken to the pan with the orange juice.
5. Cook covered for about 45 minutes (use a meat thermometer to check it is cooked through). Serve with orange slices.

530a Onions compressed

529a Chicken in pan compressed

533a Chicken with sauce compressed

All going well so far…

534a Foil lid compressed

But this is where it started to go wrong. Not a recommended cooking method!

536a Chicken in burnt sauce compressed

Because this happened. Sauce burnt to the point of no return.

539a Attempts to salvage sauce compressed

We did try to salvage it by adding more orange, water, wine and pretty much anything else we could think of…

538a Vanuatu dinner compressed

537a Vanuatu dinner compressed

As mentioned above, this was not our biggest success story. The lack of tight lid on the pan was clearly a problem, and attempts to fix the sauce failed to rid it of its carcinogenic layers of flavour. We also decided that the texture of the chicken, which was essentially as though it had been poached, was not as nice as it would have been had we simply put it in the oven and roasted it as normal. However, not ones to be too defeatist about things, we put on a brave face, served the chicken up with sweet potato, cabbage and orange segments… and opened one of the most disappointing bottles of wine we’ve had in recent memory.

In short, this was a Sunday dinner we’re likely to try to forget!

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