Coconut Orange Chicken

coconut orange chicken

My delightful creation boasts of the meat and cream of coconut, contrasted with fresh orange, and melded with the juices of sautéed chicken and onions-flavors which accent each other, as Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page suggest in Culinary Artistry.  1

Much can be said about the benefits of coconut, with its current widespread demand.  Coconut sugar-with its low glycemic index-is the best choice for baking (see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24), while coconut oil is ideal for health-learn more about this highly beneficial saturated fat in my entry Nutty Coconut Pie, 2017/11/13.  Here, however, we will explore the advantages of its milk, cream, and water.

Coconut is the largest and most important of all nuts, which is the stone of a drupe, the fruit of Coco nucifera, large tree-like palms, which are more closely related to grasses than other nut-trees.

These hardy fruits are borne and mature year-round; it takes eleven to twelve months for them to fully develop.  Around five to seven months, they develop coconut water (about 2% sugars) and a moist, delicate, gelatinous meat.  The mature coconut, however, has a less abundant, less sweet liquid, and meat that has become firm, fatty, and white.  2

Coconut milk-as opposed to coconut water-is made by pulverizing good, fresh coconut meat to form a thick paste, which consists of microscopic oil droplets and cell debris suspended in water; this water makes up about half of the paste’s volume.  Then more water is added, and it is strained to remove the solid particles.  Left to stand for an hour, a fat-rich cream layer separates from a thin-skim layer in the milk.  3

For a while, only the canned, skim coconut milk was available at Trader Joe’s.  When I inquired about their coconut cream, which I prefer for cooking, I was told the market was presently so glutted by the popularity of coconut products that the cream wasn’t being produced.  Lately, once again, cans of coconut cream are available there, much to my joy.

Recently friends came for dinner.  Cody was sharing his expertise with my computer, while I in turn was blessing with food; thus, the inspiration for this dish.  It was a win-win situation, for both of us were incapable of doing what the other was providing.

We are all critical members of the body.  With God’s help, we play out our individual parts, as we contribute to the whole.  Each of us is uniquely equipped; thus, the manifold splendor of the perfected body.  Likewise, this same divine genius can be seen in what mother-nature did, bestowing on us these many essential products from the coconut fruit.

References:

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 199.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 508.
  3. Ibid., p. 509.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_milk

finished product

Coconut Orange Chicken  Yields: 3-5 servings.  Total prep time: 1 1/4 hr.

12 oz frozen broccoli  (Organic is best, available at Trader Joe’s; our local Grocery Outlet sometimes has it at a better price.)

1 lb chicken tenderloins, 8 lg pieces

6 1/2 tsp oil   (Coconut oil offers ideal flavor and quality.)

1 med yellow onion, cut in even 1/8” slices

Small head of cauliflower  (Organic, orange cauliflower is often available at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores; color is beneficial to health.)

Red or orange bell pepper  (Organic is so important with bell peppers, as they readily absorb pesticides.)

1 lg orange, peeled and divided into small sections  (Organic is best.)

1/3 c unsweetened shredded coconut flakes  (Available in bulk at many stores, very reasonable at our local Winco.)

1-15 oz can of coconut cream (Trader’s usually carries this; coconut skim milk will work as well.)

1 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; Costco sells an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Steamed rice or quinoa  (See Quinoa Dishes, 2018/01/29.)

  1. produce

    Take broccoli out of freezer, open package, and set aside.  Place chicken in bowl of water to thaw.

  2. Spray all vegetables with an inexpensive, safe, effective produce spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes; then, rinse well.
  3. Chop onions in even 1/8” slices.  Heat 1/2 tsp of oil in a sauté pan, over medium heat; oil is ready, when a small piece of onion sizzles.  Reduce heat to med/low.  Add rest of onion and cook, stirring every several minutes until light color begins to form; then, stir more frequently until onions are dark brown.

    cutting cauliflower

    Place in a bowl and set aside.  While these are cooking, go to next step, but watch onions carefully.

  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in an extra large frying pan; salt and pepper poultry well; when small piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add rest of tenderloins.  Cut in bite-size pieces with a spatula as cooking; cook until light pink in center-do not overcook, as they will cook more later on.  Set aside on plate, SAVING JUICES IN PAN.
  5. Cut all cauliflower into small florettes, by first cutting sections off whole cauliflower.  Next remove excess stalk off these sections.  Finally, gently break these smaller sections into bite-size pieces, by pulling the florettes apart with a paring knife, see photo above.
  6. separating orange segments

    Chop pepper into 2”-strips.  Peel orange, break in half, cut halves in half, and divide into small sections (see photo).

  7. Over medium heat, heat left-over juices in large pan, to which 1 tbsp of oil is added.  When a small piece of cauliflower sizzles in pan, add the rest of it, as well as the pepper strips and broccoli.  Stir oils into vegetables; mix in dried coconut and coconut cream (be sure to gently stir the cream in the can first, to avoid a mess when pouring).  Sauté until desired tenderness; may cover with a lid to speed up process. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add chicken pieces and orange segments; adjust seasonings; cook until tenderloins are hot (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. Serve over rice or quinoa.  A powerfully good dish!

Nutty/Lemon/Coconut Bars

nutty/lemon/coconut bars

This recipe for nutty/lemon/coconut bars is from the mid-1960’s, given to me by my beautiful aunt Sheila.  She made them for her family, while living in East Glacier Park, Montana.

A decade later, after moving 90 miles away to Kalispell, this same aunt watched over me like a hen over her chick, as I was recovering from bulimia and anorexia then.  Having overcome much in her own life, she was willing to share her victories.  She approached her covering of me, as a humble friend, coming along side me gently. We spent numerous hours in each others company, usually over food, while we frequently perused the daily reading from her treasured God Calling, an inspired devotional written by two women in England.  How I recall our immense excitement over the accuracy, with which these prophetic, living words touched our souls!

Sheila loved good edibles.  From the seventies on, after her move to the city, however, her delight was to indulge in fine cuisine at restaurants, rather than spending the necessary preparatory time in a kitchen.  Her constant discovery of new establishments blessed us here in Portland, Oregon, where we both resided before she passed away in the 90’s.

Unlike my aunt, for me the height of indulgence in food is found in the strength imparted by the whole hands-on process, from the beginning to end stages, present in receiving nourishing substance.  This starts initially with the act of shopping, it intensifies as I press in over a stove, and it culminates in a grand finale as I partake of pleasures at the table.  For me, each level is essential in the mastery of the art of fine cuisine; likewise all require diligence in their practice,

For instance, shopping can bring joyful breakthrough, i.e., the hunting for specials at Fred Meyer recently benefited me greatly: the produce worker John and I were chatting, while he was doing his work and I was examining artichokes; he suddenly broke out excitedly, “I can teach you how to test this vegetable for freshness.”  He proceeded to show me how to squeeze its middle, instructing that if it flattens out it is past its prime.  Eagerly he promised that when watermelon season arrives, his expertise will be at its prime, for he never misses with this fruit-I can’t wait to share this tidbit with you also.

From the grocery store, I go to my kitchen, equipped with the best.  There I purpose to set my day’s thoughts aside, as I settle into cooking, striving for peace, which is critical, or mistakes get made, and our Father’s intended gratification is lost.

Julia Child comes to mind, with her passion for every aspect of fine food, especially her fervency in sharing her knowledge with the world; this can be seen clearly in her approach to helping young, aspiring chefs.  As with so many others, I was taken under her wings, with five encouraging letters in the 80’s and 90’s.  Her covering was a gift from God, who longs to envelop us with such protective shelter, as he did for me with my aunt in earlier years.  Indeed, I have become who I am today, by humbly receiving such guidance from authorities.

Sheila’s nutty coconut bars satisfy the child within, with their lemon savor; it’s my joy to share these with you.  Bon appetit!

finished product

Nutty/Lemon/Coconut Bars  Yields: about 30 bars.  Total prep time: 1 hr.

1 c plus 2 tbsp flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1 1/2 c brown sugar  (Organic is preferable, available at Costco, also at Trader Joe’s in an 1 1/2 lb bag.)

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 c unsweetened coconut shredded flakes (This is available in Bob’s Red Mill packages at most grocery stores, where it is also frequently sold in bulk.)

1 c pecans

1 1/2 c powdered sugar  (Organic can be found at Costco and Trader’s.)

1/3 c fresh lemon juice  (3 small/med lemons will be needed.)

  1. baked crust

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Cream butter and 1/2 c brown sugar in a bowl; add 1 c flour, over which baking powder is sprinkled evenly; work together with a fork, until it becomes mealy, like pie crust.  Pat this down firmly in the bottom of an ungreased 9” x 12” pan (this size pan is out-dated; you may substitute the equivalent in square inches, or around 108″; 2-8” x 8” pans will work; 2-9″ x 9″ pans, however, will be too large).  Bake for 12 minutes; then, remove from oven; see photo above.
  3. Meanwhile beat eggs well; mix in vanilla and salt; blend in 1 c brown sugar, 2 tbsp flour, coconut, and pecans.  Spread this mixture over baked-crust (see photo below).  Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).  Prepare frosting next.
  4. spreading coconut mixture over crust

    First, place 1 1/2 c powdered sugar in a medium bowl; then, measure and pour lemon juice over sugar; beat with a spatula until lumps are gone; set aside.

  5. When bars are through baking, immediately pour lemon frosting over top; cool before cutting.  How I love these!

Serungdeng Kacang

serungdeng kacang

serungdeng kacang

The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my varied dishes in the early 1980’s, when I was catering historical events in Billings, Montana.  In those days, I sought recipes that allowed me to offer thematic meals from diverse cultures and times. To my joy, I discovered a host of receipts from Indonesia; thus, I presented an Indonesian rijsttafel to my eager audiences.

A rijsttafel is a banquet of delicacies from this southeast Asian republic, formerly known at the Dutch East Indies.

Serungdeng kacang is a condiment for rice dishes in these ethnic feasts. My particular recipe comes from Java, one of the many islands in Indonesia. These coconut crumbs, spiced with onion and garlic, are spread liberally over the rice portions, in addition to a variety of other garnishes.

For me, serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is compatible with Indian curries, acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre, and-my favorite-provides the crowning touch to salads!

I always keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand, by making a double batch and storing it in a sealed storage bag.  The beauty of this topping is it lasts a long time, if you are disciplined.

Prior to my doing this rijsttafel, I presented a gala event, a Moroccan affair, which was to  become one of my favorite memories in the history of my business; it best defines what my work entailed back then.

I loved to act in my youth and knew the Billings’ theatrical community well.  As an aside, actors often make a living in the restaurant business; they are adept at waiting tables.  Then my creative dinners needed both excellent service and improvisation.  An incredible fit was made with my Billings’ thespian friends; thus, I frequently employed them in my catered dramas.

My most treasured memory using this partnership was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre, in which I presented an authentic Moroccan dinner, for a staged “Night at Rick’s Place”.  The five winning tickets, from those auctioned off-each with their three guests-were transported back to World War II in the theatre’s upstairs.

This large room had been converted into Rick’s Place, from the movie Casablanca.  It was furnished with a bar off to one side of the restaurant, while the dining room consisted of five tables of four, clothed with white linen.  The city’s leading actors peopled the bar scene. More of these, dressed in tuxedos, served the sumptuous meal to the unsuspecting partakers in this suspense.

Broadway arts resulted!  Numerous brawls took place in the bar; the Gestapo arrived; guests were pick-pocketed, and on and on.  Talk about fun.

My part was the researched African meal.  That afternoon, after weeks of cooking, I showed up for the final preparations in the theatre’s limited kitchen. Behold, the limits escalated upon my arrival, for the stove wasn’t working!

The true test of my creativity came.  Nevertheless, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates.  The event came off triumphantly, as I, in  Moroccan dress, told the innocent company the colorful history as each dish was served.

I repeated this dinner numerous times in my career, but this show never again reached the thrill of its original occurrence.  That night in “Casablanca” best exemplified what I did with my work then.

Now my food history presentations entertain larger audiences, but still guests participate in dinner theatre type events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful stories.

Today my grand affairs mostly involve Northwest history, for which I was trained in graduate school.  However back in the 80’s and 90’s, I presented other cultures and times in my gala occasions.  Among these many thematic experiences was this Indonesian rijsttafel, from which today’s entry originated.

simple mincing of onion

simple mincing of onion

Serungdeng Kacang  Yields: 3 c.  Total prep time: 1 hr, plus 1 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min.

6 tbsp yellow onion, minced  (You will need a med/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)

6 med/large garlic cloves, chopped fine

2 tbsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality here.)

2 c unsweetened coconut chips  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)

1 c roasted, unsalted peanuts  (Also available at low cost in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. An easy way to mince onion is to peel it, leaving the root on; next, score it by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the other direction.  After onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife (see photo).
  2. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Measure 6 tbsp of minced onion and place in a mortar; save rest of onion for other cooking.  With a pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt.  When this is a thick puree, set aside.  (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
  4. Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it begins to turn brown, immediately lower temperature to med/low; oil is ready for cooking.  Meantime mix together coconut and onion mixture in a large bowl. Make sure coconut is completely coated.
  5. When oil is hot, add coconut mixture; mix well with spoon to evenly coat fruit with oil.
  6. Cook about 20 minutes (over med/low heat), or until golden brown in color and slightly wet, stirring every 5 minutes, so as not to burn.  Let it, however, cook for full 5-minute increments, without stirring; this allows for the coconut to brown.  As you stir it, carefully scrape bottom of pan with a spatula.
  7. When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice in this last 5-minute period.  Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the heat-retentive cast iron pan.
  8. Remove from heat and be sure to leave in skillet to cool; this completes the drying process.  (See top photo for finished product.)
  9. This lasts for months, kept in a sealed storage bag.

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball

curry/chicken/cheese ball

curried chicken/cheese ball

This incredible hors d’ouvres dates back to the early 1980’s.  My mother’s best friend, in our small Rocky Mountain village, became my treasured ally. She and her husband moved to East Glacier Park, when he retired as a screenplay writer. Talbot Jennings was so famous that a prominent New York City television station featured his movies, such as The King and I, for a whole week, before he died.

This illustrious couple traveled the world during the production of these films; thus, Betsy schooled me in her prodigious cosmopolitan ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting under her tutelage, as she prepared me for the lions at Trafalgar Square and exceeding more, prior to my moving to London.  I believe she was even more excited than I, about my valiant relocation to Tokyo half a decade later.

The voluminous New York Times brought the vast outside world to Betsy every weekend.  She was forever clipping articles to prepare me for my numerous sojourns.

With this same spirit, starting in 1982, she helped me to grow as a historical caterer. My creative mentor was always sending me gifts, which she ordered from the New York Times.  Ingenious gadgets were among a wide array of superlative food items. Many of these imaginative tools still grace my kitchen today.

While I was doing my early work in Billings, Montana, I journeyed to my hometown each year, where I catered multiple theme dinners per visit. The eight-hour drive across the wide expanse of the Big Sky Country thrilled my tender soul. How I delighted in approaching the backdrop of my beloved mountains, as I gazed across those colossal open prairies.

Once there, I spent many hours drinking in wisdom at Betsy’s feet.  During one of these relished trips, she offered this  delectable cheese ball to me.  I was enamored with it then and still am today.  Then it was a frequent hors d’oeuvre at my gala catered events;  today it is still my constant contribution to every holiday meal, at which I am a guest.

May you make this blessed appetizer a family tradition as well!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball  Yields: 2 1/2 c.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 15 min.  Note: you may make this a day ahead.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 c slivered almonds

1/2 c unsweetened coconut, finely grated  (Available in bulk, at our local Winco and other stores.)

2 tbsp mayonnaise  (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)

2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney  (3 spoonfuls gives full-bodied sweetness.)

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

3-4 frozen tenderloins  (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)

1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roast almond slivers for 10 minutes.  Remove and cool on a plate.
  2. If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in warm water.  Cook chicken in salted boiling water.  When center is white, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator on a plate.  Do not overcook to avoid toughness.
  3. Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken and almonds.  Note: it works best to insert a regular teaspoon in the narrow jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, when measuring it.  Be sure to use well-rounded teaspoons, as each approximates a tablespoon, for which the recipe calls.
  4. Chop roasted almonds with a sharp knife; add to cream cheese.
  5. Leave this cream cheese mixture out at room temperature, while waiting for the chicken to cool.  When meat is cool, cut it into small pieces; finally, mix chicken into cream cheese very gently, as not to shred it.
  6. Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap; place chicken ball in the center of wrap.  Surround ball with this plastic covering and refrigerate on a small plate.
  7. Soften ball at room temperature before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
  8. Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate.  This is a winner!