Bonne année tout le monde! Happy 2011! I can say that still, because here en Suisse for the entire week it is not uncommon to hear people wishing each other (even strangers on the street) une bonne année. It seems out of the depths of November and December’s endless gray, rain, and snow, January is welcoming us with *mostly* clear blue Winter skies and sunshine that gives everyone just a little spring in their step.
As we enthusiastically open all the blinds to welcome the warm sunny glow into our home, I take another clementine from the worn wooden fruit bowl on the counter. I love clementines – the bowl is almost empty as I realize my husband and I have consumed over a kilo of the little bright fruit in just a weekend. I like that they peel easier than oranges in that I don’t end up with a splattered sticky mess all over the table by the time I’m ready to take my first bite, and I like that they have a little more punch than an orange does. Each bite of a clementine is like taking in a little piece of bright optimism that gives me a feeling 2011 will be quite the eventful year.
I don’t know all the foods that are supposed to bring luck for the New Year, as we never really had any New Year’s traditions growing up. I guess I could have made a large bowl of black eyed peas but really, I’m not a big believer in luck either. I’m a believer in recognizing opportunity. I think success is often determined by not just hard work, but also the ability to recognize a fortuitous moment to act (or not act) and to be able conduct ourselves appropriately when that instant occurs. So instead of hoping for luck this year, I want to hope for clarity, for seeing that opportunity. It’s one thing to have goals, for work, for family, for fun, but it’s another to see when something will help/hinder the realization of those goals. Clear insightful vision of the roads available to take is a totally separate thing to hope for.
In the spirit of vision, I see color as the symbol of any luck “charm” on my New Year’s plate – the bright orange clementines and green scallions decorating the sweet fried chicken reminded me of our trip to Burano, Italia during our Venezia adventures over the Christmas holiday. After a 30 minute boat ride over the chilly sea, it was a rather crisp and dreary day (though at least we were not wading in a foot of water like when in Venice proper!) – and yet, the colors of this little island would make even the grounchiest of grinches smile. I imagined bright fresh fruit as we walked along each of the streets –
I see lemon, blueberry, plum, melon…. even the umbrellas look cheerful airing out during one of the few dry moments of the week. Seriously, how could one not feel uplifted wandering around this town?
Strawberry, orange, grape…. The orange building was my favorite. Orange just seems like the perfect color, projecting warmth and invitation – like a cozy fire you want to sit near when things seem a little too unforgiving outside. So whether or not orange is indeed traditionally “lucky” for the New Year’s (cause I haven’t a clue), I decided it was the perfect color for my plate. I celebrated the arrival of 2011 with sweet orange chicken, and snacked on a gazillion of my favorite little clementines in the rare golden Winter sun.
In these still short days of Winter, it’s a good thing to invite a little color into our lives, and our tastebuds
Adapted from Smells Like Home (originally from Cooking with America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep Time: 10 min for chopping veggies
Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 1/4 cup orange juice
zest of one orange
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup tamari (gluten free) or soy sauce
2/3 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tbsp. ginger, grated
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 kg. chicken wings (about a dozen)
2 tbsp. cornstarch (or other starch of your choice)
1/4 cup cold water
2 large egg whites
2 cups cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups olive oil
clementine segments, sesame seeds and chopped scallions (for garnish)
1. Add all of the marinade ingredients to a medium saucepan and stir with a whisk until all is incorporated. Transfer 1.5 cups of the marinade to a large sealable plastic bag and add the chicken wings to the marinade in the bag. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for about an hour.
2. Meanwhile, heat up the rest of the unused marinade (which should be still in the saucepan) on the stove and bring to a simmer. This will become the sauce. Blend 2 tbsp. cornstarch and cold water together to form a very loose paste, and add this to the sauce. Keep at a simmer for at least one full minute until the starch dissolves and becomes clear. Then remove from heat.
3. In a large shallow bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy. In a second large shallow bowl combine 2 cups cornstarch and cayenne seasoning. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and discard the marinade. Dredge the chicken wings in the egg whites and then the cornstarch and set aside on a separate plate.
4. In a large pot heat the oil until 350F. Fry the chicken wings a few at a time about 3 minutes and then flip over and fry about 3 minutes more. You may need to work in batches depending on the size of your pot. Also crowding the pot may cause the temperature of the oil to drop which will affect how long you need to fry so that the chicken is fully cooked. Once cooked, lift out of the oil and drain on a paper towel to remove any excess oil.
5. Serve chicken wings with your favorite steamed rice and drizzle sweet orange sauce on top.