Orange Chicken Crispy Rice Salad

Orange Chicken Crispy Rice Salad

There are two important things to understand about this recipe for Orange Chicken Crispy Rice Salad. The first is that it’s hilariously American, as is the case with all of my recipes that approach cuisines from other countries. The second is that it’s absolutely delicious regardless of authenticity. The inspiration for this concept came from my first experience with a crispy rice salad at Doi Moi in D.C. Their food is Southeast Asian, and so delicious – I definitely recommend a trip if you’re near 14th street. Their crispy rice salad involves fermented pork, which I have never worked with before, so I decided to combine the concept with something a little more familiar: orange chicken.

I have wild dreams of someday being one of those people who just throws all kinds of interesting ingredients into a dish without a second thought. I love trying new foods and flavors, and I make a conscious effort to order outside of my comfort zone at restaurants, but sometimes you just have to stick with some of what you know when you’re trying a new recipe concept. The point of that being that the sauce for my orange chicken started with a Panda Express copycat recipe, and I haven’t really done that much to it. I’m okay with that however, as Panda Express orange chicken is a delicious gift from the heavens.

The crispy rice is of course the real standout of this salad, and the whole reason for it’s existence. I didn’t even know that crispy rice was a thing until a few months ago, but the version I made up for this recipe is one of my new favorite things. I started with a recipe from Ayesha Curry which set me on the right path flavor and texture-wise. I flavored mine with Greek yogurt, lemon, dill, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Her recipe calls for crisping the rice in a pan on the stove, but mostly I just kept burning things that way. I found it much easier to get the results I wanted by toasting the rice on a tray in the oven. The result is crisp, slightly chewy, very flavorful rice that clumps together into bites like croutons in the salad.

This salad could easily have gone in the direction of very bad for you but with summer coming I figured I’d keep it light. I use grilled chicken instead of fried, and loaded base of the salad with spinach, broccoli and cucumber, and topped it with some cashews for added crunch and nutrition. I think a variety of textures is what separates a decent salad from a great one – they can get a bit boring if every bite is the same. This salad has a combination of crunchy and chewy and soft components that combine with the bright flavor of the orange chicken, and the lightly spicy crispy rice, to make a pretty perfect meal.

This salad is a perfect start to break away from a typical boring lunch time. You can only eat Caesar salad so many times in a row before you want to stab yourself with your fork. Not that there’s anything wrong with Caesar salad. Crispy Rice Orange Chicken Salad is as always, open to interpretation. I invite you to try it with lemon chicken or switch out the cashews for pecans. Maybe add roasted Brussels sprouts in place of the broccoli. Just promise me that whatever you do, you’ll keep the crispy rice – It’s truly something different and wonderful, and I can’t wait to make it again.




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Orange Chicken Crispy Rice Salad

Orange Chicken Sauce adapted from Food.com's Panda Express Copycat Orange Chicken 


Ingredients

Crispy Rice

  • 3 cups cooked rice (1 cup uncooked)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt 61g
  • 2 Tbsps lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 tsps red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 tsps dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Orange Chicken

  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil - divided use
  • 1 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)
  • 3 Tbsps soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsps rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 2 tsps garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsps cornstarch

Salad

  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup diced cucumber, de-seeded
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted cashews

Instructions

  1. Prepare the crispy rice. Stir together the cooked rice, yogurt, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, dill, pepper, and salt until well mixed. Spread into one even layer on a baking tray lined with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, stir the rice around on the tray, and bake for another 30 minutes. It's done when the top of the rice has browned and the clumps are crispy on the edges and soft inside. Once the rice has cooled slightly, transfer to a cutting board and chop larger clumps into bite-sized pieces. 

    2. While the rice bakes, make the orange chicken. Slice the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and sautee in a skillet over high heat, with a Tbsp of olive oil. Remove to the side. To make the sauce, combine orange juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice wine in a small bowl and set aside. Using the same skillet from the chicken, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Stir together the green onion, ginger, garlic, 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and chili flakes and add to the hot skillet. Cook for about a minute until fragrant, and then add the orange juice mixture. 

    3. Let the sauce come to a simmer, over medium-heat, about 9 minutes. Do not let it come to a full boil. Stir together the corn starch and water, and add to the sauce. Stir gently for an additional 3 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken. Lower heat and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and add the chicken, stirring until well-coated.

    4. To assemble the salad, fill a bowl with chopped spinach, diced cucumber, broccoli florets, and cashews. Top with a generous helping of orange chicken and crispy rice. Enjoy!

    Note: Leftover orange sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week. 


Sweet Potato Summer Salad: Two Ways

Sweet Potato Summer Salad: Two Ways

I bought a new car a few days ago, because my old one was declared totaled after a fender bender. And on the day I bought my car, my laptop died. 2017 is perhaps not going to be my year after all. In the midst of misfortunes such as these, I turn to food to lift my spirits, because food rarely fails me. While I couldn’t be online blogging, I was able to test some new recipe ideas to dazzle you with. Today’s recipe is unusual in the best way, because it’s not a combination of flavors that you see a lot, but I’m so happy it’s in my life now.

I give you Sweet Potato Summer Salad. No longer will I stand for sweet potatoes being associated only with the holidays. Mixed with the right flavors, they’re perfect for spring and summer. This salad is a mix of roasted sweet potato, strawberries, apples, and spicy toasted pecans, tossed in an orange poppy seed dressing. I’ve adapted the Orange Poppy Seed Dressing recipe from Skinny Ms., reducing the honey to keep the whole dish from being too sweet. This dressing adds a light, zingy touch of citrus to the heartier sweet potatoes, and ties it together with the other fruits. The mix of crisp apple, soft, sweet strawberry, and rich sweet potato, with the crunch of the pecans and poppy seeds, makes this dish a textural dream. I highly recommend throwing it all in a bowl and serving it as is, but if you want to add a little something extra, I have a few ideas for you.

This salad works beautifully as a component in more traditional salads, served over a bed of greens and drizzled with a little more of the dressing. You could add meat or more nuts and seeds to make it more of a meal, but it definitely doesn’t need it. Alternatively, Sweet Potato Summer Salad also makes a fabulous dessert. I stirred little cubes of pound cake in with it, which added the perfect boost of sweetness and made the whole thing feel more decadent. You could take the dessert concept a step further and top yours with whipped cream or ice cream, with an extra drizzle of the dressing to balance the sweetness. Both versions offer a very interesting take on their respective food groups (if you count dessert as a food group, which I do). Will it matter if you omit the poppy seeds? Of course not, but in my opinion they add elegance to the salad and a striking contrast to the colorful fruit. You could also experiment with substituting chia seeds, if that’s what you have on hand.

This dish is complex and delicious, and you can still feel good about eating it. Even as a dessert it’s mostly a serving of fruit, and the dressing is packed with flavor, so you don’t need a lot of it. To be fair, I feel good about eating just about everything except coconut and bleu cheese, but it’s nice to have healthy options when summer is coming. Really fast. In less than a month. I feel like everyone I talk to lately is all “how is it May already?” Sweet Potato Summer Salad is the perfect dish to help usher in the new season, so we can all wonder less about where the year has gone, and wonder more about whether or not there’s enough left for a second helping!

5 from 1 vote
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Sweet Potato Summer Salad

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing recipe adapted from Skinny Ms.

Ingredients

Sweet Potato Summer Salad

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, peeled
  • 8-10 large strawberries

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube the sweet potato, and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle about a tsp of olive oil over top and stir the potatoes around until they're all coated. Sprinkle brown sugar and salt over top. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir the potatoes around on the tray, and then bake for an additional 15 minutes. 

    2. Roughly chop the pecans, and spread them on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place in the oven to toast for about 5 minutes - they can go in at the same time as the sweet potatoes. They may need an extra minute or so to get nice and toasty, but be careful not to burn them. Stir together 1/2 Tbsp of honey, 2 oz of orange juice, and the cayenne. Stir toasted pecans into this mixture, and then spread them out on the baking sheet to dry. After the sweet potatoes are done cooking, you can set the tray of pecans in the warm oven, with the door slightly ajar, to help them dry.

    3. Peel and cube the apple, and slice the strawberries into bite-sized chunks. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, until well combined. The poppy seeds will rise to the top, so you'll need to re-whisk it before pouring over the salad. 

    4. Add the potatoes, apple, strawberries, and pecans to a bowl, and toss with about half of the dressing. The other half of the dressing can be drizzled over greens topped with the sweet potato summer salad, or ice cream/pound cake, mixed with the salad. Both versions are delicious!