Food memories, to me, are better than looking at photographs or reading old diaries. Smelling or tasting a food that is associated with a missed loved one can hit me like a ton of bricks, and can bring me back to a time and place that was long ago, reminding me of a favorite person.
This Orange Glazed Chicken is one of those nostalgic foods which creates fond memories of my grandfather. He always requested this dish for his birthday dinner, along with a spectacular orange layer cake with cream cheese frosting, and my mother, his daughter-in-law, always obliged.
My mother’s orange chicken is phenomenal…and can perfume the entire house with citrus-y, honey smells that will waft up to your nose and give you goosebumps because you know just how good it’s going to be. I think I have made it only twice in my twenty or so years on my own, even though it’s one of my favorites, and the reason being is two fold: 1) I can never, ever make it as good as Mom does and 2) Although helping me to conjure up fond memories of my grandfather, it makes me a bit melancholy since he has been gone for many years.
My grandfather was a prisoner of war in WWII where he courageously fought the Nazis as a tail gunner. I have a journal that he kept with poems, stories and long “Thank You” notes written to him for being the optimist of his battalion; the one who would keep the men going and convince them that there was going to be an end to the awful war, and they would someday get to see the ones they loved and go home.
As a kid, I would hear his war stories and feel proud, but I never fully understood the depths of his heroism and selflessness until reading the journals, newspaper articles and, frankly, getting old enough to appreciate how monumental it is that some people are willing to give their lives for others.
To me, he was just an amazing grandpa, who would pick us up every Friday to take us out for some fun, make us milk shakes to slurp at night and omelets in the morning sung to his own silly song. He and my grandmother would act as if we were the best things that ever happened to them, and that’s just hard to beat as a child or an adult for that matter.
I think, as I am planning to make the Orange Chicken tonight, is there anyone in my life who feels like they are the best thing that ever happened to me? I hope so. I really hope so because there are so many people who I just couldn’t do without and are, without a doubt, the best things that ever happened to me.
Sometimes, I guess, we just have to slow down, even though it’s nearly impossible at life’s breakneck speed, and make sure we are filling our loved ones’ days with special little things which they can create life-long memories with.
Above all, I want to make sure that I cook and bake family favorites often so when my kids are at a college apartment far away, or a newlywed cooking in their own kitchen for the first time, they can whip up a batch of a good old favorite like this Orange Glazed Chicken, and hopefully, it will instantly remind them of me and make them feel like I am right there.
Orange Glazed Baked Chicken
Serves 4-6 people, depending on whether it’s adults and kids or big and small eaters! 😉
2 packs (8 pieces total) of chicken with skin, bone-in (either one pack of drum sticks and one pack of thighs, etc.)
Liquid to dip chicken pieces in:
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. buttermilk (optional)
2/3 c. plain bread crumbs
3 T. grated orange zest (no white pith or your chicken will be BITTER—consider yourself warned)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 T. fresh parsley minced or 1/2 t. dried parsley flakes
1/4 c. of melted butter
1/4 c. of honey
3 T. orange juice
For the Chicken: preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray coat two glass rectangular dishes. You can just rinse your chicken and pat dry with paper towels, OR my mother taught me to soak my chicken in tepid water with kosher salt(about 1/4 c.) for a few minutes in a very large bowl filled 2/3 full with the water. Pat dry with paper towels. Lightly salt and pepper your chicken. After handling your chicken, wash your hands. I make sure to either let my kids handle the spices for me while I have “chicken hands” or wash my hands EVERY time I have touched the raw chicken. This is imperative so you are not spreading raw chicken bacteria onto the outside of your spice jars, etc.
Grate your orange zest and mix together with bread crumbs and seasoning in a pie pan. In a bowl large enough for one piece of dipped chicken, mix together your orange juice and buttermilk. Now dredge one piece of chicken in the orange juice and buttermilk mixture and then coat amply in the crumby mixture and place in the prepared glass dish. Repeat until you are done coating all eight pieces.
Place the baking dishes in the top rack and middle rack of your oven (the top rack should be at the second highest position of the oven, not the first). The bottom dish will cook a little faster. You will bake the chicken like this for about 20 minutes and then you can put on your glaze.
To make the glaze, simply melt the butter in the microwave and then stir it together in a small bowl with the honey and orange juice. Using a pastry brush, or simply a large spoon, drip the glaze over the chicken pieces using all of the glaze for all eight pieces. Cook another 25 minutes for a total cooking time of about 45 minutes. Check your thickest piece for doneness and then remove all the pieces if they are ok. Chicken, obviously, should not be pink, however dark meat can tend to have just the slightest pinkish hue and it’s fine (very slight, ok?).
May 24, 2011 at 9:44 am
That chicken sounds amazing, as does your Grandfather. I love how food can bring back memories of people. Its sad when theyre not with us anymore, but its nice to remember them at the same time.
May 24, 2011 at 9:44 am
That’s so wonderful you have those things from your granddad. I love this recipe. It’s simple, but you can just tell it tastes amazing. Great post!
May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am
I love food memories. Most of my memories for my favorite people revolve around food. This recipe looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it!
May 24, 2011 at 11:15 am
Geni, this is a beautiful, touching post and a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. I have so many memories associated with family and food and I too hope that my children will find comfort in their memories around certain meals and holidays we shared. I can’t wait to try this recipe because if it tastes as good as it looks in your photos this is going to be a favorite chicken recipe in my home!
May 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm
This chicken looks absolutely delicious! You must also share your moms orange cake recipe!
May 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm
It used to be a box mix from Duncan Hines so I am on a mission to re-create it! It also had flaked coconut over the top. I am really craving it right about now to go with my left over chicken!
May 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm
What sweet memories of your Grandpa. I want to see the recipe for the orange cream cheese cake. That sounds so good!
May 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm
What an insanely sweet and thoughtful post! I found myself hanging on every word, each one resonating within me. Beautiful.
I love the sound of this chicken…that sweet glaze. My kind of meal.
May 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm
This is such a beautiful post about your grandfather. He sounds like he was an amazing person and I’m sure that he is very proud of you and all that you have done.
May 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm
I love the meaning of this post; apart from the sight of the glistening food:) It is always lovely to have a certain nostalgic food that you can relate to a close and dear loved one, to bring back all the bittersweet memories.
Your grandpa sounds like a great man, a warrior indeed, and I am amazed by his courage and optimism. He will definitely be proud of you, and I am sure he is really happy that he is remembered while he looks down upon you from up above 🙂
May 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm
gorgeous pictures! this looks wonderful and so full of flavor!
May 24, 2011 at 7:03 pm
I absolutely love the story about your grandfather. I have a lot of memories with food and family as well. And those memories will always be apart of you :). But this Orange and Honey Glazed Chicken looks phenomenal. I just “liked” this post because I can’t wait to make this.
May 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm
Wow! Looking good!
May 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm
Those baked chicken thighs look fingerlicking! I love the crumbs.
May 25, 2011 at 12:16 am
The flavours on that chicken looks so awesome!
May 25, 2011 at 6:08 am
Geni- Have you read Unbroken? You must! Granted, I have had time on my hands lately, but it is the story of a WW2 gunner that becomes a Japanese POW. True, fascinating story. It left me filled with gratitude for all of those that have selflessly served and sacrificed for our country.
Also, your pics are gorgeous. I could almost smell the chicken from your first picture. 🙂
May 25, 2011 at 6:43 am
Thank you for the book recommendation and especially for the photo compliment. I sent it to food gawker and, of course, it was rejected. Bad composition apparently. I guess I have a lot to learn!
May 25, 2011 at 7:00 am
I made this last night, adding lime because I had more of those than oranges. We both really liked it and I snapped a photo so I can get around to linking back to it. Always, a bit behind on posting.:) Thanks for the recipe.
May 25, 2011 at 8:29 am
So glad you both like it! I LOVE it when fellow bloggers have tried a recipe and report back. Thanks!
May 25, 2011 at 8:37 am
What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather! My eyes teared up as I was reading. Made me think of my own grandfather who always lit up my life. The food I associate with him is sourdough bread.
Anyway, I’ve bookmarked this recipe. It looks and sounds so good that I’m gonna have to give it a try. Thanks so much for sharing your fond memories and also the recipe. 🙂
May 25, 2011 at 9:33 am
I did tear up when I read this. The chicken looks awesome. Food can be a wonderful memory in our lives.
May 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm
All of your food always gives me great memories!
May 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Your grandpa was a jewel! You’re so lucky to have those mementos of his~
On to the chicken…I can’t believe I’ve never eaten orange chicken. It sounds fabulous! It will make my dinner rotation soon 🙂
May 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm
May 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm
Such a sweet and endearing post–your grandfather sounds like he was a great man 🙂 And I can understand why this would be his favorite…sweetened chicken is a personal favorite of mine as well! Thanks for sharing the story and the recipe 🙂
May 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm
This chicken looks ridiculously good, and I love that it’s oven baked since I don’t have a deep fryer. Your grandpa sounds like he was a great man!
May 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm
OMG..look at the crust..so so beautiful.I m making fried shrimp for dinner today..wish I had seen your post and I know I would have immediately changed plans..this is both heathy & sounds so delicious..literally my mouth is watering!!
May 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm
Yummmmy! Definitely adding this to my wish list! And I completely understand about the nostalgic cooking. I just made my 94 year old grandma write out all her best recipes, so I can make a recipe book for the whole family. It’s amazing how food can spark so many memories. Your grandpa sounded like an amazing man!
May 26, 2011 at 9:59 am
What a fabulous idea. She must have been touched.
May 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm
Geni, love your story about your grandpa, this made me think of my mom’s fried chicken. I’ve to try this recipe, I like it that it’s baked. The first photo looks delicious.
May 26, 2011 at 3:16 am
lovely presentation with nice writeup..
first time here…love your space..gorgeous clicks..
Am your happy subscriber now..;)
do stop by mine sometime..
Event: Letz Relishh Ice Creams
May 26, 2011 at 7:32 am
What a lovely memory of your grandfather. He sounds like a wonderful man. Thanks for sharing his favorite recipe!
May 26, 2011 at 8:46 am
This is a beautiful tribute to your grandpa, who was a true hero. It’s amazing how our appreciation for people and events can deepen over time with a little bit of maturity. Thank you for sharing such a special recipe and memory.
May 26, 2011 at 11:08 am
I think that’s on my list. I love this! Your grandpa sounds delightful!
May 27, 2011 at 9:47 am
This is stunning delicious! Would love to enjoyed few …no all of those 🙂
May 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm
This looks like such a simple, yet delicious recipe. Loving the idea of an orange glaze. Yum!
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June 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm
I just discovered your amazing blog through Rufus’s ..and I love it
I totally agree with your on loving the memories associated with food..sometimes it is just making a dish ..not even eating it is what floods you with sweet memories..
your grandpa sounds like an amazing person
thank you for shring his story and this amazing recipe
June 22, 2011 at 8:05 am
A delightful and simple recipe which I’m going to try, orange glaze sounds good! I’m glad I stumbled on your blog. 🙂
June 22, 2011 at 8:47 am
I’m glad you stumbled here as well. Hope you like it!
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