Peaches and cream. The beach and fish & chips. Lennon and McCartney. Bacon and eggs. Cinnamon and sugar. A roaring fire and a bottle of muscat.
Some things just go together. Sometimes two things harmonise and balance each other in such a way as to create a whole that is far greater that the sum of its parts; something entirely new is born out of the union of the two.
Nowhere in life is this truth more apparent than in the culinary realm, and it seems to me that much of the art of effective cookery is the deft and knowledgeable melding of tastes, favours, textures and intensities to create an experience that transcends expectation. Something that takes the person out of their day-to-day routine; providing them with something fulfilling, inspiring and uplifting. Something like Orange Vincotto Dressing and baked chicken.
My love affair with citrus-infused poultry began when I was 17.
I had only recently moved out of home, and lived with a few good friends. Amid all of the joyous new freedoms lurked the over-arching reality of the fact that I was no longer to be provided with home-cooked meals.
Despite (or perhaps owing to) the fact that my housemate was an apprentice chef, we tended not to do a lot of cooking in that share-house. And even when we wished to, the opportunity to do so depended upon the state in which the kitchen had been left by the other housemates. Usually it was just too much or a hassle and we would wander up the road to the Chinese take-away on the main road. I have fond memories of that Chinese take-away.
They had a large bain-marie laden with mouth-watering offerings, but I only remember three of them: Plum Pork, Honey Chicken and Lemon Chicken.
Of these three I had one clear favourite: Lemon Chicken. I remember eagerly handing over my $6.30 (which felt like a lot at the time) in exchange for a plastic container filled with rice and the delectable Lemon Chicken. We’d cross the road and eat it on the steps of the church there. I don’t know how much I thought about it at the time, but I loved that Lemon Chicken. It really is impressive how much the simple addition of lemon can enhance and improve a simple baked chicken meal. I wonder how many times I went to that take-away for their Lemon Chicken, and what that number multiplied by $6.30 would be!
Ah citrus. One of the most effective ingredients to add to a dish. It’s distinctive flavour and natural acidic taste have a lot of influence on a dish, even when only a small amount is used. Of all the citrus family, whilst I adore lemons and limes, orange is perhaps my favourite.
Orange, lacking the natural tartness of its cousins, can be added to so many dishes to provide a sweet and delicious counterpoint. When I saw that the second Balsamic Vinegar in the Pomodoras range was Orange Vincotto, I melted a little on the inside. I immediately thought of that Chinese take-away and began to wonder what orange could do to chicken. When I had my first taste-test of this sublime concoction, I was immediately mentally plotting to bake some chicken, doused in the heavenly stuff. Which I did that very night (more on this later)
I asked Chris why he had chosen to follow up his Famous Balsamic Dressing with an Orange Vincotto variation, and his reply was characteristically enthusiastic and passionate. He had received such a warm response to his flagship Balsamic Dressing that customers kept asking him if he was planning to create any additional flavours. Chris knew right away that the best follow-up would be an Orange Vincotto, as it would make for an extremely versatile and delicious dressing.
As we have been exploring, Chris’ Famous Orange Vincotto Dressing has the power to transform chicken, duck and other poultry dishes into an interesting and sophisticated dining experience. Furthermore, the simple act of drizzling it over your vegetables before you slide the baking tray into the oven can make the difference between a bland, ordinary dinner and the kind of crispy, tangy bakes vegetables your kids will talk about for years to come! You’ll wonder how you ever roasted vegetables without it before!
Anyway as I was saying above, that night I prepared a baking tray with four or five chicken breasts, and drizzled them with olive oil as I usually do.
Then, with a wicked smile I opened the cupboard and brought down my new bottle of Chris’ Famous Orange Vincotto Dressing. I knew that the best approach was to sit the meat in a bowl of the Dressing and patently allow it to marinate, but I wasn’t in a patient mood. I opened the bottle and lavishly splashed it all over the chicken. Then I popped it into the oven. After the usual time baking in the oven, the chicken came out smelling like heaven. The Orange Vincotto Dressing had caramelised nicely, creating a crisp crunchiness. It had also nicely permeated the chicken, creating a dish that looked and smelled like it belonged in a restaurant. And, when it came time to serve dinner, it also tasted like it belonged in a restaurant.
It isn’t just the orange infusion that makes it great; there are myriad other flavours and lingering notes which the dressing brings which make the dish satisfying and sophisticated dining. If I could go back in time to that Chinese take-away in the early 90s, I’d wander up to the 17-year-old me and let him know: It turns out Orange Chicken is a thing too.