Orange Chicken Koresh for The Temporary Bride

Our latest selection (October/November) for Cook the Books Club is The Temporary Bride - a Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec. A truly fascinating read. I especially enjoyed the account of Klinec's very unusual growing up years, which went a long way toward explaining her extreme courage and independence.   Also the cooking school she ran in London sounded like my kind of fantasy class to take. Eclectic, wide-ranging culinary explorations, learning everything from Oaxacan moles to preparing a Vietnamese-style snapper. She says: "We crimp dumplings between our fingers and mix pickled tea leaves with roast peanuts and lime juice in tiny, lacquer Burmese bowls."

On the other hand, I certainly don't find Persian cooking fabulous enough to take it to the extent she went to, in her determination to learn how to cook their food on site.  In fact, I came away with the impression that it would be an extremely horrific place to live, let alone visit.  You couldn't pay me to go there.  Although everything wasn't totally squalid, enough was, especially when added to the extremely oppressive political atmosphere.  Something like going away to live in Nazi Germany maybe, as a Jew, to learn how to make strudel.  Maybe fearless, maybe stupid. Pardon me.  Just my opinion, coming away from this memoir.  Not talking about some of the people who were kind and helpful, the interesting culture or food here, just the current religious/political situation, particularly for women.

From the Publishers:

"Jennifer Klinec is fearless. In her thirties, she abandons her bland corporate job to launch a cooking school from her London apartment and travel the world in search of delicious recipes and obscure culinary traditions. Her journey takes her to Iran, where she seeks out a local woman to learn the secrets of Persian cuisine.

Vahid is suspicious of the strange foreigner who turns up in his mother's kitchen. Unused to such a bold and independent woman, he is frustrated to find himself, the prized only son of the house, largely ignored for the first time. But when the two are thrown together on an unexpected adventure, they discover a mutual attraction that draws them irresistibly toward each other--but also pits them against harsh Iranian laws and customs, which soon threaten to tear the unlikely lovers apart.

Getting under the skin of one of the most complex and fascinating nations on earth, THE TEMPORARY BRIDE is a soaring, intricately woven story of being loved, being fed, and struggling to belong."

Probably more of the struggling love story and less of the actual cooking than I would have liked, but still quite the adventure, and enough food mentions to get inspired by.

Luckily, I had the perfect cookbook for this occasion, The Silk Road Gourmet, by Laura Kelley, an earlier Cook the Books Club selection, an excellent book and one I highly recommend. We currently have lots of oranges ripening, so it was an Orange Chicken Koresh that caught my eye.  A classic example of the Persian way of mixing meats and fruit.  Kelley says: "Meat dishes in Iranian cuisine are almost always slow cooked with vegetables either as stews called koreshes or baked in casseroles." This one is delicious with lots of spices, including saffron as well as pistachios and slivered almonds, not to mention the 7-8 oranges and a couple of limes.

Orange-Chicken Koresh
      from The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley
3 medium-large chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons light sesame or peanut oil
2 large onions, peeled, sliced and separated into crescents
2 tablespoons orange zest, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups orange juice (4-5 oranges)
1/2 teas. ground cinnamon
1/2 teas. ground cardamom
1/2 teas. ground nutmeg
1/2 teas. cumin
1/2 teas. coriander
1 teas. salt
1/2 teas.ground black pepper
1/2 teas. Persian lime powder (I used sumac - another souring ingredient used in Persian cooking)
2 medium carrots, julienned or matchsticks
3 teas. slivered almonds
2 teas.chopped pistachio nuts
3 medium oranges, peeled and separated into segments
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teas. saffron threads, dissolved into 2 tablespoons of hot water

Heat oil in a deep saucepan and saute chicken over high heat until it becomes firm and starts to color - the point being to sear the meat but not completely cook it. When done, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Lower heat to medium and add the sliced onions and cook until they soften and start to color.

When the onions are done, add the orange zest and stir well.  Add the chicken back into the pan, along with any juices that have collected.  Then add the orange juice and bring to a near boil.  Then add the cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, and Persian lime powder (or sumac), lower  heat and cook covered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until chicken starts to become tender.

Combine the vinegar, lime juice, sugar and saffron water in a medium saucepan and heat for 10 minutes or so until hot.  Then remove from heat and add orange segments and stir well.  Set aside until needed.

Next, add the julienned carrots, almonds and pistachios to the chicken mixture and cook for another 15 minutes or so.  When done, remove from heat and pour in the lime juice mixture used to soak orange segments and stir.  Then add orange segments to the stew and stir again.  Serve with white rice.

Lovely exotic flavor combinations.  Just delish! Well worth the time and extensive ingredient list.  This is my contribution for our current Cook the Books Club round, which I am hosting.  There's still lots of time if you'd like to join in.  The deadline is November 30th.  Just click on the link for more information.  Basically, you read the book and then post your thoughts and a dish it inspired you to make.  I'm also sharing this with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and with Heather for her October Foodies Read Challenge.  I hope you will visit for great book selections and cooking ideas.


Beth F said...

Oh my, this sounds so, so good. I don't know much about Persian cooking, but this chicken is going to make an appearance in my house for sure.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

I don't know much about Persian cooking, but this recipe looks good! The book sounds interesting. I like books about women and courage!

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I, too, was disappointed that more time wasn't spent on the food and less on the relationship that I don't know I would even call a love story. But I won't go on about it here, I'll write my own post LOL. Your chicken looks wonderful. I love Persian food.

Mae Travels said...

Persian cuisine is definitely recognized as one of the world's great ones, but I agree with you: now isn't a very good time to travel to the source! The chicken looks delicious.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Vicki said...

I don't think I've ever tried Persian food, but that sounds amazing!

jama said...

The chicken looks delicious -- love the idea of combining chix with orange peel and all those spices! Persian cuisine is definitely "exotic" from my POV, so it's interesting to learn about it.

Carole said...

How exotic!

Tina said...

I ordered my book from Thrift Books& took it along camping last week. So far I am in agreement with you regarding the amount of foodie scenes vs the growing personal relationship. Great choice, especially with all the oranges you have on hand!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

This chicken dish looks good and so different from what I usually make.

Simona Carini said...

Your take on the book is along the same lines as mine: I found the beginning much more interesting than the rest, where the atmosphere is downright oppressive. Nice choice of recipe! I'd like to taste the combination of chicken, oranges and spices. Happy Thanksgiving!

Debra Eliotseats said...

Thanks for hosting! It was an interesting read. I will pass it along to my reader friends. Love all the dishes (including this one!!!!) that everyone is posting.

Camilla M. Mann said...

That looks absolutely delicious and SO warming. I can't wait to try this as we have rain in the forecast all week long.

Ali said...

I read it and meant to get a post up in time, but ran out of time. I appreciate your analogy - I really struggled with the risks she took for food. And the love story was challenging, too. Still - always good to read outside the comfort zone!

Unknown said...

I was so captivated by this book although the title nearly put me off reading it because I feared it might be yet another voyeuristic look at " strange Middle Eastern customs" type thing. She SO got the magic of the kind of Iranian cooking which is not found anywhere outside private homes. Meticulous,delicate, very time consuming utterly delicious.