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Chicken À L’Orange

October 29, 2021
by Aurora Clare

A Russian Jew Cooks A French Dish with East Asian Influences In Peru

With Thanksgiving approaching, some of us might be anticipating a smaller gathering than we had in pre-pandemic days. And for smaller groups, chicken can easily replace turkey for Thanksgiving dinner! This 1970s recipe for Chicken à L’orange from the AJHS historical cookbook collection is a tasty, retro poultry option for a celebratory meal, or a casual weeknight dinner. The original calls for a frying the chicken– you can feel free to use a whole bird, but I prefer the thighs. 

This recipe comes from A Russian Jew Cooks In Peru (1973) by Violeta Autumn, a noted architect, and the third woman to graduate from the University of Oklahoma’s architecture program. Her work was part of the organic architecture movement, pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1959, she designed her home and studio, the beautiful Cliff House in Sausalito, California, which was featured in several magazines at the time. She was also an artist, interior designer, and, of course, a cookbook author! 

A Russian Jew Cooks In Peru is a funny and fascinating cookbook, beautifully hand-illustrated by Mrs. Autumn. Born Violeta Eidelman in Chiclayo, Peru to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, she moved to the United States as a teenager and became an American citizen in the 1960s. A Russian Jew Cooks In Peru is a collection of her mother’s recipes, and attempts to capture what Autumn saw as an ephemeral culinary practice of immigrant culinary fusion.

“The immigrant never loses his traditional ways,” she wrote in the book’s preface, “but he does assimilate the new, and so manages to create something unique which lives as he lives and then it’s gone.” The book is dedicated to her mother, “who fortunately permitted small kibitzers in her kitchen.” This cookbook also contains the best line I’ve ever read in any cookbook, historical or otherwise: “the empanada is the South American knish.” 

While Autumn’s cookbook contains plenty of bread and dessert recipes, this recipe exemplifies the thesis of her view of immigrant foodways. Duck à l’orange, is, of course, a traditional French dish. This twist on the French classic not only substitutes chicken for duck, but adds two ingredients you won’t find in any Julia Child recipe: soy sauce, and ginger. So, not only is this a dish borne of a Russian Jew Cooking In Peru, it’s a Russian Jew Cooking A French Dish with East Asian Influences In Peru. This next level layer of culinary fusion exists thanks, in part, to US immigration law. 

Autumn mentions in the preface that Russian Jews were immigrating in large numbers to South America in the late 1920s, and early 1930s following the passage of the 1924 National Origins Act, or Johnson-Reed Act, which severely restricted them from entry to the United States. The Johnson-Reed Act was hardly the first restrictive immigration law passed as a result of domestic xenophobia and racial attitudes; in 1882, the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was not repealed until the Magnuson Act of 1943 (which still was not without racist strictures). Thus, East Asian immigrants too found their way to South America.

This recipe is the result of this blend of cultures, cuisines, and xenophobic, racist legislation. Autumn recommends serving it with a side of rice.

Something about anything “A L’orange” feels very ‘60s or ‘70s to me, but the soy and ginger add complexity to the dish and help to modernize the flavor, while the orange juice helps to keep the meat perfectly tender and juicy. I adapted the recipe only slightly to update it, but if you want to lean into the Chinese influences, add a chopped red chili or some red pepper flakes into the marinade!

Chicken À L’Orange From A Russian Jew Cooks in Peru (1973) by Violeta Autumn, Adapted by Aurora Clare

Recipe Requires:

  • 2-2.5 lbs skin-on, bone-in chicken parts
  • 2. 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp dry white wine
  • zest of 1 medium-sized orange (about 1.5-2 tbsp)
  • juice of 1 medium-sized orange
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Prepare marinade in a large ziploc bag by combining soy sauce, ginger, vegetable oil, honey, wine, and orange zest.
  3. Add chicken to marinade and gently massage to coat.
  4. Allow chicken to rest for 30 and 90 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400℉.
  6. Remove chicken from marinade and place in cast iron skillet or other baking pan – allowing marinade excess to drip off but retaining any sauce clinging to the chicken itself. Discard remaining marinade.
  7. Bake at 400℉ for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 300℉ for 10 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 165℉ when inserted into the meatiest part of the chicken.
  8. Remove from heat and squeeze juice from one orange on top of chicken.
  9. Broil for 2 minutes or until nicely browned.
  10. Serve with steamed white rice.
  11. Enjoy!