Joan Nathan’s Honey Orange Chicken

With the Jewish High Holidays just around the corner, I am feeling nostalgic about my cooking journey. I had never really considered a career in food until I immersed myself in traditional Jewish cuisine. Now, 2 ½ years after starting my blog, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else with my life. The aroma of matzo ball soup simmering on the stovetop, the kneading of the challah, the scent of freshly baked sweet noodle kugel fresh from the oven… these food traditions have become an integral part of my spirit.

When I began learning about Jewish cuisine, I sought help from friends and family members—and, of course, from cookbooks written by the iconic voices of Jewish cooking today. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I thought it would be fun to do a series of interviews with the cooks and scholars who have inspired me on my culinary journey. I was curious to learn where they’d started—what their childhoods were like, the kinds of foods they grew up with, and the holiday traditions they still celebrate each year.

Joan Nathan. Photo Credit: Michael Lionstar

My first interview was with Joan Nathan, a trailblazer in the world of American Jewish cooking. Joan and I first met about 6 months ago here in Los Angeles; she was here for a speaking engagement about her new cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous. I was immediately impressed by her kindness; she was gracious and inquisitive. We became fast friends. A couple of weeks ago I called her to chat about Rosh Hashanah, her holiday memories, and her favorite recipes. The interview is below.

After the interview, you’ll find one of Joan’s classic recipes from her Jewish Holiday Cookbook – Honey Orange Chicken.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where I am right this very minute visiting my 99 year-old mom.

Did your mom have an influence on your cooking growing up?

Actually, my aunt had a bigger influence. She came over from Germany in 1936. My father’s family is German Jewish from way back, but I suspect they were originally Sephardic Jews. My mother is Polish and Hungarian. Growing up on Fridays, we would go to my aunt’s house for lunch, and my grandparents lived with her. There would be all kinds of German-Jewish delicacies that we would eat, like these wonderful butter cookies, and salamis, and that dark bread… it all seemed so exotic to me.

Did your aunt’s cooking help to inspire your career path?

You know, if you told me when I was 13 years old that I would be a cookbook writer, let alone a Jewish cookbook writer, I would have told you that you were totally nuts. Growing up in Providence, I always liked going to foreign restaurants with my father… there are a lot of Italian restaurants, and he made me study French, so I learned about French food… that’s how I started becoming interested. Then, when I got older, a boyfriend told me… he’d been in the Peace Corps, in several different places… that the best country in the world he’d ever visited was Israel. And I thought, “Oh! Israel!” So I went to Israel when I was 28 years old, just to see what it was all about. And I was blown away by the different kinds of Jewish food. I ate with people, I learned what they were doing, and really learned a lot about Sephardic Jewish cuisine. I wrote my first cookbook as a lark. I never, ever thought it would be more than a lark. Then it sold 25,000 copies, which back then was a lot of books– since then I’ve sold hundreds of thousands, of course.

Joan’s latest cookbook – Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous

What was it about the Sephardic Israeli food that drew you to it?

It tasted good, it didn’t use a lot of meat so it was healthier… I just thought it was exotic and wonderful. There was a restaurant in Jerusalem (it’s no longer there) called Cohen’s, and they had stuffed vegetables—all kinds of Sephardic stuffed vegetables—and it was so delicious. It was just so different.

What was Rosh Hashanah like in your home—what kind of traditional family dishes did you grow up eating?

Probably my favorite recipe growing up was the plum tart—a special German-Jewish recipe, which we served instead of an apple dessert. It’s called Zwetschgenkuchen (recipe can be found in Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook). I make it every Rosh Hashanah. I also grew up eating a brisket (recipe appears in Jewish Cooking in America)—it’s savory, with lots of wine in it, almost like a stew. Those are two I grew up eating for the holidays.

Here’s a kind of silly question that I like to ask people… and I recognize that this is a difficult question to answer, for a food lover such as yourself…what’s your favorite food?

Oh wow. I don’t know. Off the top of my head, I love almonds… and I like lemon a lot—preserved lemon, lemon curd. But if I had to pick just one, I would say a perfect raspberry is my favorite food.

After talking with Joan, I thumbed through the Rosh Hashanah section of her Jewish Holiday Cookbook and found a recipe I just had to try: Honey Orange Chicken. Of this recipe, Joan says:

“Everyone has a favorite holiday chicken recipe. This one, with a happy combination of honey, orange, and fresh ginger, is mine—a perfect beginning for a sweet New Year.”

I made the recipe as written, with a minor adjustment to cooking time. My husband likes his chicken skin quite brown and crispy, so I upped the cooking temperature and added some time for browning. I also needed more breadcrumbs than the recipe calls for, but it might be because I used panko crumbs instead of regular. I garnished the chicken with some fresh orange wedges for visual appeal. I can imagine it on a platter in the center of a holiday table, glistening with honey, on a bed of greens and jewel-colored orange wedges to decorate. It would make a wonderful addition to a Rosh Hashanah menu.

Thank you Joan, for sharing your food journey and holiday memories with us!

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Joan Nathan's Honey Orange Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or matzo meal (I used 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 fryer chickens, 3 lbs each, cut up (I used 6 lbs chicken pieces)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated ginger, or 3/4 tsp ground ginger, or to taste
  • Fresh orange wedges for garnish (optional)

You will also need

  • A large roasting pan or casserole, foil
Total Time: 1 - 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings: 6-8
Kosher Key: Meat
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the eggs with 2 tsp of water in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the breadcrumbs or matzo meal with the salt and pepper. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumb mixture to coat.
  • Heat oil in a heavy skillet and brown the chicken on all sides. Drain on paper towels.
  • Whisk together hot water, orange juice, honey and ginger in a bowl.
  • Place the chicken in a lightly greased roasting pan or a large casserole. Cover the chicken evenly with the honey orange liquid.
  • Cover the dish with foil and let it roast in the oven for 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Uncover the dish after 45 minutes and increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Let the chicken continue to roast for 10-20 minutes longer, basting every few minutes, till the skin is browned to your liking.
  • Serve on a platter garnished with fresh orange wedges, if desired. Joan recommends serving with rice and a tossed green salad.

 

Comments (17)Post a Comment

    1. Hi Cee! Joan has lots of terrific kugel recipes in her books. I recommend you pick up “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous” for some really unique French and Alsatian-inspired kugels. If you need a kugel recipe right away, I have many on my site, including this one: link to theshiksa.com

  1. This was a very nice interview, that evokes the familiar feelings about the family. I should really make some traditional Jewish recipes to learn more about the cuisine. Will see if the local library has her books to check out.

    1. Hi Alissa, I’m not sure I would fry it ahead of time– the crispiness of the coating will be lost. Plus, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to store partially cooked chicken; I think once you begin cooking, you should continue cooking it all the way due to risk of foodborne illness.

  2. are store bought bread crumbs kosher to use with chicken? Do you use the panko instead of bread crumbs for a reason? Thank you.

    1. Hi Tammy, for breadcrumbs (panko or any style) to be kosher, they need to have a kosher hechsher– it’s a symbol that means the product is certified kosher (manufactured in a way that separates milk from meat, without treif). There are kosher certified breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs. I used panko because it’s what I had on hand, and I like the crispy texture it creates. You can use any breadcrumb you like, though I wouldn’t use anything with heavy seasoning (like Italian breadcrumbs) in this recipe. If you’re concerned about it being kosher, look for a kosher hechsher symbol on the label. More information can be found at the following links:

      link to theshiksa.com

      link to theshiksa.com

    2. Hi Tammy, Its hard for me to get kosher breadcrumbs, so i make my own. Store stale bread the freezer. When I have a good amount stored up, i place in baking dish and bake in a low oven. Once dried out, leave to cool and then pop in food processor. Easy and 100% kosher.

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made this tonight for the first time. The panko breading didn’t stay on very well but other than that I have no complaints. It was delicious! I served it over brown rice with orange slices as recommended. Yum!

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