There’s a scene in the movie “Hud” where Patricia Neal’s character offers an orange to Paul Newman. As she’s about to hand it to him she says, “Look it says ‘Florida’ on it. We grow ’em right here in Texas and they send them in from Florida. That makes sense, doesn’t it?” Paul Newman shakes his head and says, “Yeah.”
“Hud”, which is based on Larry McMurtry’s book “Horseman, Pass By,” is a tale about two generations of West Texas ranchers and their conflicting values—the new versus the old. That orange scene isn’t in the book, and yet it’s one of my favorite fictional conversations about Texas food. Indeed—why in the heck would you buy a Florida orange when they grow them in Texas?
Well, the film takes place in summer and that’s not exactly prime time for Texas citrus. Even though we’re accustomed to eating oranges year round, Rio Grande Valley oranges are only available November through March. So I’ve always thought that the summertime setting of the film might explain why the characters are eating Florida oranges when they’re in Texas. (That is unless there’s some deeper significance to the scene that my inner English major just hasn’t figured out yet.)
But yes, I realize it’s June so why am I talking about oranges? Well, the reason why I mention any of this is when I was flipping through this month’s issue of “Everyday Food,” I spotted a chicken recipe that had baked thighs slathered in an orange glaze. It looked appealing, and when I went to the store not only were juice oranges on sale but also were drumsticks. With a few modifications from the original recipe, my dinner plans were confirmed.
This recipe is not difficult, as you simply salt and pepper the chicken, bake it, make a sauce and then broil the chicken with the sauce until it’s caramelized. The sauce in the magazine called for orange concentrate, but I made it with fresh-squeezed orange juice along with orange zest for added brightness. I also threw in a chipotle chile for smoky heat and added some molasses for its dark, bittersweet tones.
The resulting drumsticks are sticky, spicy and sweet. And while they make for a great main course, they could easily be passed around as a starter, much like wings. Just be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand as these chipotle-orange glazed drumsticks are definitely a messy affair.
And while you won’t be buying Texas oranges this time of year, please know that these chipotle-orange glazed drumsticks make for such excellent summertime eating, I don’t think your family and friends will mind at all.
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 chipotle chile en adobo
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cups ketchup
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon orange zest
Paper towels, for serving
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly grease. Sprinkle the drumsticks with salt and pepper, place on the sheet and bake for 40 minutes.
While the chicken is in the oven, in a blender mix together the orange juice, chipotle chile and garlic. Pour into a large saucepot and stir in the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, allspice, cayenne and orange zest. Bring to a boil (be careful, as it will probably splatter a bit), turn the heat down to medium-low and while stirring occasionally, cook for 35-40 minutes or until thickened. Adjust seasonings and add salt to taste.
When the chicken is done, remove from the oven and turn on the broiler. Add the chicken to the saucepot and toss with the chipotle orange sauce. Drain the fat from the baking sheet and place the glazed chicken back on the sheet. Cook under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until darkened and brown spots appear.
Serve with lots of paper towels, as the drumsticks are messy.