If you happen into a restaurant about an hour before dinner service begins you may often be greeted by the whole establishment crowd together sharing staff dinner. Besides feeding a hungry group, staff dinner is sometimes the opportunity for restaurant management to review certain dishes or specials of the evening as well as any specialty cocktails or desserts later shared with the customer.
Staff dinners, share at least one meal commonality of years past observed on a recent visit to meet with a chef who was with the tines of a silver fork rapidly rolling up those pale, slippery, al dente strings guided by that of a large indented spoon upon my arrival, hence conceded that sauced pasta served in large family style bowls still remains one among those simple dishes still served up to the pre dinner service crowd.
Sometimes the preparation of these staff meals have a rotating responsibility among those at the back of the house, and provided the prep and other details critical to the evening have not begun in some sort of drama or catastrophic proportion, then creating the days meal might lend a bit of discreet competition between the chefs creating more imaginative dishes using a bit of this and that along with other essential food items not part of the restaurant’s menu.
Today’s Cajun Style Spicy Orange Chicken, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Red Pepper, Corn was a common staff meal at the Apropos restaurant in Philadelphia in the eighties. I’ve used chicken breast for the adaptation but you can easily use thighs and legs whatever you fancy.
Cajun Style Spicy Orange Chicken, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Red Pepper, Corn
- 3 tablespoons grape-seed, canola or olive oil plus 3 more tablespoons for the spices and vegetables
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise then cut into thirds crosswise
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
- Spices: 1/4 teaspoon each cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, crushed oregano, garlic powder, Mexican chili powder, cracked black pepper
- 1 long hot green pepper, seeded, chopped
- 3 small zucchini, sliced into rounds then cut in half
- 3 medium size summer squash, sliced into rounds then cut in half
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup yellow corn
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 2 cups orange juice
- couple pinches coarse kosher salt plus more if desired according to taste
- Heat a large, shallow nonstick sauté pan on medium heat, pour in oil then swirl to coat around the bottom of the pan, add chicken breast pieces and cook to golden colored about 3-4 minutes on each side. If needed, cook chicken in batches to prevent overcrowding, transfer cooked chicken to a plate
- Add three more tablespoons oil to the pan, tumble in the onions and cook on low heat for two minutes. Scrape in the garlic and cook another minute.
- Sprinkle in the spice mixture, stir, with the onions and garlic, cook another minute
- Tumble in the hot green pepper, zucchini summer squash, and red bell pepper combining vegetables with the spices cook a minute or two, add in the corn, stir with the vegetables then pour in the wine, increase the heat to medium, cook for two minutes, pour in the orange juice and cook until hot and vegetables are just cooked through transfer chicken with any juices back into the pan and stir throughout with the vegetables, cook another two minutes.
- This dish is excellent on top of buttered egg noodles.