This chicken recipe gets intense, complex flavor from tangy clementines, five-spice powder and pungent Sichuan peppercorns. This dish is a marvel for entertaining: it takes just 35 minutes of prep and a handful of ingredients, but it looks and tastes super-special. Feel free to use mandarins, honey tangerines or oranges here instead of the clementines.
Finely grate 1 teaspoon zest (see Tips) and squeeze 1 cup juice from 6 to 8 clementines. Combine the zest, juice, five-spice powder and peppercorns (if using) in a small bowl.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt. Cook the chicken, turning frequently, until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Pour in the juice mixture; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, 16 to 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel 2 of the remaining clementines and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
When the chicken is done, transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce, stirring often, until thickened and reduced to 1/2 to 2/3 cup, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the clementine slices, cilantro, scallion greens and sesame oil. Serve the chicken with the sauce.
Tips: Chinese five-spice powder is available in well-stocked super markets and Asian markets—all blends contain ground cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves and star anise; some versions are made with white pepper, some with Szechuan pepper. Most Asian markets carry the wonderfully pungent Sichuan peppercorns; they are most often found in clear bags rather than in jars. They don’t look like regular black or white peppercorns—they have a beautiful reddish brown color and are cracked open as though they have exploded. When we call for citrus zest (i.e., 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest) we are referring to the finely grated outer rind (not including the white pith) of the citrus fruit. Use a microplane grater or the smallest holes of a box grater to grate the zest. In some cases we call for long strips or threads of zest. To get long strips, peel the citrus with a vegetable peeler. To remove long threads, use a 5-hole citrus zester or remove long strips of zest with a vegetable peeler, then use a knife to cut into very thin strips.