Thai-Style Grilled Chicken

If you’re a budding cook or baker, I highly recommend checking out America’s Test Kitchen, a website dedicated to using science in the kitchen –  be it finding out how baking soda works, or test-running several mixers to see which works best, or the best combination of ingredients to create the perfect recipe. This Thai-inspired chicken that I made was a recipe that I pulled from their website. This chicken is arguably the best savory recipe I ever made. (My honey-soy glazed salmon has been overthrown.) It was not a very technically complex dish, but it did require a bunch of different ingredients that I didn’t have, such as cilantro and coriander. I am so glad I didn’t decide to forgo or substitute it, because those herbs really made the dish.


The devil is really in the details in this recipe, like stuffing the skin with some of the spice rub, and the sweet, tangy and spicy sauce that you used to dip the chicken. Oh, that sauce. I would use it as a dipping sauce for everything. I was also really surprised at how flavorful the chicken got even though I didn’t marinate it, but the fresh cilantro and generous amounts of coriander really gave it a strong kick. I didn’t have a grill, so I baked instead of grilled my chicken at 500F and then let it sit in the hot but switched-off oven for a while. My chicken turned out slightly undercooked, but I suspect it’s a combination of a) not letting my oven get really, really hot (I was kinda scared of testing the limits with the tiny oven I have) and b) using bone-in thighs versus boneless breasts, like the recipe recommends. Nevertheless, this is definitely a come-back recipe.


Thai-Style Grilled Chicken
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 4

Ingredients
Chicken and Brine

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup table salt
4 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts about 12 ounces each (see note)

Dipping Sauce

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 small cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons fish sauce (I subbed this with light soy sauce)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Rub

12 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (1/4 cup)
1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches), minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil , plus more for grill grate

Instructions

1. To brine the chicken: Dissolve sugar and salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container or bowl; submerge chicken in brine and refrigerate at least 30 minutes but not longer than 1 hour. Rinse chicken under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. [I didn’t brine my chicken, figuring that thighs had enough fat to retain juiciness.]

2. For the dipping sauce: Whisk ingredients in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature to allow flavors to meld.

3. To make and apply the rub: Combine all rub ingredients in small bowl; work mixture with fingers to thoroughly combine. Slide fingers between skin and meat to loosen skin, taking care not to detach skin. Rub about 2 tablespoons mixture under skin. Thoroughly rub even layer of mixture onto all exterior surfaces, including bottom and sides. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces. Place chicken in medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate while preparing grill.

4. To grill the chicken: Turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat until grill is very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape grill grate clean with grill brush; using long-handled grill tongs, lightly dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and wipe grill grate. Turn all but 1 burner to low. Place chicken, skin-side down, on hotter side of grill; cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken breasts and cook until browned on second side, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Move chicken skin-side up to cool side of grill and close lid; cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast (not touching bone) registers 160 degrees, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to serving platter; let rest 10 minutes. Serve, passing sauce separately.

[Instead of grilling the chicken, what I did was this: Preheat oven to 500 F, place chicken skin side down on baking pan and cooked until brown, 4-5 minutes. Flip chicken and cook until browned on second side, 4-5 minutes longer. Turn off oven and leave chicken in there for 12-15 minutes. Remove chicken from oven, rest for 10 minutes, and serve, passing sauce separately.]

Lime Pull-Apart Bread with Lime-Yogurt Icing

One of my favorite things to do when I have an entire day to myself is taking on a laborious recipe. Like bread-making. Especially this pull-apart bread. It’s got three different components – the yeast dough, the lime-sugar filling and the frosting and definitely requires quite a bit of hands-on work. However, the end-result was so yummy and good-looking that every slice I peeled off felt like a job well-done.

Pull-apart breads are so fun to eat. Every layer beheld a new punch of citrusy, limey sugary goodness combined with the soft fluffiness of the sweet bread. I did have to improvise quite a bit in order to create this loaf. Firstly, I only had unsweetened soy milk on hand, so I substituted that for regular milk. Fortunately, it didn’t impart any distinct soy flavor to the loaf. Secondly, I didn’t have lemons around, so I omitted the lemon zest for the sugar filling and used as much lime zest my three limes would yield. Thirdly, I didn’t have cream cheese for the frosting, and figured that Greek yogurt would work fine – and also a lot less calorific. I also had 1/4 cup of lime juice sitting around that I wanted to incorporate into the loaf somehow, so I brushed it with the melted butter onto the layers of the loaf. It might’ve made my bread a little bit soggier than it would have, but I can’t be sure since I didn’t make it without the lime juice. However, it definitely prevented the bread from drying out in the second rise and while it was baking. Oh yeah, I also didn’t have a rolling pin to roll out the layers – but a wine bottle works fantastic.

If you’ve read enough of this blog, you’ll notice that I don’t post up a lot of in-progress photos. It strikes me as uncanny that so many food bloggers do so. I usually get my hands pretty dirty in the process of baking, and having to wash my hands every so often to snap a couple of pictures would be quite cumbersome. However, this picture of the granulated sugar and lime zest was too pretty to pass up.

Lime Pull-Apart Bread with Lime-Yogurt Icing
Adapted from Un Gamine dans la Cuisine
Makes one 9 x 5 loaf

Sweet yeast dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk (I used soy milk)
2 ounces unsalted butter (4 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lime paste filling
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (5-8 limes)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (1-2 lemons) (I omitted)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup lime juice (this was my own addition)

Tangy yogurt icing – for the original cream cheese icing, click to the original recipe link)
6 tbsps Greek yogurt
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar (I used granulated sugar, it turned out fine)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Mix two cups (nine ounces) flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the milk and the butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and let rest a minute until just warm 120 to 130°F. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the milk and melted butter into the flour and mix with a rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place (about 70°F) for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.

Meanwhile, make the lime sugar filling. Mix the sugar, lime zest, and lemon zest. It’ll draw out the citrus oils and make the sugar sandy and fragrant.

Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. *Be sure to flour the dough slightly. This will make it much easier to work with.* (If using lime juice, mix it with melted butter.) Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly and liberally over the dough.

Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.

Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay. While dough is rising, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

Bake the loaf until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. *Mine took about 5 minutes longer. I made a foil tent to keep the crust from getting too brown.* Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the yogurt icing. Beat the yogurt and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the lime juice. Stir until creamy and smooth.

Carefully tilt and rotate the pan while tapping on a table to release the loaf. I simply ran a knife along the edges and it came out perfectly. Using a brush, cover the surface of the loaf with the cream cheese icing. Allow the icing to seep into the cracks and holes.

Enjoy this cake while it’s still slightly warm or at room temperature.

Notes: If you’re using the yogurt icing, I recommend applying it just before eating, or use it as a dip to thoroughly coat each piece. The yogurt icing is more liquid that the cream cheese icing, and would make your loaf soggy if left to soak.

Greek Yogurt Key Lime Pie

I’m so pleased that I found a key lime pie recipe that doesn’t involve excessive amounts of condensed milk. In fact, this one is primarily made out of Greek yogurt, a protein-packed powerhouse. I had a tub of Greek yogurt sitting in the fridge, and as I perused the weekly circulars, I saw that limes were going on sale at 5 for $1. (This is how I generally decide what to make. a) what I have in the pantry; b) what I can buy cheaply.) I put two and two together, and brainwave – I shall make a key lime pie! I did some digging around, and found this recipe from Obama Foodorama, a blog dedicated to the food initiatives of the White House. No surprises that they found a way to make a healthier key lime pie!

I didn’t actually use key limes, but regular limes worked fantastic too. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the recipe. A lot of key lime pies require some kind of artificial or unhealthful ingredient, like gelatin, sweetened condensed milk or key lime-flavored yogurt – but the stiffer texture of Greek yogurt was sufficient to hold the filling together. I also invented a crust made out of an unconventional ingredient – not graham crackers, but bran flakes. I know, bran flakes in your pie crust might sound a little suspect, but with the addition of butter and sugar and a quick bake in the oven, it came out caramelized with a nice toothsome chew. You’re not going to mistake it for a graham cracker crust, but it held its own against the smooth tangy creaminess of the pie filling.

Try this recipe. You won’t regret it. (And at 139 calories for 1/12th of a 9-inch pie, you can have your pie and eat it too!)

Greek Yogurt Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Obama Foodorama
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups bran flakes crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups Greek yogurt
4 large egg yolks
½ cup key lime juice or regular lime juice, fresh-squeezed if possible
2 Tablespoons honey
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Method
For the Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Stir bran flakes crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl until combined. Then press mixture evenly into bottom and up the sides of a 9″ pie plate.

3. Bake crust 10 minutes, then remove from oven to cool.

For the Filling:
1. Whisk together yogurt, egg yolks, honey, and sugar; add juice and whisk until well combined.

2. Pour filling into crust, and bake for 20 minutes in 350°F oven (mixture will not be firm).

3. Cool and refrigerate overnight. (I highly recommend waiting overnight; it still tastes good if you wait only 4 hours but slices are not going to hold up.)

Soy Ginger Chicken

Soy sauce is one of my most favorite ingredients to use in cooking. It’s extremely versatile, and also integral if you want to do any kind of Asian cooking. It’s got an earthy umami taste accompanying the saltiness it imparts to dishes. I got some chicken for real cheap (99 cents a pound!) and decided that it must be used. With the few ingredients I had on hand, I cobbled together this simple but tasty recipe.

I based my recipe off Ina Garten’s Indonesian Ginger Chicken recipe, but I fail to see why it is Indonesian. To me, it’s a very generic Asian-flavored recipe that’s been Americanized. After all, honey is not that commonly used in Asian cooking. I didn’t use garlic, and I also cut the ingredients to a third. I accidentally used 1/3 cup of soy sauce instead of 1/4 cup, but I think the caramely yet savory sauce tinged with the fragrance of ginger would be excellent to drizzle over rice or lightly blanched bok choy. This recipe is technically easy but not something you can whip up quickly. It requires a few hours to marinate, an another hour to cook. However, hands-on prep time is extremely brief, so feel free to do something else while the chicken sits in the marinade. Maybe make this key lime pie.

Soy Ginger Chicken
Adapted from Ina Garten
Makes 3-4 servings

* 1/3 cup honey
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 2-3 cloves minced garlic (I omitted)
* 3 tbsps peeled and grated fresh ginger root
* 4 chicken thighs

Directions

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. (I simply microwaved the honey and soy till the honey could be dissolved and added the ginger to it.) Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. (I marinated it for about 5 hours.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.

Strawberry Toast + Oatnut Bread

It’s summertime, and berries are at their peak. Sweet, succulent and juicy, strawberries are a fantastic way to cool you down and satisfy your sweet tooth. I was grocery shopping, and I was lured by the strong scent of the strawberries. Nothing beats the smell of ripe strawberries; which incidentally, taste nothing like strawberry-flavored candy. Growing up, berries weren’t something I ate with any frequency because they don’t do well in tropical Singapore. I was probably quite surprised when I had my first strawberry, wincing at its tartness and its complete departure from strawberry-flavored things.

I came up with the idea for this meal by cobbling together what I had in my fridge: strawberries that needed to be eaten, a large tub of Greek yogurt, and oatnut bread that I made a couple of days ago. You could use whipped cream cheese or whipped cream on your toast, but Greek yogurt offers the same creaminess and tang with much less fat and a lot more protein. This dish is basically a healthier version of the strawberry shortcake.

This bread was made with white whole wheat flour, oats, and walnuts. It’s a firm and hearty loaf that will stand up to spreads and drippy fillings, so it would be good for a sandwich. The original recipe called said vital wheat gluten was optional, but I didn’t have it. Whole wheat flour can be a little tricky in yeast breads, but don’t be discouraged. It might not taste or feel like the soft, fluffy prepackaged loaves you get in the supermarket, but it also doesn’t have a ton of unpronounceable additives.


Strawberry Toast

Makes a slice

1 slice of bread
2 strawberries, sliced
1 tbsp of Greek yogurt

Toast bread, if desired. Spread Greek yogurt on bread. Layer strawberries. Eat!

Oatnut White Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes 1 9×5 loaf

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110F), divided
3-4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats (whole rolled oats, chopped)
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the yeast (about 1/4 oz.) and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Stir in remaining water, 1 cup of flour, the oats, vital wheat gluten (if using) and honey, and mix well. Add in salt, pecans and an additional 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour. Stir, adding remaining flour gradually, until the dough comes together into a ball a begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (this can also be done in an electric mixer with the dough hook attached).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead, adding flour a tablespoon at a time as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes.
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
After dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface again. Gently deflate dough into a rectangular shape. Fold up the two long sides of the rectangle and pinch the seam together. Place seam-side down into prepared loaf pan. Again cover the bread with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
While the bread is going through its final rise, preheat oven to 375F.
Bake loaf for 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom reads about 200F.
Cool loaf outside of pan on a wire rack completely before slicing.

Notes: I ended up using about 2.5 cups of flour total.

Japanese Broiled Salmon with Scallions


Salmon is one of the more forgiving fishes to cook with: it’s relatively firm, so you don’t have to worry about the fillet falling apart as you pan-fry it, and since it is quite fatty, drying out is also less of a problem. Fish is generally best eaten in its purest and freshest state, and who better to get cooking inspiration from than the Japanese? This recipe is incredibly easy, and prep time and cook time is short.

I ended up with a perfectly done fillet, with slightly pink insides and a crispy sear on the outside. It was quite tasty, and would probably go well with a bowl of rice and some miso soup.

Japanese Broiled Salmon with Scallions
Adapted from About.com
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb skinless salmon fillets
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil (peanut, if possible)
  • 2 tbsps rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsps mirin
  • 1 t sbspoy sauce
  • 3-5 finely chopped scallions

Preparation:

Take the salmon out of the fridge and sprinkle it generously with salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan over high heat for 1-2 minutes, then add the oil and let it heat up until almost smoking. It is important that your pan is hot. Once you see the first wisps of smoke, turn the heat down to medium-high.

Pat the salmon dry and sear them in the pan. Do not crowd them, and let them sizzle for a good 2-4 minutes, depending on thickness. If they are sockeye or silver salmon fillets, you will need about 3 minutes per side.

Turn the salmon over and cook for 1-3 minutes on the other side. A typical sockeye fillet will take only about 90 seconds on this side.

Remove the salmon to a warm plate, then take the pan off the heat. Add the soy sauce, mirin and vinegar and start scraping off with a wooden spoon any bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a rapid boil.

After a minute or so, turn off the heat and add the green onions. Swirl around to coat, then pour over the salmon fillets — serve with the crispier side of the fish facing up.

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls isn’t really by any measure a healthy breakfast, but somehow this carbohydrate bomb managed to enter the canon of breakfast foods. I suspect it’s because it’s so fun to eat. Who doesn’t like eating the cinnamon roll by unwrapping it toilet paper-esque? Okay, my metaphors and similes haven’t been very appetizing but my words embody my feelings towards cinnamon rolls – nay, the whole plethora of desserts!

They are so fun to eat, and the soft fluffiness of the bread and caramelly cinnamon-sugar glaze simply brings you to a state of unadulterated, comforting pleasure. Furthermore, its inherent playfulness makes eating a tactile experience as well. Ok, I’m done with the romanticizing. Onto the recipe now. Some things to note: the roll without the glaze isn’t terribly sweet, so if you want your desserts to be unabashedly sweet, be sure to use the glaze or up the cinnamon-sugar mix. This recipe is also really easy for a yeast-bread one, since you can make it the night before and bake it in the morning for a freshly-baked and oh-so-sinful breakfast.

Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 1 dozen rolls

2 large eggs
1 package active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons – Domino Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter

Filling:
1/4 cup (2 oz) butter, melted
1/3 cup –Domino Brown Sugar (I used dark)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Domino® Granulated Sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Icing:
2 teaspoons melted butter
3/4 cup – Domino® Confectioners Sugar
2 to 3 Tablespoons – milk

Beat eggs in medium size bowl. Add 3/4 cup warm water and yeast, stirring to dissolve yeast. Refrigerate mixture for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and sugar. With a pastry blender or fork, blend in butter, until it resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Gradually blend the mixtures together; it will be loose and a little sticky. Gather dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight. When ready to bake, roll dough into an oblong shape (I made a rectangle of which was about 12 by 14) on a well-floured surface, about 1/4 inch thick.

In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with the sugar mixture, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll the dough up to form a jelly roll. With a serrated knife, cut the roll into 1-inch slices. Place on a greased baking sheet and allow to rise in a warm place about 30 minutes. Generously sprinkle with the granulated sugar (I skipped this step). Bake in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes. Allow rolls to cool slightly on wire racks placed over wax paper.

To make Icing, mix the melted butter confectioners’ sugar and milk together until smooth. Drizzle icing over rolls and serve.

Tip from Domino:
Rolls can be wrapped in aluminum foil and individually frozen. To serve, heat in a pre-heated 350°F oven 5 minutes.

Tip from Cookie Madness:
You can freeze the spirals of dough. Just cut the jelly roll into rounds, arrange however many you need for the occasion, then put the remaining dough in the freezer to solidify. When dough spirals are firm, put them in an air-tight freezer bag. The next time you want to make cinnamon rolls, arrange the frozen dough spirals in the pan the night before, let them rise overnight, then wake up and bake.