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.]

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.

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.

Century Egg Porridge

I just had to break out one of my favorite comfort foods. Century egg porridge. Hailing from Singapore, century egg porridge is one of those foods that I used to have for lunch after school. Piping hot and gruelly with minced pork, ginger and scallions, it’s a satisfying and also a low-calorie meal. It’s also very easy and quick to make, and uses up leftover rice in a jiffy. Porridge, or congee as it is more commonly called in America, is usually cooked two different ways: thick or soupy.

This is thick:

And this is soupy:Personally, I like my porridge soupy. It might have something to do with the fact that I am descended from the Teochew people, and they are known for their predilection for watery congee. In the second picture, I had actually used some leftover broth from chicken and vegetable soup to cook the porridge. I can’t quite explain how much I love porridge. I could eat it for all three meals with condiments like preserved mustard greens and fermented spicy bean curd I won’t get sick of it.

There isn’t really a fixed proportion of ingredients for this meal – it really depends on how you want it to taste.

Century Egg Porridge
Makes 2-3 servings

1 cup leftover rice
2 1/2 cups water or broth
1 1/2 tbsp thinly sliced ginger strips
4 oz of minced pork, seasoned with salt and light soy sauce
2 century eggs, cut into about 1/2 inch cubes
Light soy sauce to taste
White pepper to taste (black pepper is fine)
Salt to taste
1 scallion, chopped

Add rice to water and put on high heat till boiling. Once boiled, lower heat to medium and cook till porridge is close to desired consistency. Add minced pork in small chunks. Increase to high heat, and cook till boiling again. Lower heat to medium and add ginger and century eggs. Add light soy sauce, pepper and salt to taste.

To serve, garnish with chopped scallions.