Thursday, June 20, 2019

Chicken Satay Skewers and Peanut Sauce

It's not uncommon to find a dish that becomes the go to for the season. Particularly in summer. At the beginning of the season we are brimming with new food ideas and the playing commences. The idea blossoms. A new recipe is tried. Then it's finessed and put on the repeat cycle. Why waste good knowledge and recipe development?

Here at home we tend to be chicken, fish and veggy people. Partly age, I think. It's just that much easier to digest. And if it's chicken, the boneless skinless thigh wins the day. More flavour, more tender, more juicy than the classic breast.

I wish I could even remember what started me down the road of chicken satay and peanut sauce last month. Somewhere along the way I tripped onto Mark Bittman's recipe in the New York Times. Then I read the comments. All of those comments. Everyone had input on how to make it that much better. I quickly mined the worthy ideas, checked other recipes and then came up with this.

To everyone that has an opinion to improve Mark Bittman, I thank you. Hopefully his ego does too!

Expect to see this regularly in my summer rotation. Probably with a few more touches and tweaks.

How about you? Any suggestions on how to make it even that much better?  I'm all ears.

Chicken Satay Skewers and Peanut Sauce
Yield: 8 skewers

1/2 cup peanut butter, preferably chunky, also natural if you have it
1 tablespoon curry paste, red Thai
1 tablespoon chili paste, like sriracha or sambal
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut cream, approximately
2 tablespoons kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce)
3 tablespoons lime juice, or more if needed
lime zest, from one lime
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks
2 teaspoons fish sauce, also known as nam pla
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
salted peanuts, optional - rough chopped
Lime wedges

Put peanut butter in a small bowl; add curry paste, sriracha, salt and enough coconut milk to achieve a creamy but quite thick consistency. Stir in kecap manis, lime juice, lime zest, nam pla, brown sugar, garlic and ginger. Taste and adjust accordingly for seasoning and heat. Set aside 3/4 plus cups for sauce. Marinate chicken in the remaining mixture overnight.

Set oven rack to the third level from the top. Preheat the broiler to 500F.

Line two baking sheets with foil, shiny side down. Skewer chicken chunks on 8 skewers. Place 4 skewers on each baking sheet. Place under the broiler for 5 minutes, Turn over and broiler for another 5 minutes. Then turn over and broil for a remaining 5 minutes until nicely browned and cooked through.

Serve hot, on a bed of coconut rice. Squeeze a bit of lime juice on the chicken. Drizzle with sauce. Garnish with cilantro and chopped peanuts if using.

If using wooden skewers, soak them first.

Notice how I have no oil in the marinade.  It doesn't need it since the peanut butter is loaded with it.

This works well on the barbecue, of course. It would be helpful to grease the grill first, though. Watch the heat! Barbecues can be ruthless on skewers where meat is sauced and has some sweetness. You do not want char on the outside and raw on the inside. But once you've tried the broiling method, you might not bother with messing up your grill.

Jasmine rice is a good match.  Adding coconut cream to the water will take it from bland to bold.

Do not skimp out on cilantro. It will bring it all together.

Asian cucumber salad can be a good match as a side.  The vinegar will balance the sweet of the marinade and sauce.

A great party meat for a crowd since it can be mostly prepared ahead, including skewering. The cooking time really is minimal.

For Asian ingredients here in Ottawa, I like to shop at Manphong Supermarket on Somerset Street. Also, their cilantro is particularly fresh and clean.

Play with the taste and find your own palate. Recipes are a suggestion, not the law! Enjoy.

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