Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Dinner

My husband and I recently established a Friday night ritual of going to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Randolph, MA – Pho 98 Cuisine – where we usually enjoy a first course of brightly colored and flavored cabbage salad garnished with duck, chicken or shrimp, and then a chicken or pork dish for each of us.  We missed doing that this past Friday, and my taste buds were feeling deprived.

I solved that matter yesterday with a stop at Kam Man market in Quincy after an appointment in the area, and stocked up on some of their beautiful produce and other staples that I keep on hand for Southeast Asian cooking at home.  My specific craving was for a lemongrass roasted chicken with spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles on the side.

A quick search of the web led me to the Fine Cooking recipe archive for a truly spectacular recipe for Lemongrass Roast Chicken, which I found to be almost exactly the same as the recipe in my Mai Pham cookbook, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table.

I rarely follow a recipe exactly as written, except when it comes to breads which can be tricky if you mess with them.  This one, however, spoke to me in a language I could taste and so, except for altering the method of roasting, I used the exact ingredients for the marinade, the added coating of lemongrass and cilantro, and the exquisite dipping sauce.

Rather than reproduce the whole recipe here, simply click on the link above to find detailed ingredients, and do try the method I mentioned in my review – butterfly the chicken and roast it in a 12″ cast iron skillet at 400 for 45 minutes.  When done, it will look like this and you’ll want to spoon the gorgeous sauce all over it after cutting it with poultry shears.  NOTE:  One long stalk of lemongrass produced the required 1/2 cup of minced…I did not need the 3 suggested in the recipe.

LEMONGRASS ROAST CHICKEN 

(from Fine Cooking)

Lemongrass chickenThe spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles were perfect accompaniments.

SPICY CUCUMBER SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp water

1 tsp Thai chili sauce

1/2 very large English cucumber, sliced in half vertically, seeds lightly scooped out, and cut into thin half-moons

1 small shallot halved and thinly sliced

Several sprigs cilantro and mint leaves torn into small pieces, or chopped

In medium bowl combine first 5 ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the cucumber, shallot, and herbs and stir to get everything covered with the dressing.  Refrigerate until time to serve.

SESAME NOODLES JORDAN

Follow the link to this recipe which I submitted years ago to Epicurious, and which appears in the cookbook they later published.  It’s best served warm or room temperature, but leftovers can be enjoyed right from the fridge.  I did not add the usual complement of optional vegetables such as snow peas, red pepper or mushrooms for this meal’s side dish – simply a handful of the Thai basil from Kam Man to keep it simple.

The resulting meal was as good as anything I’ve ever enjoyed at Pho 98 or any other Vietnamese establishment.  And the kitchen did smell like there was a restaurant in the neighborhood.IMG_3950

 

 

 

Perfect for Passover Chicken

Another Passover approaches, another year when ronicooks is not doing a Seder.  So sad to admit that my many years of hosting a sumptuous Passover feast and a Seder led by my son have come to an end.  Family members are far-flung or departed, along with my will to cobble together a table of friends for the occasion.

And yet, the desire to prepare dishes that are Passover-perfect is still strong, if only for the immediate family.  This Sweet & Spicy roast chicken, adapted from the NYT cooking site, is just such a dish.  I make it in a 12″ cast iron skillet, but if doubled or tripled for a large gathering, it can easily be done in a larger roasting pan.

Husband and I are having this for dinner tonight, along with the challah I baked this afternoon, along with a skillet of oven herbed oven-roasted red-skin potato wedges and steamed snap peas.  But if you’re doing a Passover dinner, lose the challah, substitute matzo and potato kugel, and make this ahead of time because it keeps well and merely needs reheating while you enjoy the proceedings with your guests:

SWEET & SPICY ROAST CHICKEN

(adapted from New York Times)

INGREDIENTS:

1 Meyer lemon quartered and sliced thinly

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp kosher salt

3 tbsp orange or ruby red grapefruit juice

4 tbsp EVOO

1-1/2 tbsp whole grain mustard

3 tbsp honey

1 bay leaf

1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 4-lb air-chilled chicken cut into 8 pieces, wing-tips removed

1 large sweet onion halved and thinly sliced

3 cups carrots thinly sliced on the bias

2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill chopped date pieces

1 tsp dried thyme

Garnish:

thinly sliced scallions, chopped parsley or cilantro, and chopped pistachios

PREPARATION:

In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice, orange or grapefruit juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and black pepper.  Bring a boil, then simmer about 5 minutes and remove from heat to cool.

In a large bowl – 5 quart mixing bowl, for example – combine the cooled sauce with carrots, onions, dates, cut-up Meyer lemon, and thyme, and then add the chicken pieces and turn several times to make sure everything is incely coated.  Refrigerate as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 and remove chicken pieces from the bowl so you can easily pour everything else into a 12″ cast iron skillet or small roasting pan.  Lay the chicken pieces atop the vegetables, skin side up.

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oven-ready

Roast for 35 minutes, basting occasionally, ubntil skin is nicely browned.  Reduce temperature to 350 and roast another 20 minutes, continuing to baste.

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and done!

To serve, remove chicken pieces to serving platter and pour sauce & veggies over.

Garnish and serve.

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garnished with parsley, scallions & crushed pistachios

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my dinner plate – yum!

 

Smoked Paprika Roasted Chicken Thighs

Thanks to Sam Sifton for posting the inspiration for this recipe on the NYT Cooking Site.  I’ve made it twice and my husband declares – “you have to make chicken thighs this was always!

Sifton’s recipe had butter in the rub; I subbed olive oil, upped the lemon juice, and added the pom molasses.  And rather than grill, I changed the cooking method to oven roasting to preserve all those lovely cooking juices for a reduced glaze at the end.

Easy enough to prepare with the spice paste and refrigerate hours ahead of cooking time, and then you’re free until revisiting your dinner for a little over an hour of mostly hands-off cooking time.  The beauty of this dish, besides the simplicity of preparation, is that the chicken thighs remain juicy and tender even after an hour of roasting, and also after reheating if you have leftovers.

Smoked Paprika Roasted Chicken Thighs

INGREDIENTS:

8 very meaty air-chilled chicken thighs on the bone, totaling 4-5 lbs.

1 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika

2 tbsp smoked Spanish paprika

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp honey

juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon, rind cut thickly and reserved

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

4 cloves garlic finely minced

PREPARATION:

Either early in the day or just before roasting, cut off any excess flaps of skin hanging off the chicken thighs and season them with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.  Combine all the spice paste ingredients (except for pieces of lemon rind) in a large baking dish and then rub the paste all over the chicken pieces, loosening the skin a bit to get some under it.  Scatter the lemon rind pieces around the chicken, then cover and refrigerate until ready to roast.

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Preheat oven to 400º and place the chicken, skin side down in one layer, in a large cast iron skillet.  You can add the lemon rind pieces or discard at this point.  Roast for 30 minutes, then turn over with skin side up and roast for another 30 minutes.  If skin needs crisping at this point, turn on the broiler for just a couple of minutes to get it the way you like.

Remove chicken pieces to a serving platter.  Reduce the pan juices over medium high heat to a piquant, syrupy sauce to brush or pour over.

This makes a hearty dinner for 4-6, depending on the size of your chicken thighs and your guests’ appetites.  Leftovers reheat beautifully.

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Served with oven-baked crispy fries and salad.

 

MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, FIGS, OLIVES & PRESERVED LEMON

 

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When life gives me preserved lemons like the ones I happened upon at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and when Whole Foods has a special on Bell & Evans whole air-chilled chickens for 1/2 price, I can feel a Moroccan chicken dinner in my future.

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Moroccan, Tunisian, North African – whatever you choose to call it – the spice profile of this cuisine calls to me often enough that my supply of essential spices is always available.  Cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, ras al hanout, and of course fresh garlic, ginger root and shallots.  Preserving lemons takes planning and patience, even with some quickie methods I’ve found in a pinch.  Diced fresh lemon can also be used if necessary, but they’ll retain the acidity that preserving leaches out.  This little jar of preserved lemon slices for under $3 is something I hope TJ’s keeps in stock, because once you find something there that you love it can disappear without notice based on “supplier” issues.

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Spice-rubbed and ready to refrigerate for a few hours

The whole chickens necessitated a major adaptation of recipes in my collection, which I usually make with just thighs, either boneless or on the bone with skin.  The finished dish is now sitting in my kitchen waiting for the basmati rice and Fatoush salad to go-with.  The aromas will keep me inspired!

MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, FIGS, OLIVES & PRESERVED LEMON

(2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, and each half breast cut in two)

2 T extra virgin olive oil + a bit more for sautéing the chicken

1 large garlic clove minced

1 T minced ginger root

1 t turmeric

1 t cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp ground cloves

¾ t cardamom

¾ t coriander

1 t ras al hanout (optional)

½ t kosher salt

½ t freshly ground black pepper

½ cup minced shallots

16 small black mission figs, halved

12 small pitted prunes

handful of green olives with pits (such as Castelvetrano or picholine)

1 medium-large sweet onion coarsely chopped

½ cup white wine or Vermouth

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup diced preserved lemons

1 T honey

Optional: Finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley for garnish

Early in the day, toss the cut up chicken with the olive oil in a large high-sided dish, such as a 13×9 baking dish.  Combine the next 11 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the chicken.  Add the next 4 ingredients and toss to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Preheat a large electric skillet on medium, add another 1-2 T olive oil, brush the solids off the chicken, leaving everything else in your dish.  Brown the chicken on all sides until skin is nicely browned, and remove to a plate.  Deglaze the pan with the wine or Vermouth, add the chopped onion, and sauté briefly to soften.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the shallot/fig/prune/olive mixture and the diced preserved lemon.  Return the chicken and any juices to the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove chicken while you reduce the sauce with the 1T of honey, then return to the pan to keep warm for serving.  Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley if desired.