Ginger-Basil Chicken Thighs with Green Tomato

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I’ve professed my love for The Kitchn many times on this blog, but this time, it’s serious.  We have a tomato explosion in our garden this year, and as I was staring out my office window and all of the lovely green beauties hanging on their vines, I happened to stumble upon this delightful recipe.  It’s also culinary bonus when I find that I have all the ingredients on hand necessary to complete the dish!

In general, I try to avoid using my oven too much during the summer.  But when zucchini abound, I bake zucchini bread.  When peaches are in season, I bake peach pie.  And when a roasted chicken and tomato dish like this comes along, I do not hesitate to turn on my oven.  It’s that good.

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One of my favorite flavor combinations is ginger and garlic.  The addition of fresh basil from my garden elevated this dish and offered a summery depth of flavor that went perfectly with the green tomatoes.

The original recipe called for Sherry, but I was out, so I used Shaohsing rice cooking wine instead.  You should be able to find it at any Asian market and often in the “international” aisle of your local grocery store.

I also added a little fish sauce and some chopped scallions to round it all off.  The whole dish came together so quickly, which was perfect for a summer night.

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All the ingredients go in the same roasting dish!  So easy!

I chose to pair this with steamed jasmine rice sprinkled with a little rice vinegar.  Roasting the green tomatoes made them slightly sweeter, but they still retained a little sour bite, which went really well with the juicy chicken thighs.  Give this dish a try and let me know how you like it!  Enjoy!

Ginger-Basil Chicken Thighs with Green Tomato
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients:

1 large (or two medium) green tomatoes, cored, halved, and sliced 1/2 -inch thick
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Shaohsing rice cooking wine
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2-3 scallions, chopped
steamed jasmine rice sprinkled with rice vinegar (for serving)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except 1 tablespoon basil and all the chopped scallions; stir to fully incorporate.

Turn out into a 9×13-inch roasting dish.  Roast until chicken is fully cooked and the tomatoes are softened, around 25 minutes.  Stir halfway through roasting time to make sure all chicken is cooked through.  Serve on steamed rice and garnish with remaining basil and chopped scallions.

 

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Chicken Laksa (Southeast Asian Chicken Noodle Soup)

Last weekend it was really rainy and overcast here in Omaha.  Yes, it’s June, but because of the weather, I was craving chicken noodle soup.  I didn’t want to do the expected noodle soup; I wanted to do something spicy, tangy, something that took me to another place when I ate it.

To the internet I went!

On one of my favorite websites, Food Republic, I found just what I was looking for: something called Chicken Laksa.  One look at the ingredient list told me it was just what I wanted.  And I only had to buy a few items!

I cook with a lot of different spices, so I was glad to see that I had pretty much every spice on the list: coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, and turmeric.  These spices featured a lot in Thai and Indian recipes (which I love) so I always have them on hand.

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I absolutely love going to the Asian market here in town.  Shopping there transports me to another place.  I can spend at least an hour in there, just walking around, discovering ingredients I’ve never seen before.  I fully suggest you do the same.  Find your nearest ethnic market, walk in, and immerse yourself in the food of that culture.  You might be surprised what goes home with you in your shopping bag.

This soup is really easy to put together.  After you grind your spices, chop your shallots and garlic, smash your lemongrass, and cut up your chicken thighs, it pretty much all goes into one pot and boom! you’re done.

I suggest giving this one a try.  If, for any reason, you don’t have a spice or coffee grinder,  you can use pre-ground spices from the market.  Also, if you can’t find shrimp paste (I absolutely had to go to the Asian market for it) I’m sure you could substitute fish sauce.

However, I know that I really loved the boost of flavor the shrimp paste gave.  It doesn’t smell good, but boy, it was a lovely addition to the soup.  If you do substitute, just be sure to taste, as both are salty and exact substitutions might be off.

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Chicken Laksa (Southeast Asian Chicken Noodle Soup)
Adapted from Food Republic

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you really like it spicy)
2 lemongrass stalks
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
8 ounces mung bean sprouts, rinsed
8 ounces wide rice noodles
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn
lime wedges
Sambal Oelek chili paste (can find at Asian market)

Method:

In a spice or coffee grinder, place first seven ingredients and grind to medium-fine powder.  Set aside.  Peel off outer layers of lemongrass stalks and give them a good whack on your counter.  Or, if you’re feeling inclined, smash the core with a heavy skillet.  Basically, you’re crushing them in order for them to give off their lovely lemony flavor (you’ll take them out of the soup at the end).

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  When hot, add the cubed chicken, shrimp paste, shallots, and spice mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Add coconut milk, broth, sugar, and salt.  Add cinnamon stick and lemongrass stalks.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes.

In a separate pot, bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil.  Toss in bean sprouts and blanche them until softened, about 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon or a spider, transfer sprouts to a bowl.  Add noodles to same pot and cook until firm, but pliable, about 4-5 minutes; drain.

Divide sprouts and noodles among bowls.  Remove lemongrass and cinnamon stick from soup pot.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with cilantro.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over soup and add as much Sambal Oelek as your tongue can handle.

If you’re going to store this for leftovers, be sure to keep components separate.  When reheating, pour soup into saucepan and heat on stove over medium.  There’s no need to reheat the noodles; the soup will take care of that.

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From Paris to Omaha, Chinatown Style

When I lived in Paris, I used to spend entire afternoons in either one of the two amazing Chinatown areas within the city.  The first (and oldest) is located in the 13th arrondissment, and the second can be found in the Belleville neighborhood.  I would walk along the aisles, marveling at the sheer volume of products, things I had never seen or tasted before.  There were rows of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, stacks of noodles, hundreds of sauce and condiment choices!  And the protein!  My god, the protein!  Species that seemed prehistoric, fermented eggs, and gigantic live lobsters swimming in enormous tanks!

They say that one of our biggest sense memories is that of smell, and believe me when I say that Chinatown in the City of Lights left me with a distinct olfactory impression.  I was able to wax nostalgic today on my latest food quest.  Scott loves Moo Shu Pork and made a dinner request for it this evening.  As a lover of all things food, and fueled by the desire to make my darling happy, I gladly made my way to one of my favorite stores in all of Omaha – the Asian Market on 76th Street.

If you haven’t been, please go.  Don’t let the foreign language and unfamiliar inventory scare you off!  March right in, grab a basket, and start discovering!  Personally, I love walking up and down each aisle, really looking at the items, getting a feel for the products, and familiarizing myself with the store.  There are items I never thought existed, for instance, sweet bananas in a jar:

And instant jellyfish:

Clearly, Moo Shu Pork calls for neither of those ingredients, and I did not buy them, but knowing they are out there is all that matters.  I was able to locate 90% of the necessary ingredients among the thousands (not kidding, here) of items available at the Asian Market.  I even came home with a brand new bamboo steamer – something I’ve always wanted!

So, fellow epicureans, put your fears aside, close your eyes, take a deep breath and step through the doors of Omaha’s mini version of Chinatown.  You will not be disappointed.

Asian Market is located at 321 North 76th Street, Omaha, NE 68114, (402) 391-2606, and they are open from 9am to 8pm daily!