Monday, July 14, 2014

Sticky Coconut Chicken with a Chili Glaze

Cool, windy, wet weather can dampen our enthusiasm for outdoor grilling. The Capt. is a hardy grill dude with a good set of rain gear, but swirling, gusty winds often rotate the boat and blow out the gas grill’s flame. Not fun. Well, whoever said you have to grill outside in the summer? This Southeast Asian chicken recipe wins rave reviews whether you use a charcoal or propane grill, stovetop grill pans or even an oven broiler. Tasty results shouldn’t be a surprise since the recipe is attributed to notable chef Christine Keff of Seattle’s Flying Fish restaurant.

The coconut milk/lime/ginger marinade flavors the chicken meat and the tangy, sticky glaze adds an amazing finishing touch.  Layers of flavor plus a gorgeous appearance make this dish a winner in my galley.

Note to self: double the quantity of Chili Glaze; it makes a tasty topping for the coconut rice side dish.

Sticky Coconut Chicken
Based on a recipe found in Sunset Recipe Annual, 2002

Accompany with fresh tropical fruit and a bowl of steaming Coconut Rice for a dinner that will win you rave reviews from family and friends.

Serves 6

6 to 8 large chicken thighs, trimmed, boned & skinned (or use breast pieces pounded to an even thickness, about 1.5 lbs.)
6 ounces canned coconut milk (stir or shake well before measuring)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (or use paste from a tube)
1 teaspoon lemon grass stalks, smashed & minced (or use paste from a tube)
grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce (or hot chili flakes)
Chili Glaze  (see below)
4 – 5 green onions, trimmed & cut into long slivers or rounds (white & green parts)
1 lime, cut in wedges to serve alongside

For the chicken:
1.   Rinse the chicken pieces, pat dry and place in a large non-metallic bowl or large ziploc bag. Mix together the coconut milk, ginger, lemon grass, lime zest and juice, pepper and hot sauce or chili flakes. Pour the coconut milk blend over the chicken parts and turn to coat all surfaces. Cover or seal airtight and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
2.   Remove the chicken from its container, reserving marinade to use while grilling. (Nuke the reserved marinade in the microwave or bring it to a boil on the stovetop if you worry about contamination from raw poultry.) Spread the chicken pieces flat and lay on a preheated, lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat or on an oiled barbecue grill. Cook, turning often, until the meat is no longer pink in the center (about 10-12 minutes), basting often with the reserved marinade to keep moist. Go ahead, use it all.
3.   Remove the cooked chicken pieces to a warm serving platter and pour the warm chili glaze over each piece. Garnish with green onions and serve with lime wedges.

Chili Glaze:
¾ cup sweetened rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Ponzu (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce (or hot chili flakes)
2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture thickens slightly and is reduced to ½ cup, about 10 minutes. Watch the pan and adjust heat as necessary so the glaze doesn’t boil over or reduce to a sticky, burnt-caramel sludge. (You’ll thank me for this warning.)
Use the glaze while it’s warm. If preparing ahead of time, reheat before using.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Some food memories are more about location than they are about a specific entrée or dining event. The Cow Bay Café in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada fits that description. Years ago we enjoyed a celebration dinner there, memorable for actually being in port to dine out on a birthday or anniversary date as well as for a curry dish of some sort that was both unusual and delicious. Cruising friend Margie O. reported the café was closed but owner Adrienne Johnston had published a cookbook, and I knew I needed to revisit that food memory via the book “no more secrets: recipes from cow bay café”.

Margie delivered a copy to the boat (thank you, girlfriend!) and we’re all set to cook together from the book each month, taking turns choosing which recipe to prepare. She had already tried the watermelon salad so that became my first choice. It was gorgeous! How could it miss with the eye-catching red of the watermelon offering a beautiful base for the contrasting creamy white feta, fresh green parsley and purple-black olives?

 The actual taste was a surprise… but not in a good way. The original recipe called for sun-dried black Moroccan olives, not an ingredient found in the boat pantry. I substituted Kalamata olives, not a good choice since even after rinsing, were too strongly flavored to use in this dish. Salty olive was the only flavor our taste buds registered. Brother Mike suggested substituting dried cranberries, the Capt suggested fresh cherries, and I’m still thinking about a less-salty something other than fruit.  Drat! That was one gorgeous plate of red that I was prepared to love. It’s good I only made a half-recipe, that left us the rest of the small watermelon to enjoy for dessert. The Capt. loves watermelon by itself, I prefer it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Either way watermelon means summer and we're ready to enjoy watermelon for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack - watermelon any time. Bring on the watermelon, but hold the olives.

Watermelon and Feta Salad
with black olives, red onion and parsley
recipe from Adrienne Johnston’s cookbook, “no more secrets, recipes from cow bay café”

4-6 servings

1.5 pounds watermelon, peeled & cut into thin slices
½ small red onion, slices into very thin slivers
¼ cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley, rough chopped
¼ cup Kalamata olives, rinsed & rough chopped**
½ cup feta cheese, cubes or crumbles

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients ahead of time and let the mix chill in the fridge to blend flavors.
  2. Place the watermelon slices on a rimmed platter or individual serving plates and scatter the onion, parsley, feta cheese and olives (or fruit) over the top. Drizzle the dressing over the top and enjoy this unusual mix. 

**Note: We found the olives to be too salty & aggressive a flavor; the combination seemed out of balance. In the future I’ll substitute juice-soaked dried cranberries, or in season fresh cherries or strawberries, plus some fresh lemon zest to better highlight the taste of the watermelon.

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