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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thai-Style Chicken and Veggies

The other night I decided to be very brave and cook some Thai chicken.  This style of cooking is new to me but I though I would give it a try.  Going through my The Deen Family Cookbook, I found Corrie's Thai-Style Chicken and Veggies recipe (page 78).  Fourteen ingredients is quite a few to handle, but several are cans or jars, so it actually looks pretty simple.

The first thing I had to do was shop for a few of the ingredients that we don't normally keep at our house like Asian fish sauce.  We had recently watched an Alton Brown Good Eats show about Asian fish sauce so we understand what it is, how it is made, and how strong it is.  We also had to get a can of unsweetened coconut milk, a can of bamboo shoots and some baby corn (we got them pickled in a jar and they worked just fine).

Just before I started on the chicken, I started one cup of brown rice in our rice cooker so we would have a starch to accompany the chicken.  This is a new experience for me as my wife usually is in charge of making the rice.  To prepare for the actual cooking, I gathered all the ingredients and placed them on our island counter top and then I sharpened the knife I was going to use.  With it nice and sharp, I chopped one yellow onion and put it in our large frying pan with some olive oil to start cooking. 

I was placing some old newspaper over the cutting board to retain the raw chicken juices when I moved the knife off the cutting board and nicked the side of my index finger near the tip with the backend of the knife blade.  OK, turn off the range and move the cooking onions off the heat.  Access the damage that is about one quarter of an inch long (but really bleeding well).  Off to the bathroom to wash out the cut and then I had to find a Band-Aid.  I was applying direct pressure (remember I was a Boy Scout) and had to have my wife open the wrapper for the Band-Aid and help me get it applied.  A quick check that the bleeding has stopped and all the blood is cleaned up and it's back to work.

The recipe calls for one and a half pounds of chicken, which turned out to be two chicken breasts.  I laid them flat and cut crosswise into strips.  I ended up with strips of chicken about one quarter of an inch wide and an inch deep.  I should have then turned the cut strips 90 degrees laying them flat and sliced them long ways, or even before cutting the chicken crosswise, I should have fillet each chicken breast in half to reduce the thickness.  I ended up cutting each strip in half after cooking.

I put my chicken strips in with the onions, placed the pan back on the heat, and added some salt and pepper.  While this was cooking, I started to prepare the rest of the ingredients.  The first thing I found was that I should have really shaken the can of coconut milk before I opened it!  There was a very thick layer of solids on the top and underneath a very watery layer.  I added enough of both parts to my mixing bowl for the recipe. 

I opened the jar of mini pickled ears of corn and managed to get the eight ears sliced long ways before my wife and I started eating the delicious little picked ears of corn directly from the jar.  The recipe calls for one tablespoon of sweet chili sauce.  I intentionally didn't buy the chili sauce, but I did substitute about a tablespoon of mild salsa left over from making soft tacos and about a quarter teaspoon of chili flakes.  I cut up one stalk of broccoli to get the one cup of broccoli florets.

After about six minutes, the chicken finished cooked so I moved the chicken and onions from the frying pan to a small bowl for later.  Into the frying pan went the remainder of the sauce ingredients to heat to a gentle boil until the broccoli was tender.  Then in went a mixture of equal parts cornstarch and water as a thickener for the sauce.  However, I didn't see any real difference to the thickness after adding it.

I added the chicken and onions back into the frying pan and heated the entire mixture until warm.
The rice was ready, so we dished up some rice and added the Thai chicken on top.  This dish was excellent; the coconut flavor is present but not overpowering.  The chicken was moist and there is just a little hint of heat in the sauce.  Next time I make this dish, I will add a second stalk of broccoli to enhance the visual presentation, as we found that the dish can use a little more varied color that additional broccoli will add.

We used our white cafe ware plates and realized that the white chicken in white sauce on whitish rice on the white plate looked somewhat plain.  Next time we will use some colored plates.  In fact, four new colored plates are on our kitchen-shopping list

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