Spicy Asian Marinated Chicken Thighs

I’m not a huge fan of just eating a roasted chicken. Sure, if you roast it and use the meat in other dishes like soup, pizza, etc. then yeah, it’s good. But if I’m just reaching for a piece of meat, I like mine marinated. And preferably for 24 hours. Marinating meat is a great way to infuse it with flavor and to tenderize it. Plus, it’s pretty hard to mess up.

So what goes into a marinade? Three ingredients: (1) a fat, usually oil; (2) an acid, for example, vinegar, wine or citrus; and (3) flavorings, usually spices, herbs and garlic. Proportionally, since the base of the marinade should be the oil, the mixture should be about 2/3 oil to 1/3 acid. Keep in mind that the acids work to tenderize the meat by denaturing proteins. Marinades that contain a lot of acid, like citrus juice (zest is okay) or vinegar, should only be used for a few hours since it will start to chemically cook the meat.

To store marinated meat, use a non-reactive container (no metal!). Plastic tupperware and ceramic dishes are good choices. I like using a ziploc bag since it’s easy to mix and turn the meat, ensuring all surfaces get coated. I place the bag in either a container or just double bag in case of leaks.

Cook the marinated meat as you would regular meat; but, discard the marinade since the raw meat juices get mixed in with it. If you want some extra marinade to drizzle over the finished product, reserve some at the very beginning before you start marinating.

Directions

  1. Stir together all the marinade ingredients.
  2. In a small container, reserve and refrigerate 3 tablespoons of the marinade to drizzle over the cooked chicken.
  3. Wash the chicken thighs and pat dry with a towel.
  4. Place the thighs in either a container with lid or large ziploc bag.
  5. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and mix well.
  6. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  7. To broil the chicken, adjust the oven rack to the top third, about 8 inches from the top heating element.
  8. Place thighs skin side down on a broiling pan.
  9. Broil, 16 – 18 minutes.
  10. Flip the thighs so the skin side is up.
  11. Broil, 12 – 14 minutes.
  12. Serve with the reserved 3 tablespoons of marinade.

Cook’s Notes

Since I don’t have a grill, broiling is great alternative. Grilling is cooking the meat from the bottom up and broiling is basically cooking it from the top down. You need to use a broiling pan and place the oven rack about 5 -8 inches from the top heating element. If there is skin on the meat, I broil skin side down first for a longer period of time and then flip over to finish it up since the skin can burn easily.

If you don’t want to broil, you can bake it at 375F for about 35 minutes. Reduce the cooking time if the chicken thighs are boneless.

This marinade also is great with other types of meat like beef and shrimp.

Kale and Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Chicken Sausage

According to Mitchell on Modern Family (one of our favorite shows!), “Kale is the new spinach.” Kale is everywhere these days – pasta with kale, kale chips, and yes, kale smoothies. Kale is a superfood and it seems like everyone is starting to take notice. It is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. Why is it a superstar? According to WebMD:

“One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium oil, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.”

And let’s not forget sweet potatoes. They’re really great for you too! They are full of complex carbohydrates that keep you full and beta-carotene that keeps your skin smooth and fresh-looking. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in your body and switches on DNA that’s in charge of producing new skin cells and shedding old ones. Sweet potatoes also have a lot of fiber, potassium and Vitamin C.

While kale is on the “dirty dozen” list of the foods with high pesticide residue, it’s still relatively inexpensive organic. I bought this bunch of organic kale at the farmer’s market for just $2! And one bunch is actually quite large. We made this soup twice over the weekend and still have left over kale. And sweet potatoes you don’t necessarily need to purchase organic.

This soup is delicious, light, and incredibly healthy! Aside from roasting the sweet potatoes ahead of time, this soup doesn’t take long to make and pairs well with a side of crusty garlic bread!

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Place cubed sweet potatoes in a baking pan or dish. Season with salt and pepper and coat with olive oil.
  3. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a dutch oven over medium heat, warm some olive oil.
  5. Cook the chicken sausage until just browned.
  6. Add in onion and mushrooms and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, until softened.
  7. Add in garlic, thyme, coriander, some sea salt and black pepper. Stir in and cook for about 1 minute.
  8. Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes.
  10. Add in roasted sweet potatoes and kale.
  11. Push the kale down into the soup so it’s submerged. Cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, until bright green and tender.

Cook’s Notes

You can use any type of sausage (or chorizo) for this soup. I usually go for the Jalapeno Chicken Sausage from Trader Joe’s. It comes fully cooked so the most I have to be concerned with it is the browning. I also like the heat the jalapenos add to the soup. I’ve also made this dish before using spicy Italian pork sausages; and it turned out equally well.

I prefer to cook this soup in a dutch oven versus a non-stick soup-pot because the caramelized bits from the sausage, onions and mushrooms will stick to the bottom of the dutch oven. And they won’t stick to a non-stick soup-pot surface. Then, when the chicken stock gets added it deglazes the bottom of the dutch oven so the bits get dissolved into the soup. It adds a rich depth of flavor to the broth.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken Mantou Sandwiches

Almost all of my friends use Netflix and a decent percentage find its selection of streaming movies less than exciting. I enthusiastically disagree. I think the assortment of social, cultural, historic and nature documentaries is really appealing. Maybe it is because of the fact that I have already seen the feature films by the time they’re streaming that my instant queue is full of documentaries. Regardless, I – and I can’t be the only one – think it’s much more interesting to watch PBS’ Story of India documentary (yes, all 6 parts) than the latest Fast & Furious installment.

I recommend Wild China, a 6 part nature documentary series on the natural history of China. It was filmed all in high-def so it is incredibly visually striking. A lot of the program was filmed in the most remote parts of China and use special filming techniques to capture amazing animal behavior. The program highlights the rich biodiversity of China and also the relationship between animals and the ecosystem. This is true of humans and our food as well.

Mantou, Chinese steamed bread, is a staple in my repertoire. It’s decidedly a northern Chinese dish. Southern China is mountainous, rainy, warm and hilly, suitable for rice terraces. The north has a flatter topography and is suited for the cultivation of wheat and corn. Oftentimes I use mantou and regular bread interchangeably. Mantou, since steamed, is very soft, pillowy and absorbent (mmm…juices). I also find it much lighter than baked breads; so I can eat more of it!

And since summer has practically started already in New York, I’m combining the best of both worlds with mantou and pulled chicken. I also added in Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes to provide a bit of flavorful tang and textural contrast to the soft bread and meat.

Directions

-For the Steamed Rolls-

  1. Dissolve the sugar into the warm water. Add yeast.
  2. Let stand about 10 minutes, so that the yeast will froth.
  3. Mix together flour and salt.
  4. If using a bread machine (like I did), mix all ingredients together and set on dough cycle.
  5. If making it by hand, mix ingredients together and knead until a soft dough forms. Shape into a ball, place in a large bowl and cover lightly with a lid. Let rise in a warm area for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  6. After it has risen, knead a few times and shape dough into a long rectangular log. With a knife, cut 16 pieces.
  7. Places the pieces into steamer baskets. Cover and let rise again in a warm area for about 45 minutes.
  8. Steam mantou in the baskets for about 12 minutes.

-For the Pulled Chicken-

  1. In a skillet, heat canola oil and brown chicken on all sides. Transfer to slow cooker insert.
  2. Then in the skillet, saute onion slices until softened, about 4 minutes. Add to slow cooker insert.
  3. Pour the barbecue sauce over the chicken and onion in the slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

-For the Assembly-

  1. Break open a mantou bun, add cucumbers and radishes.
  2. Layer in the shredded chicken and top with cilantro.

Cook’s Notes

If your kitchen isn’t warm enough for the dough to properly rise, preheat your oven to 350F for 30 seconds. Let the dough rise in the warmed oven.

I find that the stainless-steel 3-tiered steamers work much better than the bamboo version that’s place over a wok. The latter kind is used mainly for dim sum plates while the 3-tiered kind can be used for steamed breads, corn, fish, etc. This steamer is an example of the kind I have. They can be found on Amazon or at any housewares shop in Chinatown. New Kam Man is a great supermarket on Canal St. where I buy my Asian sauces, noodles and kitchenware, including plates, steamers and utensils. They also have a great Asian snack section!

Bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs (breasts, drumsticks, etc.) are usually cheaper than the prepared boneless, skinless version. To save money, buy the bone-in, skin-on kind and prep it yourself. The skin is usually pretty much almost separated and easy to remove. And if you’re slow cooking, the meat will fall off the bones anyway when done, so the bones won’t be an issue.