Cindy’s Thai Chicken

This recipe traveled a long way to arrive in New Richmond, Wisconsin. It was brought here from southwest Asia by Cindy Pearson a few years ago, when her sister, Cathy, was serving as pastor of our church. Cindy was visiting her family in Wisconsin between academic terms at Charis Bible College in Hong Kong where she serves as director.

For many years Cindy has worked in China, teaching and caring for orphans before accepting her current position as a teacher and the director at the college. One Sunday she delivered a message during the worship service about her experiences in China. Following the service, she gave a slideshow about her work and life in Hong Kong. As good churchgoers, we ended the morning with a potluck.

Cindy brought a large platter of chicken and broccoli to the potluck. It was delicious, and when I asked for the recipe, she was gracious enough to email it to me. She called it Thai chicken and said that it was a popular dish with her friends in China. Chicken and broccoli are seasoned with a peanut sauce and broiled in the oven. It is actually a version of satay.

Food historians believe that satay was invented on the island of Java in Indonesia. Meat is skewered on palm frond ribs or bamboo skewers, cooked quickly over hot coals and served with peanut sauce. When we visited Surabaya, Indonesia, we saw many street vendors cooking satay. Rather than making this delicacy at home, people buy it from their favorite vendor and take it home to enjoy with rice.

In Cindy’s version, the chicken is dipped in the sauce and arranged on a baking sheet. Broccoli florets are scattered over the chicken and the remaining sauce is dribbled over the food in the pan.

Many years ago I hesitated to try any food cooked with peanuts (except for peanut brittle of course). However, once I was persuaded to do so by a college girlfriend who led me to a Chinese restaurant, I realized that I had been missing some delicious flavors. Be sure to use natural peanut butter for this recipe. Check the label before you buy a jar. The ingredients listed should be only peanuts and salt.

As you can see from the photo, , my first attempt at this dish resulted in what I thought was a bit too much charring, but as it turned out that just made the dish taste like it had been broiled over charcoal. Nothing tasted burned, the chicken was moist and tender, and everything was perfectly seasoned. You could lower the pan a little farther from the broiler if you wish, but we liked the dish just as it turned out.

Serve it with white rice and a little salad, and you will have a dinner low in carbohydrates and calories for guests careful about their diets.

INGREDIENTS:
2 chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)
1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb.)
¼ cup + 2T creamy natural peanut butter
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
1 T packed brown sugar
1 T sesame oil
1 T lime juice
½ T Sriracha sauce
½ T rice vinegar
1/8 cup warm water

PROCEDURE:

Start by making the sauce in a quart mixing bowl. Use a fork to blend the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, lime juice, Siracha sauce and vinegar. Add the warm water sparingly, beating the sauce until it is the consistency of rather thick gravy.

Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and start the oven broiler. Pat the chicken breasts dry and cut them into pieces no thicker than one inch. Dip the chicken pieces into the sauce and lay them out on the pan.

If you plan to serve the chicken immediately, this is a good time to start cooking the rice.

Wash and break or cut the broccoli into florets about the same size as the pieces of chicken. Distribute the broccoli between the chicken pieces and dribble any leftover peanut sauce over the meat and broccoli. Put the pan under the broiler for six to eight minutes. Turn the meat and broccoli and broil another six to eight minutes or until the meat is done.

Serve hot with rice.

NOTES: Cindy suggests that Thai chicken is just as good refrigerated and reheated in your microwave to serve later and that you can make four batches as easily as one.

If you don’t have any Sriracha sauce in your pantry, you can substitute any other good hot sauce, though the flavor may change a little.

Stealthy Turkey Swedish Meatballs

Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I have eaten my share of Swedish meatballs. Long before I ever saw a ball of meat swimming in a spicy red sauce, I had already eaten scores of those ping-pong-sized morsels floating in a pool of whitish gravy next to the mashed potatoes, green peas and cranberry sauce at Lutheran Church dinners. Though many people say that Swedish meatballs are bland, I think it is more accurate to say that they have a subtle flavor instead of the aggressive spiciness of Italian meatballs.

Traditional Swedish meatballs are made with beef or a combination of beef and pork mixed with bread or breadcrumbs, egg, milk and spices. This recipe substitutes ground turkey for the beef and pork. They are as good as any Swedish meatballs I have eaten in a long life. My family was founded by immigrants from Germany, so my tastebuds may not be as sensitive to authentic Swedish cuisine, but I really doubt you would suspect that these meatballs came from a turkey rather than a cow.

They really are stealthy. Try them on some unsuspecting guests or your family. I’ll bet that they will ask for seconds.

INGREDIENTS:

For the meatballs:
1/4 cup minced onion
1 minced garlic clove
2 T olive oil
3?4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1?2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cardamom
2 T chopped parsley
1 large egg
1?2 cup milk
2 lbs. ground turkey

For the sauce:
4 T unsalted butter
5 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
1 cup water
1 tsp. instant chicken bouillon
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

PROCEDURE:

Clean and mince the onion and garlic. Put two tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan and sweat the minced vegetables on low heat until they have softened.

Blend together the breadcrumbs, salt, spices, onion, garlic and chopped parsley. Mix the egg, milk and ground turkey with the dry ingredients until you have a uniform meat mixture.

Preheat the oven to 400º and line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Set a bowl of cold water next to the bowl of meat and the baking pan. Use spoon or other small scoop to measure meat to make one inch balls.

Wet your fingers and form the balls. Place them about a half inch apart in the pan and bake them for about twenty minutes until they are slightly browned. You will have about two dozen meatballs. If you want to check for doneness when you take them from the oven, an instant-read thermometer should register 165º. Simmering the meatballs in the sauce will guarantee that your meatballs are well done. Make the sauce while the meatballs are cooking.

Melt the butter over low heat in a Dutch oven or saucepan large enough to hold all the meatballs with the sauce. Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir the mixture to make a roux. Raise the heat to moderate and stir continuously until the roux is a light brown.

Stir the chicken broth, water and instant bouillon into the roux and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Reduce the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Put the meatballs into the sauce and allow them to simmer for about fifteen minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Swedish meatballs are usually served alongside potatoes or over noodles. If you prefer noodles, you can cook them while the meatballs are simmering.

NOTES: Use ground turkey thigh instead of turkey breast. Ground turkey breast is rather dry, so you might want to add a little extra olive oil to the meat mixture if you use turkey breast. Incidentally, ground turkey thigh is on average nearly twenty percent lower in calories when compared to eighty-five percent ground beef.

Omit the salt in the sauce if you use salted butter, but taste and adjust the seasoning before you add the meatballs to the sauce in case you think it needs a little more salt.