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.

Chicken and Dumplings

As I have written elsewhere, our chickens were free range birds. Their feathers were clean, their eggs had golden yolks and their meat was firm and flavorful. A friend recently gave us a big six pound free range chicken that brought back memories for both Jerri and me of what real chicken tastes like.

I roasted it, but though it was young and tender it would have added a lot of flavor to a pot of chicken and dumplings. The best bird for that wonderful stew is a mature hen or rooster at least a year old that has had free run of the yard. Sometimes supermarkets will have “stewing hens,” which are a good second choice, but fryers are always available and do the job if you compensate for their relative lack of flavor by adding some bouillon cubes.

Mom made chicken and dumplings mostly in the fall and winter. That was when she culled older hens that were not laying regularly. “Dad,” she would say, “would you chop the head off that big Rhode Island hen with the frostbitten comb before you go to work. We’ll have chicken and dumplings tonight.”

So my father would do his best to get the right hen for Mom to pluck, dress and cook for supper. Mom’s chicken and dumplings are something that I think all of us kids still remember fondly. This is not my mother’s recipe, which she probably never wrote down, but it produces a delicious meal that needs only a few slices of good bread to help sop up the gravy to make it almost perfect. If you want it to be perfect, add a salad.

INGREDIENTS:

For the stew:
1 chicken or the equivalent in thighs, wings and breast pieces, about 3 to 4 lbs.
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. tarragon
Dash or two of hot sauce
Water to cover the meat
3 medium sized potatoes
1 small onion
3 medium carrots
1 1/2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen
2 T parsley
3 T cornstarch
1/4 cup water

For the dumplings:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 T baking powder
1 large egg
2-5 T milk

If using a whole chicken, cut it into pieces, put it into a Dutch oven or large soup pot along with the bouillon cubes and cover it with water a half inch above the pieces of chicken. Bring the Dutch oven to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is tender but not falling off the bones, about an hour.

Prepare the vegetables while the chicken is cooking. Peel and chop the potatoes into a half inch dice. Clean and chop the onion into a quarter to eighth-inch dice. Scrape or peel the carrots and chop them into half inch rounds. Clean and finely chop the parsley.

Remove the chicken from the Dutch oven and set the pieces aside. Put the vegetables and spices into the Dutch oven over moderate heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the vegetables and parsley, except the green peas. Debone the chicken, cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and add them to the vegetables.

Continue simmering the meat and vegetables while you make the dumplings. Start by sifting the dry ingredients together into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat the egg until lemon colored, then whip in two tablespoons of whole milk. Stir the egg and milk into the dry ingredients, adding more milk until you have a dough that you can drop by spoonfuls into the boiling broth.

Dissolve the cornstarch into the quarter cup of water and stir it into the broth. Cook for about three minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. You may want to add a teaspoon of instant chicken bouillon or another bouillon cube. Stir in the peas and raise the heat under the Dutch oven. When the broth is boiling, use two teaspoons to drop dumplings onto the broth. Scrape a heaping teaspoon of dough from one spoon with the other.

Cover and cook the dumplings for twelve minutes without removing the cover. When you take off the cover this is what you will see.Chicken & dumplings in pot

After twelve minutes have passed, remove one of the larger dumplings to check for doneness by cutting it in half. If it is not done, return the dumpling to the Dutch oven, replace the cover and cook another two or three minutes.

Serve with bread and salad.