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.

Marinated Beef and Sweet Potato Stir Fry

Once upon a time many years ago, I had the opportunity to enjoy Lake Superior from the deck of a thirty-seven foot sailboat built by Gene Newhouse in Ashland, Wisconsin. I was introduced to Gene by my fishing partner Earl who was an experienced sailor. Gene was always looking for people to help crew the boat, and he decided that I could be taught enough to be of some help.

We had some wonderful adventures. I remember almost continuous lightning and high waves one night off the shore of the Upper Peninsula and an afternoon, nearly becalmed, when the thermometer registered ninety degrees just off Outer Island.

My memory of one weekend sail involves food. Usually there were just two or three of us on the boat, but Gene took pity on a couple of students trying to hitch a ride when the young woman said that she was a good cook. The boat had a cranky alcohol stove which worked best for making coffee and tea to accompany steaks cooked on the charcoal grill hung over the rail, so we were happy to hand off the job to someone else.

She took one of the three steaks we planned to cook if the wind was light enough to let us grill, sliced it into thin pieces, chopped an onion, a pepper, some potatoes and apples, made a sauce with whatever she found in the galley and wowed us with a stir fry. It was probably the first stir fry made on board Gene’s boat, and it was certainly the first stir fry I ate that included apples in the mixture.

I was thinking about that stir fry one evening while I pondered what to cook for dinner. A sweet potato that I had bought on impulse a week or two earlier caught my eye and I found a piece of round steak in the freezer. My previous attempts at stir frying round steak were not entirely successful, mainly because I have trouble cutting the meat into really thin slices.

I wondered if marinating the meat and cooking it in the marinade before I added the vegetables would help. Chopping the sweet potato into a larger dice might help too, since they could be cooked a little longer than typical stir fry vegetables without getting mushy. I added other vegetables that we enjoy in stir fries, and the result was excellent.

INGREDIENTS:

For the stir fry:
1/2 – 3/4 lb. lean beef
1 T teriyaki sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 T stir fry sauce
3 T vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 large or two medium carrots (1/2-3/4 cup chopped)
1 small sweet potato (about 1 cup chopped)
1 sweet banana pepper
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
Cooking spray
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 1/2 T corn starch in 1 1/2 T cold water

For the rice:
1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

PROCEDURE:

Cut the beef into eighth-inch slices about one and one-half inches long and put them into a quart bowl. Make a marinade by adding the teriyaki, soy and stir fry sauces to the bowl along with two tablespoons of oil and the wine. Mince the ginger and add it to the bowl. Stir everything together so the meat is covered with the marinade. Set the bowl aside and stir the meat occasionally.

The meat should marinate for about a half hour. That’s enough time to enjoy a small glass of wine before you prepare the vegetables.

Scrape or peel the carrots and chop them into quarter-inch rounds. If it’s a large carrot, slice it in half lengthwise before chopping it. Put the chopped carrot into a small mixing bowl.

Peel the sweet potato, cut it into quarter-inch thick slices and chop the slices into pieces about an inch long and a quarter-inch wide. Add the sweet potato to the bowl with the carrot.

This is about when I start cooking the rice. Rinse a cup of long grain white rice and put it into a one quart saucepan. Add two cups water and a half teaspoon of salt and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and let the rice finish cooking for about twenty minutes while you finish preparing the vegetables. Check after sixteen minutes to see if all the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat if it has, and fluff the rice with a fork before serving. If not, continue cooking for another couple of minutes.

Wash and slice the banana pepper lengthwise into quarters. Remove and discard the white membrane and seeds. Chop the pepper into half-inch pieces and set them aside in a mixing bowl. Clean and chop the green and red bell peppers into similar-sized pieces and add them to the banana pepper. Remove and discard the outer skin from the onion, chop it into a quarter-inch dice and add it to the peppers.

If at least thirty minutes have passed, it is time to start stir frying. If not, have another sip of wine or just lean back and relax until the meat has finished marinating.

Coat the inside of a large skillet with cooking spray, put it over moderate heat and dump in the meat and marinade mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir the meat so that it does not stick or burn. Cook for three to four minutes, then add the carrots and sweet potato. Continue stirring and cooking for another six or seven minutes.

Add a tablespoon of oil with the peppers and onions to the skillet at this point and mix them with the other ingredients. Cook for about three minutes over moderate heat.

Dissolve the bouillon in the water and stir it into the meat and vegetables. Mix the cornstarch with the cold water and stir it into the skillet. Cook and stir the mixture until the sauce bubbles and turns clear.

Serve over the rice accompanied by bread and salad. Offer soy sauce in case guests want more salt.

NOTES: You can make your own sauce, as I sometimes do, but we almost always have soy, teriyaki and stir fry sauces in our refrigerator. The stir fry sauce I have been using recently is called Saigon Sizzle. It is spicier than some, so I thought it would accent the teriyaki sauce. If you make your own sauce, just remember to include the major taste groups: Salty, Sweet, and Spicy.

Do not omit the wine, as it adds flavor and helps tenderize the meat. The alcohol disappears during cooking.