Lemongrass Chicken with Rice Noodles

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I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t love bun, or Vietnamese rice noodle bowls. And no two bun are the same: the combinations are endless, but one thing remains the same: a good bun is a riot of textures and flavors: crunchy and chewy and salty and sweet and tart all at once.

This lemongrass-heavy version with grilled chicken is my favorite way to make bun at home. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking.

Lemongrass chicken with rice noodles

Ingredients:

For the nuoc cham:

1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste

For the marinade:

1/4 cup roughly chopped lemongrass
3 tablespoons roughly chopped shallot
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper


1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 (8-ounce) package uncooked thin rice stick noodles
4 cups lettuce, thinly sliced
1 Persian cucumber, julienned
1/2 cup torn fresh mint
1/2 cup torn fresh Thai or other basil
Vegetable oil, for grilling

2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup crispy fried shallots

1. Make the nuoc cham: Stir together water, lime juice, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Add additional lime juice to taste; dilute with water if flavors are too strong. Stir in fish sauce; add additional fish sauce to taste.

2. Marinade the chicken: Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor; pulse until mixture is pureed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add chicken to marinade in bowl, mixing to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinade chicken for 2 to 6 hours.

3. When ready to cook, boil noodles in a pot of water until chewy-tender (cook time will depend on brand). Drain and rinse under cold water; drain again. Divide lettuce and cucumber among 4 large serving bowls. Sprinkle bowls evenly with mint and basil. Top evenly with noodles.

4. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Lightly brush chicken with oil. Place chicken on hot grill pan; cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is slightly charred and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, let cool for 2 minutes, and slice into bite-sized pieces.

5. Divide chicken among bowls. Top bowls evenly with peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with nuoc cham as an accompaniment.

Seaweed and Ground Turkey Stir-Fry

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This is one of those #uglydelicious dishes that you make up at the spur of the moment: check out the freezer, open the cupboard, and make something out of nothing. Except that this nothing is actually quite delicious — and healthy to boot. Ground turkey and seaweed are an unlikely pairing, but they come together in moments in a garlicy, lime and fish sauce-flecked seasoning. This is delicious on its own or with rice.

Seaweed and ground turkey stir-fry

Ingredients:

1 or 2 ounces dried mixed seaweed (I used a mixture of wakame, kelp, and white fungus), soaked in water for 10 minutes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 Thai dried red chiles
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon torn cilantro leaves

1. Drain the soaked seaweed, rinse, and drain again. Cut the seaweed into roughly 1-inch size pieces and set aside in a serving bowl.

2. Place a wok over high heat. Once heated, add the oil, shallots, and garlic until aromatic, about 10 seconds. Add the turkey and chiles. Stir-fry, breaking up meat, until turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the lime juice and remove from heat. Add the fish sauce, stir, and add the mixture to the seaweed. Add the cilantro and mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roast Za’atar Chicken with Yogurt Sauce

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Let’s be honest: roasting a cut chicken in a baking dish is eons easier than roasting the whole bird, what with the basting and the watching and careful tinkering. Adapted from a Bon Apetit recipe, this roast za’atar chicken is a perfect way to use either a whole chicken, cut into pieces, or simply chicken legs. Drizzled with a herby za’atar oil and baked alongside loads of onions, garlic, and lemons, this chicken is nothing if not super flavorful.

Roast za'atar chicken with yogurt sauce

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 3 pounds total)
2 red onions, cut into 2-inch-thick wedges
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 cloves
1 Meyer lemon, quartered, seeds removed
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons za’atar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Arrange chicken, onions, halved garlic heads, and lemon in a baking dish; season with salt. Pour in oil and toss to coat. Turn garlic cut side down. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until meat tender, 50–60 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 small garlic clove into a small bowl. Add yogurt, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon water and mix. Set aside yogurt sauce.

3. Remove baking dish from oven and transfer onions, garlic, and lemon to a plate. Increase oven temperature to 425F degrees and continue to roast chicken until skin is golden brown, 10–15 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Set aside pan with juices.

4. Finely grate remaining garlic clove into another small bowl. Add za’atar, coriander, and lemon zest. Pour reserved juices in pan into za’atar mixture until you have about 1/2 cup. Mix in a pinch of salt, if needed.

5. Spread reserved yogurt sauce over a platter and arrange chicken legs on top. Scatter onions, garlic, and lemon; drizzle with za’atar oil.

Turkey “Chorizo” and Potato Tacos

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These tacos aren’t by any means authentic but they are without a doubt delicious. I use ground turkey and a generous serving of fresh herbs to create a “chorizo” of sorts (let’s be honest, I’m being really liberal with the definition of chorizo here). Combined with fried potatoes (uh, who doesn’t love fried potatoes?) and a smattering of onions and cilantro, these tacos hit the spot.

Turkey chorizo and potato tacos

Ingredients:

For the chorizo:

1 medium serrano chile
1 large poblano chile
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups cilantro
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground turkey

For the tacos:

1/4 cup avocado oil
2 medium russet potatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 cup diced onion, rinsed in cold water
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
18 corn tortillas, warmed
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over medium. Add chiles and garlic cloves, and cook, turning occasionally, until charred and softened, about 4 minutes for serrano, 8 minutes for poblano, and about 12 minutes for the garlic. Transfer the chiles to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 15 minutes. Stem, peel, and seed poblano. Stem and peel serrano. Set chiles aside. Let garlic cool, and peel cloves. Add coriander seeds and cumin seeds to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Finely grind seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

2. Combine chiles, garlic, ground spices, cilantro, vinegar, oregano, and salt in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste forms, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the turkey with the puree and set aside.

4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add potatoes in a single layer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Do not wipe out skillet. Return skillet to heat over medium-high and add chorizo, stirring often, until crumbled and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 1 minute.

5. Assemble tacos: Top each tortilla with about 2 tablespoons chorizo, 1 tablespoon potatoes, and 1 teaspoon onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani with Mint Sambol

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Once a year, I try my hand at making biryani. It’s typically a disaster: mushy or undercooked rice — nothing like the fluffy, fragrant grains infused with spice that I’m aiming for.

But this year is different! I finally stumbled upon a method, fool-proof for a biryani novice even like me. Success! Delicious, ghee-laden success. Accompanied with a cooling mint sambol, this chicken biryani is the real thing.

Sri Lankan chicken biryani with mint sambol

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs but any cuts will do just fine)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon roasted curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons chopped cashews
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1 cardamom pod
1 clove
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped

For the rice:
1 pound (about 3 cups) basmati rice
3 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 2-inch stick cinnamon stick
A pinch of ground saffron
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

For the mint sambol:
3 cups mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 serrano chili
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

1. Wash and dry chicken. Season with salt, pepper, curry powder, and cayenne pepper.

2. In a food processor, blend yogurt, tomato puree, cashews, and coconut.

3. Combine yogurt mixture, cardamom pods, clove, and bay leaves with chicken and marinade at least 2 hours to overnight.

4. When ready to assemble and cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Heat ghee in a medium pan on the stovetop. Fry the onion and chili until onions are lightly browned.

5. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving marinade), add to pan, and saute for about 10 minutes. Add a little water to the reserved marinade and pour over chicken. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and place chicken in a deep oven-proof baking dish.

6. Prepare the rice: Wash and drain the rice. Heat the ghee in a medium pan. Fry onion until lightly browned. Add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick.

7. Add rice and fry for a few minutes until rice starts to turn lightly golden. Add saffron and mix well.

8. Pour in stock and simmer until rice is partially cooked (about 15 minutes). Add salt.

9. Place rice on top of chicken in baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in heated oven until moisture evaporates, about 45 minutes.

10. In the meantime, make the sambol: Blend all of the sambol ingredients together in a food processor to make a thick green paste. Serve with yogurt alongside biryani.