Chicken Crusted with Wasabi Peas and Slaw with Thai Peanut Dressing

The flavors here in Thailand are a symphony compared to a song. It is not unusual to take a bite and have so many taste sensations going on at once that it can be staggering: sweet, sour, spicy, deep umami and texture.

On my first trip to Chaing Mai everything was a delight (ok, the beans on the ice cream I could have done without), but this trip I am learning more of the nuances and quality of Thai food. There are cooks and chefs, and it’s apparent that it’s not the ingredients that separates the two, it’s the finesse, the grace and the balance.

What I can tell you is that the comparable ingredients that are available to me in NYC are not exactly the same as here. The limes I find sweeter here, and the tamarind more sour than tart- but don’t let that dissuade you.  Preparing Thai food is not difficult and the results are fantastic.

I love making this dish with the wasabi peas. The texture is fantastic and the bite of wasabi is not terrifically sharp when balanced with the chicken. My advice is the slice your chicken into thin pieces, or pound out thinly- otherwise the peas can burn before the chicken cooks through. An alternative is you can bake large pieces of chicken, such as breasts on the bone, and that would be fine.

The Thai dressing on the slaw will make you new friends. It’s so simple and so delicious that I invite you to make a batch and pour it over everything you can get your hands on. A great alternative on tomatoes and cucumbers out of the summer garden for instance.

I’ve never been a huge fan of mayonnaise rich cole slaw, nor of it’s picnic cousins potato and macaroni salad- but raw cabbage is delicious and tremendously healthy. I love this dressing on shredded cabbage. The red cabbage when mixed with the acid of the lemon juice draws out the color to a bright pretty pink. Both pretty and yummy- make more than you think- it goes fast.

Chicken Crusted with Wasabi Peas
serves 4
 
2# skinless chicken breasts sliced very thin
2c wasabi peas, roughly crushed
1c buttermilk
1 clove garlic crushed
grand pinch of salt
oil for frying pan
 
Note on frying: get our that honkin’ heavy cast iron frying pan and use it. As time goes by I am less and less a fan of nonstick pans. A well seasoned and loved cast iron pan can be a girl’s best friend. I used little oil for this recipe-less than I would in a nonstick- and my chicken cooked beautifully. Buffed biceps are a bonus.
 
combine garlic, salt and buttermilk in a bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes to flavor the buttermilk.
 
Meanwhile prepare the peas and place on a flat plate or low shallow bowl.
 
Preheat cast iron pan over medium heat with just enough oil to cover the bottom.
 
slip all the chicken into the buttermilk to coat and soak.
 
Press each fillet into the peas, pressing hard to get good adherence.
 
Cook the chicken on each side about 2-3 minutes or until cooked through.
 
serve immediately.
 
 
Cabbage Slaw with Thai Peanut Dressing
serves 4
 
4-6c finely shredded cabbage
 
1T toasted sesame oil
2T sugar
2T brown sugar
2T fresh lemon juice
2T fresh lime juice
2T chopped fresh mint
1 small thai chili finely chopped, or 2t jalapeno (optional)
3/4 c roasted, chopped, unsalted peanuts
 
Combine dressing ingredients into large bowl and stir to combine and melt sugars.
 
Toss in the slaw and allow to sit for 15 mins before serving.
 
 
 
 
___________________________
 
 
My partner and I are planning on organizing Thai Food cooking trips in the future. We have connections to some of the best Thai chefs. My partner is fluent in Thai and lived here for many years. The next trip will probably be in January to Northern Thailand. I would love to know if there is interest. Drop me a note if you would like to be placed on the mailing list for more information.
 
Sawaadii Khaa!
 

Ginger Poached Chicken Broth Soup

As the holidays season descends upon us and the days get short and compact, it’s a lovely thing to come home to a warm brothy soup that only takes a short while to assemble and prepare.
This soup is a standby for me and it lends itself to creativity depending on what’s on hand in the cupboard or vegetable drawer. You need just a few basics, such as garlic, ginger, chicken broth and chicken, but from there on- you can “McGuyver” this dish anyway you would like. Leftover noodles or rice can find their way into the pot, or left over veg and the odd ends of this and that- mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, etc.
I’ve set the stage for the classic here- but I’ll leave the rest to your interpretation. The primary thing is to make a warm flavorful broth and keep it healthy and light. The perfect revival to a day of dashing.
 
Ginger Poached Chicken Broth Soup
 
serves 2 generously
 
3T of fresh ginger peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2cloves garlic smashed and rough chopped
1T vegetable oil
2-3 star anise pods
48oz box of your best low sodium chicken broth
soy sauce to taste- start with 2T
1 large chicken breast or leftover cold chicken cooked
1 bunch scallions, sliced into rings including whites and greens
1 baby bok choy, quartered and washed
drizzle of hot chili sesame oil
 
In a large pot warm the oil over medium heat, gently cook the garlic to release the oils. Do not toast.
 
Add the ginger and the star anise and then pour in the broth and soy sauce. More can be added right before serving to adjust for taste. 
 
Allow to come up to a boil and then slip in the uncooked chicken. Gently simmer until cooked through. Time will vary based on the thickness of the breast, but allow 20 mins or so. If using precooked chicken allow the broth to simmer for 15 minutes to develop the flavors and then add the chicken to warm through.
 
Right before serving add the bok choy and allow to gently cook to a tender/crunchy stage- just a minute or so.
 
Top off with scallion and a drizzle of hot chili oil right before serving and add more soy sauce if needed to taste.

Pork Chops in a Port, Juniper Berry, Orange Sauce with Individual Pommes Anna

Donna Hay stole my idea! I shot this meal a little over a week ago, so you can imagine my surprise when I opened the latest issue of Delicious and saw a dish that was so similar to mine I almost fell over!! The recipe is different, and she does not showcase pommes anna, but the char on the pork and the curls of the orange zest- almost identical!
Honestly it made me chuckle and put a certain little pep in my step. I love Donna Hay’s taste and style, so our dual pork chops gave me a sense of kinship. I have to say, I like the company I keep.
This recipe is packed with flavor and texture but not not packed with heaviness. It’s surprisingly light and a great Fall meal for those days that you don’t want to add any Winter hibernation padding.
The potatoes are a little fiddly, but a lot of drama for a little effort. I made each batch in small fry pans, you can get two going at a time if you’re serving more than a couple at a time. Just slip the finished potatoes onto your dinner plates and then before serving slide into the oven to heat them back up and as an added bonus warm your plates too.
The port I used was worth the flavor- and I was happy to tap into the bottle I had stored in my liquor cabinet- but you can opt to switch this out for a pinot noir if you must. It will be a different experience but easier to pull off.
Pork Chops in a Port, Juniper Berry, Orange Sauce
 
serves 4
 
4 boneless pork chops, 1″ thick
1c port
2 cloves crushed garlic
2T juniper berries
4 bay leaves
3T brown sugar
zest from half orange
s & p
 
In small bowl combine all the ingredients except the pork. Muddle the garlic and zest a bit to release their oils into the port. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes until the sugar completely dissolves.
 
Place the mixture into a shallow pan and arrange pork to allow to marinate. This should be for at least 15 minutes each side, but can be longer.
 
Turn oven on to 375˚ and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment.
 
In frying pan with a glug of cooking grade olive oil, saute the pork about 2 minutes on each side over a medium high heat. Then slip the chops onto the baking sheet and slide into the oven. Allow to roast for about 8 minutes.
 
Meanwhile add the marinate into the pan with the pork drippings and gently cook to develop a light sauce. 
Individual Pommes Anna
4 starchy potatoes peeled and sliced super thin on a mandoline
2 cloves garlic sliced paper thin
1t butter per potato cake
1t olive oil per potato cake
s & p
In a small frying pan heat the olive oil and butter together until sizzling. Arrange the potato slices in a circular pattern. There should be at least 2 layers. There is no great science here, so feel free to overlap as little or as much as desired. Try to keep the ring about 4-5″ in diameter
Interleave some garlic into the potato slices and sprinkle generously with s & p.
Cook the potatoes without disturbing them for approximately 4 minutes. If you’ve made a cake that his thicker than half an inch place a lid over the pan to facilitate even cooking.
After the 4 minutes carefully slip a large spatula under the pan and slide/pull the cake off the pan and then flip over. The starch in the potatoes will make the cake stick together but it’s still a little fragile. If it breaks, just tuck it back up. No one will know.
Cook the potatoes on the other side for a few minutes until cooked through. You can test this by piercing with a fork. The potatoes should give way with ease and not resist.
Slide the cake onto a serving plate and place pork chop on top. Spoon a little sauce over each and accent with the zest.