Meal Monday #1: Spicy Thai Peanut Chicken

Ah, Thanksgiving Week. Normally, an excuse to binge on turkey and other addictive substances. For me, though, ever since a mild heart scare last year, it’s just any normal week with an extra special cheat day. No enjoying any pre-game treats. No early appetizers in the days leading up to the quintessential American holiday — aside from Immaculate Conception, our patronal feast, I mean, which falls on a Sunday anyway this year.

Tonight, my wife was bringing back two of the kids from an activity and I had the other three. She was bringing them Taco Bell — a good I’m usually ambivalent about, but suddenly started craving as soon as I could no longer eat it — so I started preparing my own meal. Then my wife got stuck by a stalled train for 45 minutes. (Darn you, Kansas City Southern.) Oh well. I sat with the 2yo, who demanded my attention and then took the opportunity my attentive love afforded him and peed on my lap. Nice. The evening was going so well.

Eventually, however, I did get to chop up my vegetables and get to cooking my spicy Thai peanut chicken. There’s no exact recipe. It’s really a generalized amalgamation of Thai touches on a generic stir-fry. And by Thai, I mean things I’ve associated with Thai cuisine from watching too much food network because I’ve never actually been to a Thai restaurant. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen one. So my “Thai” next to actual Thai is really akin to the relationship between Tex-Mex and actual Mexican food. But on my rather amateurish impressions, Thai is an interesting and delicious mix of flavors.

As I said, there’s no exact recipe. Feel free to swap out ingredients and adjust ratios as you see fit. That’s one of my very favorite things about stir-fry.

The Sauce:

You really have to prepare the sauce first or you’re going to be left scrambling at a bad time.

  • Finely minced garlic
  • Finely minced onion (I prefer red, myself)
  • Finely minced jalapeño
  • Soy sauce
  • Peanut butter (chunky makes for a nice crunch if you’re into that)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Ginger
  • Hot chili oil
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Rice wine vinegar

Sauté your garlic, onion, and jalapeño to unlock some of the flavors and add a bit of caramelization. Red onions are especially good for caramelization because they are sweeter. Mix the sautéed veggies into the other ingredients and set aside.

The main course:

  • Chicken breast, whole and seasoned
  • Onion, diced (I prefer red, and I love onions, so a whole big one is great)
  • Garlic, diced (Plenty of cloves for me, thanks!)
  • Carrots, diced
  • Broccoli, blanched (I’m a huge fan of broccolini/baby broccoli, which is more tender and sweet. You can usually find it in slightly higher-end grocers, but it’s not prohibitively expensive.)
  • Cilantro
  • Lime

Season your chicken with a bit of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, any other spices you like. Don’t overpower it. Plenty of flavor already in this dish.

Sauté your diced onion, garlic, and carrots. You’re looking for caramelization again, but don’t let it go too far. Push the veggies to the side of the pan and add the chicken, cooking it long enough on each side to caramelize. (You could dice the chicken and cook it in pieces here. It would be okay. But if you’re intentionally missing a caramelization opportunity, you should be imprisoned.) Once you’ve flipped it, scoop the veggies on top of the breast to hold in moisture. Add the broccoli to the pan. Once the chicken seems done, remove it and allow the vegetables to continue cooking with the pan lid on. (Add half a cup of water/rice wine to the pan if it’s dry.) After the chicken has rested a few minutes and any extra moisture in the pan has cooked off, cut the chicken into strips or bites according to your preferences. (Be sure to cut the meat on a bias for greater tenderness. Cut at an angle, not straight up and down.) Throw the chicken back into the dish. If it was at all still undercooked, give it a moment to heat up with the veggies and finish cooking. Toss in your sauce, stir everything around a bit, and serve with a spritz of lime and some fresh cilantro.

You could also toss in some Asian noodles or a bit of coconut milk at the end, if you’re not on my diet. 🙂

I don’t have a picture because this post was an afterthought, but it was delicious!

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