Monday, August 8, 2011

Grilled Thai Coriander Chicken



I am really excited to share another guest post with you today - this one is from my good friend and co-worker, Steve.  Steve is not a blogger, but he is a true food connoisseur at heart.  His skills in the kitchen are undeniable, and he is always making really amazing Thai foods and other Asian dishes.  He and I talk about food ALL the time (he says this below, but I thought I would repeat it for emphasis), so many of the recipes you see here on The Cilantropist have been discussed with Steve over a cup of coffee before we start the workday.  He has given me invaluable advice on most, if not all, of the Asian dishes I have featured here, including my recipe for Tom Yum Goong (Hot and Sour Soup with Prawns) and Turkey Larb.  In fact, sometimes he even brings me fresh kaffir lime leaves, limes, or lemongrass from his parent's garden up in LA.   


All of Steve's cooking is fantastic, but I know he is an expert grill master, so I asked him to share one of his summer recipes with you today.  This Grilled Thai Coriander Chicken is perfect for an end-of-summer backyard barbecue, or to make for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, or just to make on a weekday for dinner.  The chicken doesn't need to marinate for very long, and is extremely easy to make. And as a bonus, Steve also shared his recipe for a Green Salad with Thai-inspired Lime Dressing!  Together with some extra grilled veggies, this is basically the perfect family summer meal. 


This is Steve's first time posting here or ever, and this a fantastic post so let's show him some love!  I am sure you will enjoy this recipe and I hope he will share more in the future. 
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Since Amanda is toiling away everyday working on her PhD thesis, I have observed firsthand the craziness of finishing up and graduating.  I am actually her friend and neighbor in the lab (our desks are next to each other), and I love food.  We both talk about it ALL the time and share each recipes and experiences in cooking with each other.  I have to say, I am pretty lucky to be able to taste The Cilantropist’s food.  So when she asked me to do the guest post, I was both honored and apprehensive, since this is the first time I have ever written a food post.  I really like to cook and try new things, but taking pictures and cooking at the same time is definitely hard and I give props to everyone that does this.  


Now, onto the food!


Many times you have guests come over unexpectedly, or a lot of visitors, and you want to make them something good, but that is still simple enough to manage.  I came from a very big Chinese-Thai family and we often had family gatherings (either random or planned) at my Grandma’s house.  My dad has 7 brothers and sisters, so I have lots of cousins and we all gathered at Grandma’s house.  When I was a kid, I remember running around the house playing hide and seek, climbing trees, playing video games with my cousins, BUT in the background I could see that the kitchen and backyard was also active with my relatives cooking.  In particular, the grill was definitely being utilized and the smell of grilled meat and charcoal sticks to my mind whenever I think of Grandma’s house.  We aren’t unaccustomed to non-Asian foods or food snobs, but we just didn’t make your usual fare of burgers and hotdogs at our gatherings.  We all love to eat good food, and in particular, good Thai food.  


Being that we all lived and grew up in southern California, BBQ was definitely something we did a lot in the backyard during the cool summer evenings.  So this marinade for Grilled Thai Coriander Chicken that I rediscovered from my parents brings back many memories.  Not only is it very easy to prepare at short notice, but very versatile for grilling different kinds of meats.  I have never tried it with tofu, but maybe that would work as well.


For the chicken, the coriander-cilantro marinade is a very simple recipe and requires few ingredients, but the secret to making this marinade is in the preparation of some of the ingredients.  Coriander is just the seed of cilantro, so in this recipe you get double cilantro (which is, coincidentally, part of The Cilantropist’s namesake).  The seeds are dried and you can get it at any Mexican or Asian market, even many larger supermarkets such as Whole foods should have it.  The first thing you want to do is dry toast the seeds in a heavy pan for 5 minutes until you can smell the fragrant coriander, but NOT burned.  You need to shake the pan every once in awhile so that the coriander seeds are evenly toasted on all sides. 



After they are toasted, transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle.  Begin grinding the seeds until they are nice and almost powdery (you will have to put your arm into it).  If you don’t have one, I tried doing it in a food processor, but you don't get it completely finely ground, but its close enough.  You can use a coffee grinder, but I warn you that it will smell like coriander afterwards (mmm….coffee with a hint of coriander…).  Just pulse it well.  The mortar and pestle you see here is a Thai one, but I got it from Crate and Barrel, and it’s really awesome. 



Next, combine the white pepper, sugar, cumin, and garlic with the coriander.  Begin again grinding the ingredients (or food process pulse), until you get a rough paste.  It doesn’t look pretty, but the smell at this point is amazing. 

Finally, add the cilantro stems to the mix.  You are probably wondering why use cilantro stems and not the leaves?  The stems add a nice texture to the marinade, with bits of cilantro that cling to the meat, but importantly I think that the flavor is stronger in the stems than the leaves.  So save the leaves for garnish and use the stems.  A trick to incorporating the stems is to mince them very finely as possible on the cutting board.  Grind away until you get a thick paste with the stems well mashed in there. 






Transfer the paste to a bowl and combine it with the wet ingredients, the rice wine and fish sauce.  You can use soy sauce, but I think the taste is too strong.  Yes you heard me right, the soy sauce is stronger than the fish sauce.  If you have never used fish sauce (or are even squeamish about it), yes it is pungent…but only really if you get it on your clothes (which I have several times). However, when you add it to foods such as marinade or soups that are common in Southeast Asian cooking, it adds a nice subtle background to the food.  It doesn’t taste fishy, but enhances the flavor overall (think of it like adding anchovies to Caesar dressing).  



Mix the marinade well and apply to the chicken.  Since the marinade time is short, I like to stab the chicken with a fork all over to introduce holes for the marinade to seep in. Make sure you get the marinade under the skin and in contact with the chicken.  Marinade for 1-2 hours in the fridge or on ice, but mix the meat halfway during the marinade time.   Let your meat come up to room temperature before grilling (about 30 minutes). 


Then prepare your grill, here I used charcoal.  You can use gas, but charcoal adds the extra smokiness aroma, which is a strong reminder of Grandma’s house.  For grilling, you want to sear the meat on med-high, but not burned.  If the heat is too high, lower it or move the meat to the edges of the grill where there are less coals.  A trick to grilling large, chunky pieces of chicken (for instance, chicken breast on the bone, which is notorious for drying out) is to cook them low and slow.  For this, I move the already seared pieces to the edge, and then put new pieces that need to be seared in the center where the heat is.  Then, once all the meat is seared, I CLOSE the lid, which is very important to ensure that the chicken is cooked well, but still retaining the juices.  If you want guaranteed moist chicken, use dark meat such as thigh or drumstick, which are more resistant to drying out (and tastier in my opinion, I am a thigh person).  Cook until the chicken is firm and the juice runs clear. 



Something else I like to do, since I take the time to build a fire with charcoal, I like to maximize my usage of the grill.  So I prepared some whole green onions (roots cut off) marinated in just olive oil, salt, and black pepper for grilling.  The taste is amazing when grilled (it gets very smoky) and accompanies any grilled meat well, or it can just be eaten by itself. 




I also like to eat my chicken with a nice salad.  Since it's summer, there are a lot of nice seasonal vegetables.  Here, I used a Thai-inspired dressing that can add a nice acidity to the chicken.  To make it, I macerate garlic in lime juice in the mortar and pestle until the lime juice becomes milky.  Then I combine the lime and garlic with fish sauce, chili flakes, and touch of sugar.  I drizzle this over my salad and a little on the chicken.  I finish off the salad with a light drizzle of some extra virgin olive oil.    



I love the smoky flavor of toasted coriander, but with a peppery and savory taste in this grilled chicken.  Every time I grill chicken with this marinade I reminisce of my happy youth and fun family gatherings at Grandma’s house during the warm summer Southern California evenings.


Enjoy!



One year ago: Lacquered Peach with Honey Sage Ice Cream (love this!!!)
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Grilled Thai Coriander Chicken


2 lbs chicken pieces, bone-in and skin still on, most of the fat removed
1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp ground white pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup cilantro stems (1 bunch)

1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup rice wine

Optional Green Salad with Thai-inspired Lime Dressing (recipe below)

Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towel.  Set chicken aside either in a large bowl or a thick ziplock plastic bag.  




To make the marinade, first toast coriander seeds until fragrant.  Then grind in mortar and pestle into a rough powder.  (If you don't have a mortar and pestle,  you can try using a food processor, or smash the seeds in a thick plastic bag with a heavy pan or mallet.)  Once the coriander seeds are finely ground, add in garlic, white pepper, sugar, and cumin.  Continue to grind ingredients together into a paste or until garlic cloves are well macerated.  Take cilantro and separate stems from leaves.  Finely mince the stems and add to the marinade paste in the mortar and pestle.  Continue to macerate until stems are incorporated into the paste.  Move paste into a large bowl, and add the fish sauce and the rice wine and mix well to finish the marinade.  


Add the marinade to the chicken, massaging the meat with the marinade.  (If you like, you can pierce the chicken with a fork to allow the marinade to seep into the meat.)  Marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours, remixing the chicken halfway during the marinating period.  


Prepare your grill, and remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.  To grill the chicken, first grill for at least five minutes over high heat to sear both sides of the meat, then reduce heat and close the lid to continue cooking.  (Or, if using charcoal move to a less hot part of the grill, and close the lid.)  Cook over medium heat until chicken is firm and the juices run clear.  Depending on the heat of your grill, and the thickness of your chicken, this might be another 15-25 minutes.  The chicken should be blackened but not burned.  Remove chicken from the grill, and serve immediately.

Green Salad with Thai-inspired Lime Dressing 

Dressing: 
1/2 clove garlic
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce, or to desired saltiness
1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste

Mixed salad greens
Extra cilantro leaves
Seasonal vegetables including: baby tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, or others 


To make the salad dressing, crush the clove of garlic in the lime juice until it becomes milky.  Then add the rest of the ingredients, whisking in the olive oil.  Mix your salad greens together with the cilantro leaves and other vegetables, and top with the dressing.

23 comments:

  1. Thank you, Steve, and you, Amanda, for sharing this awesome dish! I live in So Cal and totally know what you mean, Steve. Ah, the good times in life :-) You know what this recipe tells me? I really need to get myself a mortar and pestle!

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  2. What wonderful flavors! That chicken looks so tasty.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. How fun to have a foodie coworker! Steve, your chicken looks amazing...thanks so much for sharing it with us all~

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  4. Your family gatherings sound like mine! Love the flavors here, just fantastic.

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  5. Bravo Steve!! What a great FIRST post!! I think you have a knack for food blogging! This chicken sounds and looks delicious!

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  6. Charcoal always tastes better but propane is easier and closer to my kitchen! I can't wait to try this.

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  7. Hurray for Steve, what a fabulous first post and recipe! This is just how I like to eat and I can't wait to try it :)

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  8. Great post Steve. I miss your bbq now. And Amanda was so clever to think of you. I was just thinking after our dinner the other night that you are one of my few friends who really appreciates good food, and you are a great cook and you take great photos. You are perfect to do a guest post! I can't believe I didn't think of it.

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  9. chicken looks flavourful delicious
    lovely post

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  10. That chicken just looks amazing! I want some now!!

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  11. Steve this looks absolutely amazing. I love the flavors and the photos. Great first post! Watch out, blogging is highly addictive!

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  12. Thank you... This looks so delicious with fresh wonderful flavors.

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  13. I would love to have a friend like you! This looks amazing and I can only imagine how good it smells!

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  14. I'm dying to make this at home right now! I love Thai flavors but have always thought that they required lots of spices and exotic, but it seems really do able! I definitely will be able to find all the ingredients in Paris (not TOO multicultural when it comes to food).

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  15. This recipe is totally up my alley! And I loooooove grilled green onions!! Looks great Amanda!

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  16. I can smell the toasted coriander now! Wonderful flavors and I bet it was super tasty! Thanks for another great idea.

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  17. What I wouldn't give to have a friend bring me fresh kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. I, too, grew up in Southern CA and am very fond of anything grilled but this recipe looks especially tempting (thanks, Steve). Also, good luck on your thesis, Amanda!

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  18. Such a great recipe. So refreshing compared to the typical chicken I grill. I love how you use a good old fashioned mortar and pestle. This may just be my excuse to go buy one.

    Also, Steve, you should consider becoming a blogging foodie. You're a great writer. I've enjoyed this post.

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  19. Thanks for sharing such a great, authentic family recipe! I like the tip about using cilantro stems in the marinade. I usually always add them in, but never thought to add only the stems -- they really do stand out on the chicken this way! Thanks for the tips on charcoal grilling chicken as well.

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