Thursday, June 1, 2017

Week 16 - Vacation Food

I was really perplexed about what to make for the vacation food challenge. Food is such a big part of our vacations that it was really difficult. Our most recent trip to Seattle and Vancouver was the first thing I considered, but so many of the standout things we ate there involved amazing quality seafood and/or equipment that we don't have at home. That wasn't going to happen. I thought about it a little more and eventually remembered how 2015 was the year of Nando's, the year when we first had Nando's (finally) and then ate at Nando's on three different vacations that year. There was no way I could replicate Nando's exactly since we didn't buy the bottles of peri peri sauce during our trips, but I could at least do a Nando's-inspired chicken meal. Even better, the peri peri seasoning that we had at home was a souvenir from London that we hadn't opened yet. Perfect for the vacation food challenge.

Peri Peri Chicken

The first part of the meal was the peri peri chicken which was pretty easy to prepare. I used two frozen chicken breasts, thawed them out, and then rubbed them in olive oil and the peri peri seasoning. After marinating for a few minutes, I baked them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until they were fully cooked. The chicken was okay, definitely not as good as Nando's, but made differently. Since the peri peri seasoning came from a spice shaker and wasn't mixed with other ingredients into a sauce, it had less of a nuanced flavor than the Nando's chicken. The flavor was mostly just "hot." (At least the label didn't lie.) While this was fine, it was probably the weakest part of the meal.

Cole Slaw

I made the cole slaw a few hours before dinner so that it would have time to sit in the fridge and chill. It was pretty much the same cole slaw that I make all the time (at least the one I've made since discovering it with the bean sliders), except this time I substituted agave for honey since I didn't want to open the new large jar of honey. Basically you mix together shredded green cabbage and chopped scallions with a dressing made from mayo, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, agave, salt, and pepper. This was good as always, although it did taste slightly different (not bad different, just different) because of the agave substitution. It was a very welcome part of dinner as it helped offset the spicy peri peri seasoning (which I honestly hadn't expected to be as hot as it was).

Seasoned Peas

One of our favorite sides at Nando's is the macho peas, and we've always felt like we could make this at home. In the end, I couldn't justify buying mint just to use it in the peas, so I made our own version of a side of seasoned peas. I microwaved one of those "steam in the bag" bags of green peas, and once they were cooked, dumped them into a skillet with some olive oil. I started smashing some of them as I stirred and added chopped cilantro (about 1/3 of a bunch), some minced garlic, and peri peri seasoning. I cooked the peas with the seasonings for about 5 minutes and just adjusted the taste here and there. 

The peas tasted really good, and even though the peri peri seasoning was the same, the addition of other flavors made this much better than the more one-note chicken. We have so many seasoning blends in the spices cabinet that I don't really use as much as I should, and I liked how this came out with the cooked peas so much that on a subsequent grocery trip, I picked up a bunch of steam in the bag frozen vegetable options (one thing TJ's actually doesn't have). Would definitely make vegetables like this again.

In the end, it wasn't exactly Nando's, but it was definitely inspired by it. Peri peri chicken with two of our favorite sides - peas and cole slaw. If it hadn't been so many moving parts already, and if we lived closer to a place with good, cheap bread, I probably would have added on our other favorite side, garlic bread. Now we just need Nando's to open in the NYC area...

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