Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Week 23 - On a Stick

The Week 23 challenge was titled on a stick. We came up with a number of different things we could make that are often served on sticks or cooked on skewers, dishes like adana, tsukune, kebabs. But no matter what we did, we would have to do it in a way that didn't actually use sticks despite the challenge being on a stick. I don't like buying things for challenges that I'm not going to use again, and I haven't really needed skewers for years. We aren't able to cook on an actual grill anyway, so the use of skewers wouldn't be as necessary in a grill pan.

Eventually I found a recipe for chicken satay, so the plan was to make that along with a peanut sauce and a little cucumber and shallot relish, trying my best to replicate what you would get in a restaurant. Since that probably wouldn't be enough for a meal, we also made a salad on the side with a Thai-style peanut dressing. It was a little ambitious for a single dinner, since there were technically five different components going on at once, but I was trying to get out of a cooking rut and got a little carried away. Thank goodness A and I could work on it together.

Chicken Satay

The centerpiece of the on a stick challenge was the chicken satay, which was also the first thing to be started since it needed to marinate for a few hours. After slicing up two boneless chicken breasts into smaller strips, we put together a marinade based on an easy chicken satay recipe on Allrecipes with the following ingredients:

- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 spoonful of minced garlic
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1.5 tsp brown sugar
- salt and pepper

I didn't measure everything exactly, but that's about how much was used. Once we mixed the marinade together well, we added it to the sliced chicken and stuck it in the fridge for about 2-3 hours.

While the chicken marinated, we worked on all the other components of dinner. When it was time to cook the chicken, we just stuck the pieces on the grill pan with some oil and let them cook through. The only problem is we don't always know when the chicken is fully cooked on the grill pan, so they were a little overdone. The flavor of the marinade tasted pretty good before we added it to the chicken, but somehow it was more subdued after the chicken was done cooking. They were fine, but not quite what we expected, and they definitely needed the peanut sauce that we made along with it.

Peanut Sauce

For the peanut sauce accompanying the satay, we used the same Allrecipes recipe as the satay itself. The ingredients for the sauce were:

- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 3/4 cup chicken stock (using bouillon)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

The peanut sauce was pretty simple to make, but just took some time and stirring. A took care of this while I prepped other stuff, and we stuck closely to the recipe. The ingredients (other than the lime juice and soy sauce) were mixed together, simmered for about 10 minutes until a smooth and thick sauce (so maybe a little bit longer than that), and then once off heat, the lime juice and soy sauce were added. The peanut sauce was delicious, and we knew immediately that we would be making this again sometime, even if we never made satay again. We had a lot leftover after this meal, so we used the rest of it with an assortment of vegetables over ramen for a tasty dinner.

Cucumber and Shallot Relish

I tried to model the cucumber and shallot relish after the ones we would get in tiny cups at restaurants, but it didn't turn out quite as well. I looked around online and found a relish recipe on Meaningful Eats, which I used for some ideas of what else should be added to it besides fish sauce. In the end, we mixed together some chopped cucumber (about 1/3 of a hothouse) and shallots with a few tsp of white vinegar, a few tsp of fish sauce, a tsp of agave, and some red pepper flakes. In our unmeasured version, whatever ratio we used didn't taste quite right, and the vinegar was incredibly overpowering, so we added more fish sauce and then everything just tasted like fish sauce. Not the fault of the recipe I don't think, but I kind of wished we had just stuck with the peanut sauce. Since we had the salad, we didn't really need the extra vegetables this time.

Overall, the satay was okay. The chicken wasn't anything special, the relish wasn't great, but the peanut sauce saved the whole thing. In the end, we probably won't make chicken satay again (at least not like this), but we will be filing that peanut sauce recipe away for further experimenting.

Thai Crunch Salad

The salad we made to go along with the satay was pretty straightforward, but just required a lot of prep. I did a lot of the vegetables with a little bit of A's help, while he put together the dressing, which was also peanut butter-based, just like the satay's peanut sauce. We were inspired by a salad recipe I found on Once Upon a Chef and used that as the starting point for our salad.

The ingredients for our version were:

- 1 package of shredded cabbage
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 2/3 hothouse cucumber (the rest of the one from the relish), halved, scooped out, and thinly sliced
- 1 cup frozen edamame, soaked in hot water until thawed and then drained
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/3 batch of cilantro, chopped

And for the dressing:

- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp agave
- 1 spoonful of minced garlic
- ginger paste (in an equivalent amount as garlic)
- salt
- red pepper flakes
- 1/6 batch of cilantro, chopped

Since it was a salad, it was pretty much all prep. It tasted so good, very fresh and crunchy with that excellent dressing, that we kept snacking on it while we waited for everything else to be ready. While we would make the salad again, the two superstars of dinner were really the peanut sauce and the peanut salad dressing, both of which we definitely want to make more of another time.

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