Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chicken Banh Mi

If you have never had a banh mi, you don't know what you are missing.  Banh mi might possibly be the best sandwiches in the world (although I have recently tried versions of the Cambodian equivalent at both Num Pang and Kampuchea Restaurant here in NYC and they were delicious as well).  They originated in Vietnam and I think they represent a wonderful fusion of French influence and Southeast Asian flavors.  The traditional banh mi I grew up eating was a large French bread like roll with a smear of pork pate, various cold cuts or slices of roasted pork, cilantro, jalapeno, and then pickled daikon and carrots.  When I was younger my mother would drive down to Falls Church, Virginia where they have a large Vietnamese-American population and pick up banh mi by the half dozen for our family.  In recent years the banh mi has exploded on the foodie scene and has been served everywhere from Momofuku Ssam to the Blind Tiger Ale House to more traditional Vietnamese sandwich shops.

Since Alex and I both love banh mi, we couldn't pass up the chance to make banh mi during our all Asian-inspired Chinese New Year week.  We decided to make the Garlicky Oven-Roasted Chicken from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavor and serve it in a variation on her banh mi recipe.  Can you tell how much I love this cookbook by the sheer number of times it has showed up on my blog already?

The Garlicky Oven-Roasted Chicken was delicious.  I would make it again anytime.  It was moist and flavorful, even though I substituted bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts for the more naturally flavorful thighs used in Nguyen's recipe.  And when you serve the roast chicken in the banh mi it makes such a wonderful sandwich.  If you build your sandwich together, you get the salty, savory, garlicky flavor from the chicken; the freshness of the cilantro; the spice from the jalapeno; and the coolness of the pickle in every bite.

Recipes after the jump!

Baguette Sandwich (Banh mi)
Adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavor
By Andrea Nguyen

2 7-inch sections from a baguette (or 2 petite baguette rolls)
Mayo or butter
Maggi Seasoning (or soy sauce)
8 thin strips of English cucumber (can also substitute Kirby cukes)
small handful cilantro springs
1/2 jalapeno chili, sliced thinly (optional)
1/4 cup Everyday Daikon and Carrot Pickle (recipe below)
2 Garlicky Oven-Roasted Chicken breasts, cut into slices (recipe below)

Slice the bread lengthwise without cutting it all the way through (leaving it attached at the back).  Using your fingers, hollow out the bottom half a little to form a depression.  Crisp bread briefly and lightly in the toaster oven.  Allow to cool.

Spread bread with mayo or butter and drizzle with Maggi.  Arrange the chicken on the bottom, then top with cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, and daikon and carrot pickles.

Garlicky Oven-Roasted Chicken 
Adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavor
By Andrea Nguyen

2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
3/4 tsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/3 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp Maggi Seasoning (or soy sauce)
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 bone-in, skin-in chicken breasts (halved)

To make the marinade, combine the garlic, sugar, s&p, Maggi seasoning, and oil.  Mix well.  Pour marinade into a resealable plastic bag with the chicken.  Using your fingers, massage the marinade into the chicken.  When possible, peel back the skin or create pockets in it with your fingers to get some marinade between the flesh and skin.  Seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for between 2 and 24 hours (we marinated for the full 24 hours).

Remove chicken from refrigerator 20-30 minutes before roasting.  Place skin side down in a cast-iron skillet, or on a rimmed baking sheet lined in aluminum foil.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  When oven is up to temp, put chicken in the oven.  Roast skin side down for 15 minutes, then turn chicken over using tongs.  Roast until the skin is nicely browned and the juices run clear, about 25 additional minutes.

Remove chicken from oven and place on a cutting board to cool.  Allow chicken to cool 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cool enough to handle.  Slice the breast off the bone and cut into thin slices, or tear the meat off using your fingers.  Set meat aside while you prepare the rest of the banh mi.

Everyday Daikon and Carrot Pickle
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavor
By Andrea Nguyen

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 lb daikons, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 tsp salt
2 tsp, plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup lukewarm water

Place carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and 2 tsp of sugar.  Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them.  They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl.  Stop kneading when you can bend a piece of daikon so that the ends touch but the daikon doesn't break.  The vegetables should have lost about 1/4 of their volume.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water.  Return the vegetables to the bowl if you plan to eat them soon, or transfer them to a 1 qt. jar for longer storage.

To make the brine, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar, and water in a bowl.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Pour the brine over the vegetables.  Allow vegetables to marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating.  They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

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