Friday, August 9, 2013

Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce and Everyday Cabbage-Shallot Refresher

I don't have a lot of experience with Burmese food, but I got pretty excited when I saw that Naomi Duguid had a new cookbook.  Hot Sour Salty Sweet is one of my favorite cookbooks and I'm always thrilled to try new cuisines and cookbooks, especially when I have reason to think that they might be good.  Given the author and the general beauty of the cookbook I had pretty high hopes from day one.  For our first meal I bookmarked a number of recipes and then let Alex pick which one(s) to make.  One of the great parts of being an attorney is an endless supply of flags and post-its, which I put to good use marking documents (as well as cookbooks).  He picked the chicken and I decided that we should make the simple cabbage-shallot salad to serve on the side.  It didn't occur to me (although it really should have) that both recipes would be on the spicy side.  I'm pretty good at entirely ignoring aspects of a recipe while salivating over it.  I usually do that with the amount of time it will take to make something (long marinades or braises always kill me), but it never really occurred to me just how many cayenne chilis these recipes called for.  Granted, the chicken is much spicier than the cabbage-shallot refresher, but neither one is suitable for people with a wimpy palate.  If you like just a hint of heat, go with the cabbage-shallot salad and maybe cut back on the chili a little.  I would pick an entirely different entree because the spicy punch of the chicken really makes the dish shine.  It's spicy and funky and fun.  The next time I make the chicken I will probably cut the amount of water in half and/or add a little cornstarch slurry to the dish to thicken it up a bit.  The ju-ju (for lack of a better term) is pretty thin and watery, but if you thickened it up a bit I bet it would be delicious.  The chicken itself absorbed a ton of flavor from the ju-ju - heat being one of the predominant flavors, along with the savory flavors of ginger and garlic and the tartness of the lime juice.  It was really good, and very different.

As for the cabbage-shallot refresher, I would totally serve this with both Asian and non-Asian meals (with a few minor twists).  For instance, I could totally see skewing it a little Latin and using it on top of tacos or serving it with enchiladas.  I liked how bright and fresh it was.

Recipes after the jump!

Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce
Burma:  Rivers of Flavor
By Naomi Duguid

2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp peanut oil or vegetable oil
4-5 green cayenne chilis, each slit lengthwise several times
1 lb boneless chicken, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 cup water
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup scallion greens or cilantro leaves, minced

If you have a mortar, pound the garlic and ginger together to a paste with a pinch of salt.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot or a wok over medium heat.  Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for several minutes until softened.  Add the chilis and cook a minute or longer, then raise the heat to high.  Add the chicken pieces and cook, turning and stirring to sear the chicken on all sides, about 4 minutes.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Add 1 tsp salt and stir, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove from the heat and add lime juice.

Sprinkle on scallion greens or cilantro and serve.

Everyday Cabbage-Shallot Refresher
Burma:  Rivers of Flavor
By Naomi Duguid

generous 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 red or green cayenne chili, seeded and minced (or substitute a milder chili)
1 tbsp fish sauce (or 1 tsp salt), to taste
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
about 2 cups grated or very thinly sliced Savoy, green or Napa cabbage (we used Napa)

Combine the shallots, chili, fish sauce and lime juice in a medium bowl.  Toss.  Set aside for 10 minutes to half an hour.

Add the shredded cabbage and toss well.  Taste for seasoning and sprinkle on more fish sauce or salt to taste.

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