I’ve always loved the flavors of Thai food. They are reminiscent of Chinese and Indian, yet entirely unique to itself. Years ago, I dabbled in making Thai food at home, but that was many moons ago.
This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays Sweet Chili Chicken Thighs from Everyday Dorie is hardly authentic Thai food, but the main ingredient in the sauce is the sweet-sticky dip that comes with fried Thai spring rolls.
The chicken is quick enough to pull together for a weeknight meal, prepared in a single pot. First, onions, garlic, and ginger are lightly sautéed until soft, but not browned. The aromatics are finished in some white wine which is cooked until it almost evaporates.
Now, in the only fussy part of the recipe, the onion mixture gets transferred to a bowl while you brown the chicken. And in another fussy part — which I skipped – you are supposed to wash out the pot if there are any browned bits stuck to the bottom after browning the chicken. Browned bits always stick to the pot. Without understanding why that would make any difference, I just kept going with the recipe and didn’t notice any adverse effect.
After the chicken is browned, the onions get added back along with chili sauce, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, and Sriracha and the mixture simmers, mostly unattended, until the chicken is done. In my case, with the occasional basting, this took only 20 minutes.
The chicken is served garnished with sliced scallions, and if you want some added heat, red pepper flakes.
I took the Thai inspiration to heart when deciding on side dishes. I cooked only 4 thighs but kept the other ingredients the same. Jasmine rice seemed like a natural accompaniment, both for flavor and an edible sponge for the extra sauce.
My favorite part of the meal were the roasted vegetables I made. I roasted an assortment of diced root vegetables – carrots, sweet potato, parsnips, and red onion – until tender and browned. While the vegetables cooked, I simmered a red curry sauce made from coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, and a spoonful of brown sugar I thought the sauce would thicken more, but because it didn’t, just before serving, I tossed the vegetables in just enough sauce to coat but not pool in the bowl. Yum!
This turned out to be an easy weeknight meal with some flavors from somewhere else to transport you out of your routine for an hour or so.
If there was ever a week where I needed comfort food, this might have been it. When the world as I’ve known it seems to be crumbling around me, cooking is a welcome distraction, and the results offer a modicum of comfort and nourishment to our table. This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, Coq au Vin, a hearty braised chicken dish, fit the bill.
I’ve probably eaten Coq au Vin in a restaurant. I don’t think I’ve ever made it myself. When I visualize it, I imagine chicken cooked in white wine. I was surprised to see that in this recipe, from David Lebovitz, the chicken is cooked in red wine. A little planning is required as the chicken along with some herbs and chopped vegetables needs to marinate overnight in a full bottle of wine.
Our chicken part of choice are chicken thighs. Rather than enjoying our favorite pieces during one meal and less favorite parts for subsequent meals of leftovers, I opted to use 8 chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces.
When it’s time to cook dinner, first the chicken is browned. Then, mushrooms and lardons of bacon are crisped. Then the herbs and chopped vegetables from the marinade get a turn. Finally, the wine is poured into the pot and the chicken simmers for an hour. In the meantime, pearl onions are simmered separately.
According to David Lebovitz, classic coq au vin is thickened with chicken blood, an ingredient that probably isn’t easy to find at your local grocery store. Not at mine either. The alternative offered, cocoa powder whisked into some of the cooking liquid, makes a more appealing addition.
I served the chicken in wide shallow bowls over egg noodles with a full complement of silverware. Forks and knives to eat the chicken and a soup spoon to catch every last drop of the flavorful sauce.
Coq au vin hit the spot as comfort food. I will double the mushrooms and onions if I make it again. Though I cooked this on a weeknight, I’d say that coq au vin is more of a weekend meal. It would also be better shared with company than reheated for several nights in a row.
As one more effort towards distraction, yesterday I helped raise the relocated hoop house at Lexington Community Farm, my happy place. After we moved and set up the hoops, I held the ridge pole up until the farmer could tie it in place while we bolted it in place. I can’t wait until next month when I can start working in the greenhouse again, as the seasonal cycle repeats. What fun!