Monday, May 21, 2012

Spicy Grilled Chicken with Marinated Shiitake Mushrooms

With the sun radiating this kind of warmth in mid-May, I tremble at the thought of deep July. I'll likely be cowering in the shadows of my dim home, air conditioner whining away on full whack. For now, the best thing to do is bask in this Floridan May. So much for the great white north.

With two-thirds of the Victoria Day weekend behind me and enough yard work to cause permanent injury I opted for something grilled on the fire with bright and spicy flavours. Hot weather often makes me crave the food from hot places. I'm not terribly well-versed in the foods of Asia, I tend to inelegantly blend the flavours of India and Thailand (the two types of Asian cuisine I love the most).  Nevertheless, I certainly like working with ingredients like ginger, lemon grass, chillies, fish sauce, soy and cilantro among many others. I find the best way to really bring out the heat and vibrancy locked within these exotic ingredients is to bash the hell out of them in my pestle and mortar.

One side note: I've used fresh turmeric in this recipe. Turmeric in its fresh form looks quite like ginger - a craggy root with a fibrous skin. The difference is that the flesh within is a bright golden colour. Treat it as you'd treat ginger. It has a subtle flavour but imparts a beautiful colour. Take care though, its juices can inadvertently stain your countertop or your shirt.

Spicy Marinade

2 finger chillies, stem removed, and roughly chopped
1 thumb-size knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 thumb-size knob of fresh turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Zest of 1 lime
A healthy bunch of washed and dried cilantro, chopped roughly
10 ml of light soy sauce
15 ml of sesame oil
10 ml fish sauce
5 ml lime juice

Get the chillies, garlic, ginger, turmeric, zest and cilantro in a  mortar and bash it until it is starting to come together as a paste, then add in the wet ingredients: lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and fish sauce.  Continue bashing until you have a wet paste with some texture to it.

Grilled Chicken and Marinated Shiitake Mushrooms

1 whole chicken, broken down to breasts and leg quarters
1 measure of spicy marinade (see recipe above)
1 dozen or so shiitake mushrooms
1 small bunch of cleaned cilantro for garnish

1 bunch of fresh asparagus
1 cup of brown rice

Take about three-quarters of the marinade and slather it all over the chicken, try to sneak a bit under the skins of the breast - the flavour will really penetrate that way, then let it rest in the fridge for about an hour and half. Remove the tough stems of the shiitakes and set them aside to flavour a vegetable stock on another day. Then toss them with the remaining marinade. The mushrooms don't require as much time in the marinade - about a half hour will suffice. They will become quite wet as the soy and fish sauce will draw the moisture out of them. Nothing to get anxious about. Before grilling, just pat them dry with some paper towel. Do the same with the chicken when it's ready. Then grill the chicken on a nice low and even fire - flare ups will probably occur, so just pay attention. The mushrooms only require about 5 minutes per side, so time it so that they're not going on until the chicken is almost done. Take care not to lose your precious mushrooms between the grills. I find putting them on a bamboo skewer reduces this risk, just make sure the skewer is well soaked or it will burn like a roman candle.

I chose to serve this with some simple grilled asparagus and some healthy, albeit, deliciously nutty brown rice. Of course, scattered leaves of cilantro adds a bit of fresh green perfume to the plate. Lime wedges would be welcome as well.  But don't feel confined by this arrangement. This dish would work perfectly well with a refreshing green salad, maybe with a miso dressing. Or just put it on toast - it's all fine by me.

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