If chicken breasts are cooked over too fierce a heat or for too long, they will turn into rubbery curls or into sawdust-dry cubes. They have the least flavour of any cut of chicken, and the only two things they really have going for them is that they are very low in calories, and can be most succulent if correctly cooked. For example, the soft breast meat torn from a properly roasted whole chicken, still attached to papery golden skin (and possibly dunked in a gorgeous gravy) is an unforgettable eating pleasure.
|The ingredients for this dish.|
I can't help but be annoyed by recipes (and there are many) that ask you to cook cubed or sliced chicken breasts in their sauce for 30 or 45 minutes, or even longer. This isn't necessary, and will only result in unpleasant mouthfuls of what might as well be boiled sea sponge. It's a waste of an expensive (and, let's face it, wasteful) ingredient. It often strikes me, when I buy six deboned breasts, that three chickens gave up their lives for me to obtain a perfect packet of smooth, pink, flavourless flesh. Look, I appreciate that the remainders of the birds are used elsewhere in the chicken-farming business, but I think that - because this is a luxurious and expensive ingredient - it needs to be cooked with care and respect.
To find out how to oven-poach chicken breasts (for salads, sandwiches and so on) so that they are meltingly tender and juicy, see my recipe for Summer Linguine with a Cold Sauce of Poached Chicken, Tomatoes and Basil.
Coriander & Coconut Satay Chicken with Creamy Peanut Sauce
800 g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
a little sunflower or canola oil, for frying
For the marinade:
1 x 400 ml tin coconut milk
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp (10 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) brown sugar (or palm sugar, if you have it)
the finely grated zest and juice of a lime
a small green chilli, deseeded and sliced, or a large pinch of red chilli flakes
milled black pepper (but no salt)
1 cup, fairly closely packed (250 ml), fresh coriander
½ cup (125 ml) thick natural or Greek-style yoghurt
For the sauce:
8 Tbsp (120 ml) smooth peanut butter
Trim any visible fat globules from the chicken thighs and prepare them as follows: place a thigh, shiny side down, on a chopping board. Holding a knife parallel to the board, slice horizontally through the thicker part of the thigh to take off an upper 'leaf' of meat (see picture, below). Repeat with the other thighs.
Cut all the chicken into long strips about the width of your thumb. Don't worry if there are some raggy left-over bits and pieces: each thigh should yield one or two nice neat strips, and some smaller pieces. Thread a few pieces of chicken onto each stick and arrange them in a plastic or ceramic dish with their thick ends facing inward in 'teepee' formation (see picture, below).
Place the coconut milk, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, lime zest, lime juice and chilli into a blender, or the jug attachment on a stick blender, and whizz at high speed until smooth. Now add the coriander and pulse until the leaves are very finely chopped, but not obliterated. Measure out three-quarters of a cup (180 ml) of this marinade into a small bowl and add the yoghurt. Stir well. Cover the leftover marinade and set aside (you'll use this for the sauce).
Pour the yoghurt marinade all over the chicken kebabs, turning them gently to make sure they are coated. Add the squeezed-out lime halves, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably two. (You can marinate these for up to 24 hours without any discernible loss of texture.)
Just before you're going to cook the chicken, make the peanut sauce. Into a saucepan, put the peanut butter and 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of the reserved, non-yoghurty marinade (don't use the marinade you poured over the chicken!) Over a very low flame, heat the sauce, stirring constantly, until it comes together smoothly and begins to darken. Don't allow the mixture to boil. Whisk in just enough of the remaining reserved marinade (about three-quarters of a cup should do this trick) to create a smooth, creamy, thickish sauce. When it is very hot, but before bubbles break the surface, remove from heat. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning: it may need a little more fresh lime juice for acidity, or some salt and pepper. Cover the surface of the sauce with a sheet of clingfilm and set aside.
Heat a large frying pan or flat griddle pan and add a lick of oil. Shake the excess marinade from the chicken kebabs and fry them over a medium-high heat, in batches, for about 6 minutes, or until the chicken flesh is just cooked through and there is not a trace of pinkness. They will stick to the pan at first, but let them fry undisturbed for at least two minutes on one side before gently nudging them with a spatula until they loosen. Then flip them over and fry the other sides.
Serve immediately with lime wedges and the warm peanut sauce.
Makes about 24 kebabs; serves 6 as a snack or starter. Print Friendly