Friday, June 22, 2007

007 Chicken

On the 100 Mile Diet front, MSN has posted an article on why you should be eating local foods. Check it out! They also include a slide show/article on where you can find local foods. Very cool.

My fabulous in-laws came up island for a visit yesterday. With them, they brought a brimming bag of local treats including smoked salmon and moose from Uncle Ted, a couple of cheeses from Hilary's cheese shop, spelt flour and a pumpkin seed bread from True Grain and a bottle of Saturna Island wine. Such a mindful and yummy gift. Thanks guys!

This morning I cracked open the bread and a wedge of Hilary's Red Dawn cheese for breakfast, along with some strawberries from Dudink's Gardens. What a great way to begin the day.

It's been another busy week and I don't see it slowing down much. We've been living off of leftovers from our 100 Mile Diet BBQ dinner party from the beginning of the week. For the dinner party, I made a couple slabs of focaccia, hummous, boiled new potatoes, green salad with pesto dressing and a mountain of grilled Vietnamese chicken and chorizo sausages. All of the vegetables and the meat was island grown, gathered from farmer's markets, my backyard garden and local butchers.

From those leftovers, I've been having a range of leftover creations. One favorite is a open-faced Vietnamese chicken on focaccia. Nothing more that splitting open a wedge of focaccia, toasting it up and smearing it with some hummous, topping it with leftover chicken and finishing it off with a couple slices of cucumber and some lettuce. Another version I like is simply toasted focaccio with the same chicken and topped with an asian slaw (napa cabbage, cucumber, bean sprouts, carrots and whatever other crunchy, crisp veggies) tossed with Thai it Up sauce. A mix of strong flavours with crisp, fresh textures. A great way to use up leftovers.

My Vietnamese Chicken recipe is the reward for some very diligent spy work that I and another food-loving friend did several years ago in Vancouver. One typical rainy winter night in Vancouver, my buddy and I ended up at some hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsway. There was only one thing on our minds, pho. We were set on diving into a bowl of big steaming bowl of beef broth, shoveling white slipper noodles into our mouths until the chill left our bones.

As we were waiting for our server, I spied an intriguing dish a neighbouring table was enjoying. A chicken that looked like it had been dyed in a mustard bath with the most delectable aroma, a mix of rich, complex spices and the deep, brown aroma of properly grilled meat.

I asked the server what they were having and she just said, "Chicken."
"But what kinda of chicken, what's in it?" I asked.
She shrugged and replied, "Chicken.Vietnamese chicken"
"Ok. We'll have an order of that and a couple bowls of beef pho"

After that meal, we were hooked on this chicken, dubbing it simply Vietnamese chicken. We returned to this restaurant numerous times, each time asking if we could have the recipe. Each time we were refuse. So we started taking tasting notes, trying to figure out the complex of spices and flavours and then we'd return back home and try to replicate it. Once the server caught us and told us that the cook wouldn't be too pleased if he saw. So we were very careful with our food spying after that. It took us a while but eventually we figured it out, or at least something close enough to please us.

My buddy and I sometimes joked about this dish as, "Spy Chicken", not only because figuring out the recipe was a covert operation but because whenever anyone asked what it was, we'd reply, 'Chicken. Vietnamese Chicken' like we were James Bond introducing himself. I know, we're geeks ;)

Ironically, a month after we figured out the recipe for this chicken, the restaurant shut down. Funny how the universe works.

Anyways, here's my version of Vietnamese Chicken, otherwise known as Spy Chicken.

(that's me grilling up a storm)

Fast & Dirty Spy Chicken

2-3 lbs of free-ranged chicken

4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of palm or cane sugar (can use honey or brown sugar instead)

Spice mix:
1 tablespoon of ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
5 star anise pods
1 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of salt crystals

Toast the star anise, fennel and coriander seeds in a dry pan on low heat until you can smell the oils being released.
Toss the toasted spices with the rest of the spice mix and grind it up in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder.
Mix the spices with the rest of the marinade ingredients.
Toss in the chicken and let it marinade in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

For grilling on the BBQ you want the chicken in fairly equal sized pieces. The breasts you can slice into even thin strips and them thread them onto soaked bamboo skewers like a satay. This will allow you to cook the breast meat throughly and quickly without risking a raw center or overcooked and dry edges.

Grill the dark meat, uncovered, over medium heat, turning once, for 10 to 15 minutes or until juices run clear.

Grill the breast meat satays over medium heat for a couple minutes on each side until just cooked.

For roasting, I like to keep the chicken whole and roast it in the oven at 350F until the thigh juices run clear.

BTW, this marinade works great for much any other meat. The spice mix can be used on it's own for an interesting spice rub.

A shout out to my furry buddy.
This is my feline friend, Meep. She's recovering from some de-girling surgery. Hope you're feeling your frisky, cheeky self real soon!

Have a great first weekend of the summer! Go check out a farmers market, go berry picking, go visit a farm, go check out the Community Garden's organic plant sale or harvest some goodies from your backyard garden.


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

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