Monday, December 1, 2008

CSA week one - Thai lemongrass chicken stir fry

Well, my plan to use the four stalks of lemongrass in dishes from four cuisines fell apart pretty quick. This recipe calls for a quarter cup of thinly sliced lemongrass which took almost all of my three remaining stalks to produce. I've got about a Tablespoon of lemongrass left which I'll probably toss into some Thai fried rice.

But that's later, right now there's this stir fry to post about. I did a variation on this recipe from CD Kitchen. The big differences being that I decided ground chicken thighs would be much tastier (and more interestingly texturally) than sliced chicken breasts and that it would be better to include vegetables in the dish instead of serving them on the side. Unfortunately, I mainly cleaned myself out of suitable vegetables with the cottage pie a couple days ago, but I still had some mushrooms and bok choy available.

Here's my version:

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons shallots -- sliced
2 teaspoons garlic -- minced
1 1/4 pounds boneless chicken thigh pieces from around 1 1/2 pounds of thighs with bones
1 fresh hot chili, I used a serano because I couldn't find any bird's-eye and my cayenne pepper plant
didn't like the summer rains - sliced, not seeded
1/4 cup fresh lemongrass -- thinly sliced
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon palm or light brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 pinch ground white pepper
25 fresh Thai basil leaves, I used the very last leaves from my dying basil plant. My parsley, chives and sage are doing quite well I'd like to point out.
1 tablespoon lime zest, substituting from fresh kaffir lime leaves. I need to keep an eye out for key limes that come with some leaves still attached to the stem. I suspect they substitute well.
1 teaspoon lime juice
Stir-fried fresh vegetables (such as baby carrots, mushroom, bell peppers, squash and Thai, Japanese or domestic eggplant), eggplant would have worked very well. I'll have to remember that next time I've got some.


0. Put chicken into freezer for an hour to firm up.

1. Remove skin and bones from chicken thighs and cut into pieces a couple inches to a side. Put them into a food processor and pulse seven or eight times to get a rough chunky paste.

Preheat wok or saute pan over high heat; add oil. Add shallots and garlic. Stir fry a few seconds until fragrant and light brown.

3. Add hearty vegetables, in my case the mushrooms and bok choy stems. Stir fry until starting to soften.

4. Add chicken all at once. Let brown briefly, flip the mass over and let brown a bit more. This makes it rather easier to break up into separate bits. Some larger bits will need to be cut in half with whatever you're using to stir with.

5. When it's well broken up add chilies and lemongrass. Continue to stir. Just before chicken is cooked through, stir in coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce and white pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings and spiciness. Cook one minute. There's nothing in there to thicken up the sauce so cook it for a minute or two to a compromise between how thick you'd like it and your worry about overcooking the chicken.

6. Toss in Thai basil, lime leaves and lime juice. Serve immediately with steamed rice or rice noodles.

I found it to be sweet but not cloying, starting with a crisp citrus notes fading to the understated tanginess of the fish sauce mellowed by the coconut milk. Each bite has the savory chicken (which has a substantial mouth feel but tender chew I wouldn't have gotten with thin slices of chicken breast so that was a good call) with the aromatics of the lemongrass and basil floating up intermittently as I encountered into pieces of each. It could use a bit of crunch--peanuts, maybe beansprouts? I don't think the mushrooms and bok choy add anything, but they don't subtract anything either so that's OK. I'll have to revisit this recipe when I've got a different variety of vegetables to include.


kat said...

I'm a big fan of adding peanuts to dishes like this, they always seem to need that crunch & the saltiness doesn't hurt either

Anonymous said...

was always at a loss at where to find Kaffir lime leaves so bought a small plant when the import ban lifted and it produces more than enough for my needs. I bought it from It was a great investment!

billjac said...

Not too pricey either. That's a really good suggestion. Thanks!