Thursday, April 16, 2009

CSA week 19 - Braised chicken with green beans, Thai style

I had a cold green bean salad with bacon and blue cheese all ready to go today, but I saw a recipe that looked better so change of plans. Unfortunately, the new plan involved buying a duck which is not so easy around here. All the ones I found were frozen solid (although I'll admit I only looked two places) so I just went with chicken thighs instead.

Here's the original recipe (from Mark Bitman) with notes on my changes:

Braising solves several of the challenges of cooking duck: it renders the fat completely and reliably; it browns the skin without spattering; and it makes the meat tender. It also requires very little effort from the cook. You put the duck in a covered pan, turn on the heat, and walk away.

Braised Duck With Green Beans, Thai Style

Yield 4 servings

Time 1 1/2 to 2 hours

Mark Bittman


If you can find duck legs in the store, go with those. If you can buy only a whole duck, the procedure for cutting it up is almost identical to that for cutting up a chicken. The joints are a bit trickier to find, but they are in the same places.

  • 4 duck legs or 1 duck, cut into quarters [or four chicken thighs. Two if you're halving the recipe like I did]
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 or 2 small chilies, seeded and minced, or crushed red chili flakes to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed [each share was a handy 3/4 pound so this worked nicely]
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons nam pla or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, or to taste
  • Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish, optional
  • 1. Remove excess fat from duck or duck legs. Season with salt and pepper, and put in a skillet that will fit it comfortably; turn heat to medium, and cover. Check once you hear sizzling: duck should be simmering in its own fat and exuding liquid. Adjust heat to create a steady simmer. [No real exuding from the chicken, either liquid or fat. I was hopeful about the liquid, but I knew fat would be a problem. To compensate, I stuffed a couple teaspoons of butter under the skin of each piece]
  • 2. Once bottom browns, turn. Eventually liquid will evaporate and duck will cook in fat only; at this point, lower heat and continue to cook duck, turning once in a while, until it becomes tender, about an hour. [45 minutes seemed to be plenty so I stopped then. It all depends on how low you turned your heat, though.]
  • 3. Transfer duck to a plate. Pour off all but a couple of tablespoons of fat. Turn heat to medium high, and add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and chilies and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add beans and sugar and turn heat to high; cook, stirring occasionally, until beans begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  • 4. Add 2 tablespoons water and nam pla or soy sauce. Put duck on top of bean mixture and bring to a simmer. [Problem in the recipe here as "bring to a simmer" is less accurate than "watch liquids evaporate immediately". The pot just spent five minutes on high. I turned down the heat to medium low and added plenty more water and some more nam pla too as the beans needed a bit more flavor.] Cover and cook until both beans and duck are very tender, 15 to 30 more minutes, adding a little more water if necessary to keep mixture moist. [15 minutes was more than plenty for me.] (You can prepare dish in advance up to this point; cover and set aside until ready to eat, then reheat.) Uncover and stir in lime juice; taste and adjust seasoning, then sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Source: The New York Times

Not a half bad way to prepare green beans, I think. There's lots of flavor from the spices, fish sauce and all that fond and caramelization on the onions, but you can taste the beans through that too. They ended up rather soft, but the thing about green beans is that the flavor is best at a completely different cooking point than when the texture is. If you've had them prepared Greek-style, you know that.

The chicken is surprisingly moist considering the long dry-cooking time, but it's hard to completely ruin chicken thighs. It's almost got that confit texture to it, although the skin lost its crispness in the last cooking step. Something I only noticed after I finished cooking is that the Thai flavors never touched the chicken. It was only seasoned with salt and pepper. Still good, but a little odd next to the green beans. Maybe a marinade would help. Or maybe duck is a better match.

One last thing, I think "Thai style" is a misnomer. I've never seen a Thai recipe cooked like this. Let's say "Thai flavor" instead.

1 comment:

kat said...

I bet marinading the chicken would help with its flavor a lot but I can see where duck would add a little more flavor on its own