Monday, June 11, 2012

.thai peanut chicken.

In recent months, I have made a pledge to myself and to my family to cook healthier meals.  I'm the one who has made this commitment, but you'll notice I use some unhealthy things - because my family would revolt if we went 100%.  Baby steps, people.. baby steps.

We love Asian food.  My husband has been to Thailand many times and he is usually all over anything Chinese, Thai, Japanese.. you name it.

When I was at the commissary, I bought this bottle of something called PB2 (see image below).  It's basically the pulverized remains that are usually discarded after they make peanut butter.  It's 85% less fattening than regular peanut butter, but you still get all the protein benefits -- and right now, I'm doing this protein forward diet so I'm all over this stuff!

Not only is this dish HEALTHIER than it's original, it's tasty and I swear, your family won't even notice the difference.  At least my family didn't until I told them there was no sugar in this dish and it was less fattening.

Now on to the recipe!

In a bowl, mix together:

1/2 cup PB2
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 packet (2-3 tsp) Splenda
1/4 tsp chili oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

For the main component of the dish, I used:
3 chicken breasts, cut against the grain, into strips
1/2 cup green onion, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped or julienne
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup peanuts

I also added some peas, but you can add whatever vegetables you want. 

Heat your wok until it starts smoking.  Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and saute the chicken with 2 cloves garlic, minced and 1 tsp fresh ginger root, peeled and grated.  I also added the red bell pepper, since they take some time to cook.  If you use broccoli, add in the beginning.

When the chicken is almost cooked through, dump all the peanut sauce into the center of the wok.  Stir until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken.  Add cilantro, green onion, carrots, and peanuts at this time.  Remove from the heat and serve with rice or noodles (if you want).

This will make enough food for 6 people.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

.cubano skirt steak w/ grilled corn.

There's a restaurant near us that I absolutely love.  It's classy and swank and the food has always been excellent.  You should see their brunch buffet!!!!  One of my favorite dishes there is a grilled Cubano skirt steak.  It's actually an Asian-Latin fusion dish because they put a spicy Thai Tamarind sauce on top.

I decided to try and recreate this recipe once and was very pleased with the results.  (verrrrryyy pleased!)

First, you want to make sure you use the right cut of meat.  Skirt steak.  It's also referred to as hangar steak.   It comes from the belly of a cow and is a very thin cut.  It has a ton of flavor all on it's own, but it's not particularly tender on it's own so I like to marinade it.  I wouldn't replace with flank steak.  Flank steak is thicker and you won't get the same results.  Trust me.

Here's a diagram of where the skirt steak comes off a cow!

This is a marinade recipe I came up with on my own.  I really wanted to get a lot of flavor into the beef.

In a bowl, mix together:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
a handful of cilantro
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes
a couple dashes of chili oil (found in the Asian aisle of your grocer)

Mix everything together with a fork.  Put your skirt steaks into a large ziploc and dump the marinade in.  Seal up the bag, pushing out as much of the air as you can.  This will help the marinade envelope the meat and keep it sitting in the marinade at all times.

You want to marinate your meat for at *least* 8 hours.  Overnight is best.

About an hour before you grill, take the steak out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter.  Beef always cooks better when it's closer to room temperature. Gives you even cooking. 

Because this steak is so thin, it won't take very long to grill up.  Also, personally I would never cook these past medium rare otherwise you will wind up with shoe leather.

Since we had this with grilled corn on the cob, put the corn on first, as this takes a lot longer to cook than the steak.  Here are good directions on how to grill corn

Drain the marinade and pop the steaks onto a very hot grill.  Let sit for about 2-3 minutes to get grill marks then flip over.  Repeat so that you've grilled the steak twice on each side.  Press the fattest part of the skirt steak and if it's still squishy, you might want to turn the grill down and lower the lid so it can cook through some more.  Don't be tempted to cut into this to check the doneness.  Just remember the general rule -- if it's squishy, the meat's still a little raw.  If the meat is soft but not hard, it's perfectly medium rare.  If there's no bounce back at all and firm, you've done gone and killed it. :P

Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Your corn will probably be done at this time, too.  I love mixing together some soft butter and a little bit of smoked cumin, salt, and pepper.  Take a knife and rub that all over your corn.  It gives you a wonderful smoky, spicy flavor on your corn that complements this dish very well.

Slice and serve the steak and eat!  This is going to be the best steak you ever ate.  Guaranteed!