Monday, June 30, 2008

Indonesian Peanut Chicken with Lemon Scented Rice

I have fallen completely head over heels with Indonesian food. After getting stranded in Amsterdam last week with some fellow Cannes stragglers, we went in search of dinner vowing to eat anything un-French. It turns out that the Dutch eat early - nearly everything was already closed. I guess in a city where you can window shop for prostitutes until all hours and/or buy hash to smoke with your pancakes in the morning - they have to draw the line somewhere.

Luckily a little Indonesian place was open and I was introduced to a whole new cuisine. As soon as I got back home, I tore through my one zillion cookbooks looking for Indonesian recipes, which were few and far between. But the most promising one came from (of all places), a 1960's Family Circle book called "Best Chicken Recipes." Feeling slightly guilty after eating nothing but Croque Monsiuers and Rose on vacation, I adapted the recipe changing the chicken thighs to boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I don't think I'll ever bother making it any other way.

Indonesian Peanut Chicken
*Can be made Paleo by using almond butter and chopped almonds for garnish instead of peanuts

4 chicken breasts, gently pounded with a mallet to even out any thicker parts to 1/2 inch
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch pepper
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
1 heaping teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips (julienned)
1 large ripe tomato, diced (including its juice)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (or sub almond or other nut butter)
handful of salted, dry roasted peanuts (or almonds), crushed in a ziploc with a mallet or pan
chopped cilantro, optional

1. Put the oil in a large, rimmed nonstick skillet and heat to medium high. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper (skimming the salt from the 2 teaspoons you're going to add later) and add to the pan, browning on each side 3-4 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate or baking sheet and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, add the curry powder, salt, and red pepper flakes to the pan (you may need to lower the heat a hair) and toast, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.

3. Add the ginger, garlic, onion, tomato, bell pepper and saute about 8-10 minutes until onions are transluscent and vegetables are cooked through.

4. Gently stir in the peanut butter. There should be enough juice left over from the veggies (particularly the tomato) in the pan to make a sauce, but if it's too dry you can also add a few tablespoons warm water to help the peanut butter blend in.

5. Tear the chicken breasts into strips and stir back into the the vegetable mixture. Reduce heat to low and cover for five minutes, until chicken is heated through. Serve with rice (in the last phase of cooking your rice, stir in 1/4 cup snipped green onions and zest of 1/2 a lemon.) Garnish with chopped peanuts, extra green onions, and or a sprinkling of cilantro if desired.