I don’t know about you, but about this time of the year I am looking for ways to get dinner on the table — fast. All the decorating, package wrapping, and card sending don’t leave much time for leisurely experiments in the kitchen.
Confession — I absolutely love the idea of Martha Stewart. Many years ago I attended a wedding shower where one of the gifts for the bride-to-be was her original Entertaining book. All it took was one look through that book, and I was hooked. I purchased Entertaining as soon as I could afford it and proceeded to cook my way through it, hosting as many dinner and cocktail parties as I could manage. That book was eventually followed by the Martha Stewart’s Christmas book. Well, that one sent my fantasies of a perfectly decorated house, gifts made at home, and a constant stream of adoring visitors to my country estate right through the roof. Reality check — There was no country estate, I was active duty in the Army, and had a work schedule that absolutely did not allow for meticulously creating Christmas puddings, pomanders, and conserves, as much as I would have liked to do so.
So, as much as I would love to be making something much more elaborate, a quick seared chicken dish is much more my speed when my “to do” list is the size of the New York City phone book. I’ll save the elaborate Martha projects for the holiday itself. Meanwhile I’m cooking from Weeknight Paleo, 9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals, by Amber Beam. I found a chicken dish that looked like it would have some flavor, but more important it was a breeze to prepare. I made the original idea my own by eliminating a matchstick salad and using the salad dressing ingredients to create a sauce to go over the chicken and the rice I served it with. It’s full of flavor – but maybe a little too much for some. This dish is spicy. If you want to tame the heat you can cut back or eliminate the chili garlic sauce, the cayenne or both. I collect condiments like some women collect shoes, so I had an Asian Chili Garlic Sauce in the pantry. A variety of choices is available at any supermarket with an Asian section.
Chinese Five-Spice Chicken
This dish is extremely adaptable. If gluten is not a problem for you, regular or sodium soy sauce and hoisin sauce would work fine. Gluten-free soy sauce, also called tamari, and gluten-free hoisin sauce are available at Whole Foods. If dairy is a concern, use all coconut oil in place of the butter. This dish can be made with chicken breast instead of thighs; you will need to cut back the cooking time to 4-5 minutes total.
2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon finely peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons gluten-free Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Place the Chinese five-spice powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a Ziploc bag, shake a little to blend spices then add the chicken thighs, making sure the thighs are unrolled if they were rolled in the package. Shake well until chicken is completely coated with the spice mixture.
Melt coconut oil and butter in a large sauté pan. Remove the chicken from the Ziploc bag and brown in the pan until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees, about 3 minutes per side on medium high. Remove the chicken from the pan, and set aside on a plate.
Turn the heat down to medium, add the ginger and the garlic to the pan, and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, vinegar, Hoisin sauce, honey, and sesame oil to the pan and reduce until sauce is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan and turn over a couple of times to coat the chicken with the glaze. Simmer about 5 minutes to rewarm the chicken. Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro.
Adapted from Weeknight Paleo, 9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals, by Amber Beam