June 6, 2012

Asian Grilled Chicken / Spring Rice Salad / Creamy Soy Dressing

Just like my personality changes a little depending on who I'm with and where I am, the way I cook adapts to the kitchen I'm cooking in and the people I'm cooking for. When I'm at college, the food I tend to make has a certain character. Meals tend to center around vegetables - many of my friends are vegetarian - and we ate lots and lots of pasta. Vegetarian pasta and burrito dishes were probably the most frequent guests at our dinners, along with common appearances by chickpea curry, mushroom risotto and hearty salads with a side of local cheese and bread. If I had to guess, penne pasta with tomato sauce was by far the most frequent dinner we made.

When I visit my family in Boston, my cooking style tends to change a little. While it still has the same basic personality - I still use lots of olive oil and lemon juice and love fresh vegetables and still make plenty of pasta - certain things change. Meat usually works its way into some of the meals. I love coming home, buying some steak and grilling it up with plenty of salt and pepper (a meal I often long for at Wesleyan). I tend to get more experimental with my dinners in particular, something much easier when I'm not constrained to buying most of my food using dining points at Wesleyan's little food shop. It's not that the food is better - I love the way we cook at Wesleyan - but a certain personality comes forward. 

I've been making use of our charcoal grill here in Boston, and the other night I made a this recipe which I discovered interning at Food52 last summer. Their recipe comes via Sarah Moulton, whose version is a Rice, Radish & Snap Pea Salad with Seared Beef. It's a fantastic dish, which I've altered parts of here, changing up the rice salad slightly and using chicken thighs instead of sirloin. Chicken thighs are great for grilling - they don't dry out like chicken breasts and they cook in a flash. I marinate them briefly in soy, rice wine vinegar, five spice powder and toasted sesame oil. 

This is just the kind of cooking I like to do for my family at home, and it's a great dish to serve family style smack in the middle of your table. 

Asian Grilled Chicken / Spring Rice Salad / Creamy Soy Dressing
Serves 4 
Inspired by Food52

For the chicken:
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
-2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
-1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
-1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
-salt and pepper
-6 chicken thighs

For the rice salad:
-1/4 cup rice vinegar
-1 teaspoon sugar
-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
-2 cups sugar snap peas, halved
-1/2 cup scallions, roughly chopped
-3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
-3 cups cooked white rice

For the creamy soy dressing:
-1/2 cup sour cream
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-pinch chili powder
-1 tablespoon sesame seeds, for topping

To prepare the chicken:

In a small bowl, prepare the marinade by combining the soy sauce, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, five spice powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the chicken thighs in a medium container and cover with the marinade. Cover the container and place in the refrigerator for at least half an hour and up to 12 hours. 

Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat. Spray with non-stick spray and add the chicken thighs. Cook 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a platter, slice into 1-inch strips, and keep warm. Alternatively, prepare the chicken thighs by cooking them in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through. 

To prepare the rice:

In a small bowl, prepare the dressing by combining the rice vinegar, sugar, vegetable oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Set aside.

Bring a small pot of well salted water to a boil. Add the snap peas and blanch for 1 minute, until just cooked. Remove using a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water. When they have cooled, drain and set aside. 

Place the rice in a large bowl and mix with the dressing, snap peas, scallions and mint and set aside.

To prepare the creamy soy dressing and assemble: 

In a small bowl, make the creamy soy dressing by mixing the sour cream, soy sauce and chili powder.

To assemble, place the rice mixture on a large platter. Top with the cooked chicken, and drizzle over the creamy soy dressing. Top with sesame seeds and serve at once.