Mmmmm!! Another day off… another chance to play in the kitchen and whip up something yummy for me and my sweetie to share for a romantic dinner surprise!!
Well… not all that much of a surprise…. As of late, your Favorite Catgirl has taken to shifting things about a bit with stuff at work to guarantee a day off on Mondays. Doing my inventory at the restaurant on Sunday gives me the opportunity to do all my ordering for food and supplies by phone right here at home, saving me a trip in to work. Occasionally I’ll spend it with Carolyn if she’s got some Personal Time saved aside…. but lately it’s just been me and lil’ Ting-ting here at the apartment.
Still…. even though she has to work and can’t be here with us… it makes my sweetie feel better to think that I’m here, doing my magic in the kitchen to assure a yummy welcome home for her when she’s finished her workday. So…. what’s on the menu this time out?
Why… with the warm breezes of Spring giving their promise of a delightful Summer to come, I’ve been inspired to throw together a wonderful roast chicken seasoned with the exotic caress of Malaysia’s spicy Sambal Oelek…
But… to find out how to make it for yourself, you just know Neko’s gonna insist you “Read On”…..
Mmmmmm!!! Sambal Oelek….. For those of you who’ve never had it, you really are missing something completely and utterly tasty. Found all over southeast Asia in some version or another from Indonesia, Malaysia, and into the Philippines and even as far away as wherever the early Dutch traders carried it after discovering it for themselves, it’s fiery chili goodness is salty and garlicky and such a wonderful table condiment all on it’s own, sort of an Asian version of salsa. But…. just like the versatile salsa you know, it’s also a marvelous thing to add to recipes to give them just that certain spicy… zip…. that can make almost anything extra special.
Not always available in regular supermarkets here in the US, you can sometimes find it, if you are lucky, at Asian food markets. And… with two colleges and their sizable Asian student bodies located nearby… it’s easy for me to get at just such a little Asian market right around the corner from my Restaurant. I use it in lots of things from broiled fish to curries and in vegetable and noodle dishes, but my absolute favorite use has to be as a marinade for roast chicken. By now… you know I’m a bit of a freak for all things spicy and exotic, and I can tell you, without a doubt this one certainly fits the bill in that department! Even so… with a bit of tweaking, you’ll be able to tune this particular recipe to your own tastes really easily even if fiery heat isn’t your own style.
So…. with out further adieu, here’s my personal version of “Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs in Sambal Oelek”…
So… along with our Sambal, the most important thing you’ll need is the chicken. Now, although this particular marinade will work with boneless, skinless chicken breasts (which then can be grilled rather than roasted…. for those of you in the mood for a BBQ), I find that I’m happiest with simple bone-in chicken thighs complete with their skins. Inexpensive and easy to get, the marvelous chicken fat that renders out during the baking gives them a moist yummy finish that will have you forgetting all about that saturated fat and being blown away by the sheer melt in your mouth tasty results to be had. A small 8 oz. jar of Sambal is enough to do about 2½ to 3 pounds of chicken (a good 15 or so thighs) and if you don’t want that much at one meal, it can be frozen after marinating for use at a later date.
So to get started, in a large mixing bowl combine:1 8oz. jar of Sambal Oelek 3 oz. Peanut oil 2 oz. Soy sauce 1 tbsp. lemon juice 1 oz. tomato ketchup 1 onion, diced fine 2 cloves chopped garlic 1 tsp. brown sugar (Or any sweet thing you like… Applesauce, orange juice…. Neko likes to mix this up a bit when she’s feelin’ frisky!!)
One by one, place your chicken thighs into the resulting marinade and lovingly massage the mixture into the nooks and crannies, being extra careful to get some under the skin itself. (You might want to wear latex gloves for this bit… and be very… very… careful not to get this in your eyes… it will sting like the devil!!) Place the thighs into a plastic tub (Not metal!! The marinade is acidic and will make the chicken taste all “tinny” if you do!!) as you go, until the last one gets fully coated, pouring the remainder of the marinade on top. Cover and refrigerate till ready to bake….. I find the results are best if you wait a full 24 hrs or so for the flavor to fully penetrate the chicken, but it will work after a couple hours if you just can’t wait.
When you are ready… preheat the oven to 375° and lay your chicken into a shallow baking pan, close together all snuggly with the extra marinade on top. Slip into the oven and let bake, turning them every 15 minutes or so and basting the thighs with the pan drippings. The chicken will render considerably… pour off any excess and reserve as needed to keep pan from overflowing. (Why? You’ll see……) After about an hour or so, raise the temperature to 425° for the last 10-15 minutes and keep a close eye to see that the skin crisps up and browns a wee bit (Mmmmm!!! Yummmy!!) to personal taste. Check your chicken, cutting to the bone to see that the juices run clear… if not, pop back in the oven for a few more minutes till they get there. (Remember…. fully cooked chicken good… salmonella bad!!)
Once done…. pull the baking pan to the top of the stove and let “rest” a few minutes while you take some of those spicy pan drippings you saved earlier and return them to heat in a small saucepan with a cup of heavy cream and a slice or two of cheddar cheese…. stir in a little flour and water slurry and allow it to thicken somewhat over low heat. Once it does, you’ll have the most amazing spicy sauce to drizzle over either french fries or mashed potatoes as the perfect companion to your chicken!!
This wont be the first time I’ve made this one for Carolyn… and it’s one of her favorites as well as mine, so I just know she’ll be excited as soon as she gets home and smells the wonderful scent of Sambal today. Simple… versatile… and even the left-overs can return either as a spicy cold chicken salad or a hearty warming stew later in the week. How can one go wrong with this one?
Hope you enjoy this one as much as we will, and until next time the kitchen sings me it’s siren song and begs me to get crazy, “Meow, meow for now!!”