Inspiration comes from many places when I step into the kitchen. Having recently returned from a work related jaunt to Honolulu, the food, not the sun and surf, were the highlights for me.
The food was a mix of Asian and Island influences. What I loved most was the naturalness of the presentation. Not too fussy. No drizzles or foams. A very refreshing point of view.
I have a weeks worth of dinners in front of me, so I thought why not start out the week with a riff on what I just enjoyed, but bring the Island to the Mainland.
Keep it simple. No broken down chicken dish, but lets go ‘full leg’. But still with ‘Lorin food’ flair, as the Boss Lady likes to call it.
To start, I brought back some coconut juice from LA. Love cooking with juices. So not LA, where they just drink them. I like to use them in the kitchen. I love the coconut being fresh, not canned, that has a lightness that the canned version lacks.
I also went to my local Asian grocer in Chicago to supplement with some Kaffir lime leaves, Thai eggplant, fresh wonton noodles and Thai basil.
I did a quick sear of the leg to get the skin crispy then used some of the chicken fat in the pan to sauce garlic, serrano chili, ginger and shiitake. I deglazed the pan with the juice of a lime and then added the quartered Thai eggplant.
I put that to the side and in a tiny bit of oil, cooked some shrimp paste for that umami funk that tastes so good! A bit of a chili sauce I had in the fridge (homemade of course) it has in it chili, fish sauce and sugar, some rice wine and the coconut milk, along with a handful of the lime leaves.
Poured the liquid over the vegetables and then nestled the chicken in the pan and baked it for about 30 minutes.
I took the chicken out of the pan and reduced the liquid over a medium flame. I did not want the juice to be too thin.
I love taking fresh wonton noodles, cooking them briefly, draining them and tossing with a bit of either sesame or a neutral oil and some white pepper. Then I put them in a pan with a bit of butter and crisp them on one side, flip them and bake till crispy. Cutting them into wedges and serving them with the chicken, they make a nice contrast to the soft bird.
To finish the dish, I wanted some green for color and flavor too. I made a simple dressing of lime zest and juice, olive oil, fish sauce and white pepper. I tossed in sliced scallions, the Thai basil and some cashews that I roasted with some salt, onion and garlic powder.
When they got up from the table they said, can we tell for the 27th time how good dinner was tonight?!?!
Yes. Yes, tell me again!