Thai chicken

chicken basil stirfry

I’ve made this Thai chicken stirfry three times so far, and I still can’t believe how easy and wonderful it is. The base recipe is from Alford and Duguid’s Hot Sour Salty Sweet: chop a pound of chicken (I like boneless thigh meat) into small pieces, and mince five cloves of garlic and a couple of serrano or bird chiles. Heat peanut oil in a wok and toss in the garlic and chile, then add the chicken. Stirfry until not quite cooked through, then add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a bit of soy, a bit of sugar, and cook it all together until the chicken is done. Add a big handful of Thai basil leaves and turn off the heat so they wilt but don’t overcook. Add a lot of freshly ground black pepper. The flavors are much bigger and more exciting than you’d think from the small amount of seasoning, but definitely don’t skimp on the garlic!

I’ve adapted the recipe by throwing in green beans or other veg, which was good but diluted the seasoning on the chicken – I think I prefer cooking a vegetable separately with its own flavors. I’ve also tried substituting a mix of cilantro and fresh mint for the Thai basil, which is a suggestion we got from Cook’s Illustrated. The original recipe actually calls for holy basil, but I can’t get that around here – someday I’ll try it. I imagine regular European basil would work, too, in a pinch. The stirfry should be served with plenty of rice to soak up the fish sauce-y juices.

cucumber salad

When I made the chicken again earlier this week I threw together this cucumber salad to go alongside. I glanced at two recipes but didn’t quite follow either; I put a spoonful of sugar in a bowl along with a splash of rice vinegar, a splash of Chinese black vinegar, and a drizzle of homemade chili oil, then stirred it all up and added diced, seeded cucumber and a handful of fresh chopped cilantro. We had to restrain ourselves from eating the whole bowlful so there would be leftovers.

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Chin Up

Chin Up

When the weather gets warm, my cocktail cravings turn to summery flavors like mint, cucumber, gin, rum and tequila. One of my favorite ways to use cucumber in a drink is a simple Hendrick’s martini with a thin wheel for garnish – it really brings out the cucumber flavor of the gin. When you want to get a little fancier, though, I highly recommend the Chin Up. Stupid name, but great drink, and using Cynar gives it a lovely color. I also love the hint of salt.

This is an excellent drink for a warm afternoon spent in the kitchen while cooking curry. The layers of bitterness and cool cucumber keep it both interesting and refreshing. It would also be good on the rocks, I’ll bet. I’ll have to try that.

Chin Up

Chin Up

  • 1/2 inch cucumber wheel
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz cynar
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • small pinch salt
  • one paper thin wheel of cucumber for garnish

Muddle the cucumber in a mixing glass. Add the gin, cynar, vermouth and salt, fill with ice, and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber.