Tuesday, March 22, 2011

tv dinner

So, I've already missed my goal of blogging every day during break.  Last night the internet was out for awhile in the evening, and then I fell asleep on the (very orange) couch.  Oh well.

I had already enjoyed Makiko Itoh's Just Bento and Just Hungry websites, so when Serious Eats posted recipes from her Just Bento Cookbook, I was ready to jump on the chance to try some reliable and fairly simple Japanese recipes.  By the way, I just found out that Makiko lives what must be an amazing life split between Japan, Switzerland, and Southern France.  Wow.

My first foray into Just Bento recipes was Chicken Karaage - Japanese fried chicken.  I typically avoid frying foods at home, but this sounded too great to pass up.  Unfortunately for my health, but fortunately for my taste buds, this frying adventure led to several more fried dishes in the following weeks.

The recipe called for boneless chicken thighs, which I was unable to find, so I struggled with pulling the bones out of a package of thighs.  I do recommend using thighs, despite the hard work.  All the fatty strains liquefied and just made the already juicy dark meat even more succulent.  I opted to leave the skin off this time, but I'm sure my husband would have appreciated the inclusion of the skin.

The chicken karaage was meant to be a bento meal for the following day's lunch, but after our first bite, we couldn't stop eating until it was all gone.  Best TV dinner ever.

Chicken Karaage
from the Just Bento Cookbook by Makiko Itoh via Serious Eats

This recipe was intended for one serving for a bento lunch.  I quadrupled the recipe to use a 1-lb package of chicken thighs and it served two, although it could serve more if you are not as gluttonous as we were!  We dipped our chicken pieces in green onion sauce as we ate them, but I'd be interested to see what the texture would be like if I followed the directions and dipped them right after frying.

1 lb boneless chicken thigh, with or without skin, cut into 3–4 pieces  
4 tsp soy sauce (if you are not making the green onion sauce, increase to 2 tsp) 
4 tbsp sake 
4 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger 
vegetable oil, for deep-frying 
8 tbsp cornstarch (or enough to cover chicken pieces)
handful green salad leaves or other vegetable
cooked short-grain rice
For the green onion sauce: 
4 tbsp rice vinegar 
4 tbsp soy sauce 
4 tbsp finely chopped green onion
Pinch sugar
A few drops sesame oil  
4 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger

Combine the chicken, soy sauce, saké, and ginger. Let marinate for at least 10 minutes or overnight. (If you need to leave it marinating for more than 12 hours, omit the soy sauce and add it 10 minutes before cooking, or the salt will draw out too much moisture from the chicken and make it dry.)
Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, drain, and coat in the cornstarch.

Heat 1 inch (2.5cm) of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Test the oil temperature by putting a little of the cornstarch-and-marinade coating on the end of a wooden chopstick and dipping it into the oil. If the coating sizzles and turns brown immediately, the oil is hot enough. If the oil starts getting smoky, turn down the heat.

Fry the chicken pieces in the oil, turning once, until a deep golden brown. Drain well on paper towels.

To make the green onion sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small frying pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Put the chicken pieces in the pan and toss to coat each piece with the sauce.

Let cool completely before packing into a bento box. Putting a layer of arugula or other salad leaves under the chicken enhances the color of the chicken and provides another texture in the bento.

Note from Serious Eats: You can cook chicken karaage the night before. If I’m making this for dinner, I usually set aside a few pieces for the next day’s bento. Chicken kara-age can be frozen uncooked and marinated, or cooked. To freeze it uncooked and marinated, put the chicken and marinade (excluding the soy sauce) into a freezer bag. Defrost in the refrigerator in a bowl, adding the soy sauce before frying. Cooked frozen pieces can be defrosted in the refrigerator, then crisped up for a few minutes in a toaster oven. I don’t recommend defrosting cooked pieces in a microwave, since this will make the chicken tough. 

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