19 August 2009

Ginger-Garlic Chicken with Fresh Fig Pan Sauce

Tonight in the test kitchen, we whipped up a chicken entree, paired with sauteed baby bok choy and long-grain rice. The chicken recipe, Ginger-Garlic Chicken with Fresh Fig Pan Sauce, comes from Cooking Light Magazine's August 2009 issue.

Now, typically, we'd link to the recipe in our post, but it's not available online yet. Instead, we'll provide it here along with our notes.

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion bottoms
1 pound ripe Kadota or Brown Turkey figs, cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion tops
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

This recipe goes fast once you start it, so it's worth investing time upfront to prepare all the ingredients. My fiance gives me a hard time about using so many prep bowls, but I think it's worth the extra dishwashing to avoid rushing around the kitchen like a mad woman. Here's what you need to do before you start:

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small, non-stick skillet. No oil is required; just put them in the pan over medium heat and keep 'em moving for about 3 minutes, until they start to brown.

2. Peel and grate the ginger. To save on time, we used bottled grated ginger, which resulted in less of a paste and more of a rub. We still got a great tangy ginger taste, so I wouldn't sweat the fresh ingredients on that one.

3. Grate a garlic clove. Again, to save on time and fresh ingredients, you could feasibly just used bottled minced garlic. The flavor is the same, and that's the important part.

4. Slice the figs. We nabbed 1 pound of black Mission figs on sale for $3.99; I'm not up on my fig varieties enough to tell you whether Mission figs are any different from the Kadota or Brown Turkey figs called for by the recipe, but the Mission figs sure were tasty!

5. Slice the green onion. I think it's great that this recipe utilizes the bottoms and the tops of the green onions. Usually I don't make it through a whole bundle in a week, but between this and Monday's dinner, those onions were toast.

Okay, now you're ready to go. Just grab those pantry staples and put them someplace that's easy to access from your stove.

Step 1: Place each chicken breast halfway between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound each chicken breast half to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet.This brings us to our first modification. We had some chicken thighs laying around, so we used those instead of chicken breasts. The swap left no real discernable impact to taste, but the thighs do have a more slippery texture.

Step 2: Combine ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and garlic in a small bowl; mash with a spoon to form a paste. Rub paste evenly over chicken; cover and chill 20 minutes.

One thing about the dishes I've tried from Cooking Light is that some - not all, but definitely some - are lacking in the seasoning department. We sensed this would be one of those, so after applying the rub to the chicken thighs, we sprinkled another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt over them, then tossed them right into the pan.

If you want to wait the 20 minutes to let the flavor soak in, now would be a good time to start preparing your long-grain or jasmine rice. Typically, stove-top rices need about 20 minutes to simmer, which means they'd be complete right around the time your sauce finishes. Perfect!

Step 3: Heat a large nonstick skillet over meadium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Now that the chicken's done, it's time to make the sauce.

Step 4: Add green onion bottoms to pan; saute 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add figs; saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, vinegar, and sesame oil; remove from heat.

At the same time we started the onions, we also began the bok choy side. We took one baby bok choy, previously sliced, and added it to a small, non-stick skillet on medium heat with about 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil. We stirred in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper and let it saute right along with those green onions and figs in our other pan. Baby bok choy is so tender that it was done in the three minutes it took to finish the sauce.

Plating: Spoon sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with green onion tops and sesame seeds.

The verdict: This dish was delicious and mildly sweet, and, aside from the upfront prep work and the wholly optional chicken-chilling time, took almost no time to prepare. Excellent!

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