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05/18/2017

~Thai-Style Grill-Pan Chicken Tacos w/Peanut Sauce~

IMG_9238Over the years, like many other busy foodies, I've come to the conclusion that tacos should be referred to as a style of eating. Like two slices of bread, a tortilla is a great foil for anything that tastes great in a sandwich.  I keep corn and flour tortillas on hand in my refrigerator 365/24/7, and, on any given day, there's "no telling" what cold or hot leftovers I'm going to put in them -- anything and everything is "fair game".  That said, over the years, like many other foodies, I've started coming up with fresh, new-to-me ways to serve tacos that don't involve leftovers.

My love affair with all types of Asian food is no secret.  Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. You name it, I adore it.  Give me a recommendation for an Asian restaurant in your locale, when I'm in your town, you can be sure I'm going there to eat.  I dabble in cooking a great deal of it too. I crave Asian and rarely does a week go by without my needing it.  Some of my recipes have been classically learned, while others are a product of my own creative cravings for Asian fare.

IMG_9254Today:  Thai-Asian flavor meets the Tex-Mex soft taco.

"Fusion cuisine" or "fusion food".  Popularized in the 1970's, these words describe the preparation of a meal that combines two different culinary styles and/or traditions to create a new dish. Today's recipe teams some of my favorite Thai-Asian flavors and traditional Thai-Asian ingredients with the Tex-Mex taco-style of eating grilled meat, poultry or fish.  My marinated chicken mixture is being prepared in a grill pan instead of a wok, it's being heaped into a soft flour tortilla atop a broccoli slaw (which is replacing the typical shredded lettuce mixture), and, a spicy peanut sauce gets drizzled over the top (instead of salsa and/or sriracha-infused crema).

Indulge me in this delish 5-minutes-to-fix Asian slaw recipe.

No pretense here.  They day I came across store-bought "broccoli cole slaw mix" (cole slaw mix made with crunchy green broccoli stems instead of green cabbage), my mind immediately raced to the flavors of soy sauce and sesame oil.  Why?  Broccoli is classic Asian.  There's more.  I didn't have to experiment with the perfect dressing for it -- I'd already come up with one for my Asian chicken salad recipe.  After a quick mix of the pre-shredded store-bought raw vegetables and my honey-sesame dressing, Asian slaw perfection was revealed.  The brand I use is organic, and, contains just three crunchy ingredients:  broccoli, carrots and red cabbage. It truly is a high-quality time-saving mixture that any busy cook can and should appreciate.

IMG_09781/4  cup each: vegetable oil and white rice vinegar

1  tablespoon each: sesame oil and Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1, 12-ounce bag broccoli slaw + 1/2 cup thinly-sliced scallions

IMG_0977Step 1.  In a measuring container w/a tight fitting lid, combine all the liquid ingredients.  Shake vigorously.

IMG_0986IMG_0982Step 2. Place the broccoli cole slaw in a medium bowl and add all of the dressing.  Give it a thorough stir.

Place the slaw in the refrigerator for 2-6 hours (or overnight will work too), stopping to stir it about every 30-45 minutes in the beginning so that all the slaw gets to absorb the dressing equally.  Note:  This recipe yields 3/4 cups of salad dressing and 4 cups of broccoli cole slaw.

Spicy 5-minutes-to-fix creamy-crunchy peanut sauce too.

I especially love this spicy classic-Thai sauce incorporated into poultry or pork dishes, but, it's great drizzled on my Thai-chicken pizza (another example of a fusion meal), and, it's a fantastic dipping sauce for raw vegetables or a dressing for salads, noodles and noodle salads too.  My recipe yields 2 1/2 cups, and, while that might sound like a lot, it freezes great and thaws relatively fast.  A little goes a long way, so I typically portion it into 5, 1/2-cup containers. 

51ahAHfpozL._AA160_A bit about peanut sauce:  This sauce is widely used in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa.  The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar.  Pulverized spices (red chile peppers, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and /or lemongrass, are almost always added.  You can easily purchase your favorite brand, but, when you see how easy this is to make, I don't know why you would.  My recipe, which came from my Thai girlfriend Kanya, contains one small can of Thai-style red curry paste, which provides all of the above named pulverized spices.

IMG_9773For the peanut sauce:

2  tablespoons sesame oil

1  4-ounce can Thai-style red curry paste

1  13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (briefly stir after opening the can)

6  tablespoons smooth or chunky-style peanut butter

2  tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar (light or dark brown sugar may be substituted

IMG_9777IMG_9781IMG_9783IMG_9787IMG_9790~Step 1. Place the sesame oil and the red curry paste in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring almost constantly, until the curry paste is bubbling rapidly and is very fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the coconut milk, peanut butter and sugar.  Continue to simmer steadily but gently, stirring almost constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  

IMG_9804Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes.  Serve slightly warm, or, place in a food storage container (or two) and cool, uncovered, until sauce is at room temperature.

Store indefinitely in the refrigerator and reheat gently in the microwave, stirring occasionally prior to serving.

Oh my Thai:  Marinated & grilled moist & juicy chicken strips.

IMG_9153I use chicken breast tenderloins because they stay juicier & moister than ordinary boneless, skinless chicken breasts do when subjected to the high, dry heat of a grill or a grill pan.  Feel free to use what you like best, but in either case, lightly-pound them with a flat-sided meat mallet for added tenderness.  That said, feel free to substitute thinly-sliced and lightly-pounded pork tenderloin for the chicken tender -- it'll be just as good.

IMG_9173For the chicken & the marinade:

2  pounds boneless chicken tenderloins, about 10 large tenderloins (pictured above)

1/4  cup each:  honey, lime juice (fresh or high-quality organic), &, Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons each: Thai fish sauce & sesame oil

1  tablespoon each:  garlic paste & ginger paste

1/4  cup minced cilantro leaves

1/4  cup thinly-sliced green onion, white & light green part only

1-2  small, hot, cayenne chile peppers, minced

IMG_9221For the assembly:

12, 6"-round flour tortillas

5 cups, chicken tenderloin strips, marinated and grilled as instructed below

4  cups Asian broccoli slaw, from above recipe

1  cup Thai peanut sauce, from above recipe

1  cup chopped & lightly-toasted unsalted peanuts, for garnish 

IMG_9164 IMG_9158~ Step 1. Sandwich tenderloins between two pieces of plastic wrap on a flat work surface.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, lightly pound them to a thickness of about 1/2" -- do not smash them to smithereens.

IMG_9190 IMG_9179~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container or a small bowl, stir together all of the marinade ingredients as listed.  Pour the marinade into a 1-gallon food storage bag, add the pounded tenderloins, seal the bag and toss to coat.  Set aside to marinate for about 2 hours at room temperature, or 4-6 hours in the refrigerator.

IMG_9193 IMG_9202 IMG_9211 IMG_9217~Step 3.  On the stovetop, heat a grill pan that's been lightly- with no-stick cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add half of the tenders (5) and grill until golden and cooked through on both sides, turning only once, 6-7 total minutes, about 4-4 1/2 minutes on the first side and 2-2 1/2 minutes on the second side, regulating the heat carefully as the honey in the marinade (like sugar) can scorch.  Transfer the cooked tenders to a plate and repeat process with remaining tenders (5). Slice each tender into long thin strips, then, slice strips into thirds.  It's time to eat:

In each of 12, soft flour tortillas, place 1/3 cup Asian broccoli slaw & 1/2 cup grilled chicken strips.  Drizzle w/a generous tablespoon spicy peanut sauce & garnish w/a sprinkling of toasted peanuts:  

IMG_9247These are some rockin' & rollin' soft-taco, Thai-wrap sandwiches:

IMG_9262Thai-Style Grill-Pan Chicken Tacos w/Peanut Sauce:  Recipe yields 4  cups broccoli slaw, 1  cup peanut sauce, &, 5 cups grilled chicken strips/enough to fill 12 tacos/12 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; 1-gallon food storage bag; grill pan

IMG_0825Cook's Note:  This kid-tested mother-approved recipe was one of the ways I introduced my three growing boys to the flavors of Thai food.  You can find my recipe for ~ E-Z Thai-Style Ginger-Chicken Pizza w/Spicy Peanut Sauce ~ in Categories 2, 3, 13, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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