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~ Thai-Style Oven-Roasted Barbecued Half Chicken ~

IMG_5282In the wide, wide world of food, almost every culture has a favorite way to serve grilled chicken. In Thailand, that would be gai yang.  Those are the Thai words for grilled chicken, more specifically a very small, whole or half chicken that's been marinated in a soy-and-fish-sauce-based coconut-creamy, cilantro-greeny mixture laced with fragrant lemongrass, ginger, garlic and scallions. Throughout Thailand, the recipe for gai yang does vary from cook-to-cook, but not very much.

Not to be confused w/authentic Thai gai yang...

IMG_5323... mine = American chicken infused w/authentic Thai flavor.

05302013-grilled-free-range-chicken-largeIn Thailand, small, lean chickens are skewered, cooked over charcoal and sold as gnaw-off-the-stick street food*.  In my American-kitchen version, the chickens are plump, juicy and melt-in-your mouth tender.

Oh my Thai.  Too many Americans have the preconceived notion that Thai food is super-spicy -- fiery hot. It's not.  Like anything, one can make it super-spicy if one desires, but, if you ever eat a few meals in Thailand or in a Thai home kitchen, one quickly learns that Thai cuisine is an addictively well-balanced blend of sweet, sour, salty and subtle heat, with a bit of a citrusy, bitter edge.

There's more.  Aromatic herbs (like basil, cilantro and/or mint) and spices (like chile, galangal, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and/or scallion), all add to the unique aroma- and flavor-infusing process that distinguishes Thai food from others.

*The chickens raised in Thailand are small, lean and boney (scrawny) with an intense (gamey) flavor.  This does not mean they're inferior.  It means they are different from what we purchase in an American market.  If I cannot purchase a similar product here, it makes no sense for me to try to duplicate it.  That said, I sure can produce a Thai-style barbecued chicken that'll taste amazing.

Making the marinade & marinating the chickens:

All Thai recipes for barbecue chicken begin by making the marinade -- from this standpoint, my recipe is authentic.  Traditionally, many of the ingredients get pulverized in a stone mortar and pestle, but, here in my American home kitchen, I make short work of this laborious process by using my food processor -- why wouldn't I or anyone who owns a pulverizing machine not use it.

IMG_5080For the chickens and the marinade:

2  3 1/2-4-pound frying chickens, as even in size as possible, split in half, backbones removed, 4 pieces total (Note:  I call in advance and ask my local butcher to do this for me.)

4  ounces coarse-chopped green onion, tender white and light-green parts only

2 ounces coarse-chopped, fresh cilantro stems and/or roots (Note:  Save the delicate leaves for garnish.  The majority of the bold, earthy flavor is housed in the roots and/or stems.)

2  ounces coarse-chopped, fresh lemon grass, tender white and light-green parts only

2  ounces peeled and coarse-chopped fresh ginger root

1-1 1/2  ounces, whole, fresh garlic cloves (6-10, large whole cloves)

8-10  small Thai bird chile peppers, red, green or a combination of both (Note:  These are small but mighty.  I grow them in our garden and keep them on-hand in my freezer.  Because they are so hot, I hold each one by the stem and use a pair of kitchen shears to "snip it" into whatever I'm cooking -- this keeps the heat from getting on my hands -- or worse, in my eyes.)

3  tablespoons Thai Squid brand fish Sauce

3  tablespoons Thai Golden Mountain brand seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar, or light brown sugar

1  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk

IMG_5083 IMG_5083 IMG_5083 IMG_5083 IMG_5083 IMG_5083 IMG_5083 IMG_5083~Step 1.  Prep green onion, cilantro, lemon grass, ginger, garlic and chile peppers, as directed, placing each one in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade as you work.  Using a series of 50-60 rapid on-off pulses, very-finely mince the ingredients.  Open the processor lid and use a spatula to scrape down sides of work bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar, to dissolve the sugar.  Add the sugar mixture to the work bowl, followed by the coconut milk.  Process again, using a series of 10-20 rapid on-off pulses followed by the motor running for 30-45 seconds.  There will be 3 3/4-4 cups marinade.

IMG_5103 IMG_5103 IMG_5103 IMG_5103 IMG_5103~Step 2.  Place each split chicken in a heavy-duty 2-gallon-sized food storage bag, positioning the halves so the sharp bones will face the inside once the bag is sealed.  Pour half of the marinade (about 2 cups) into each bag. Gather the bag tightly up around the chicken and twist or zip closed.  Using your hands, massage the bags, until each chicken is thoroughly coated in the marinade.  Allow to marinate in the refrigerator 6-8 hours (minimum), overnight, or up to 48 hours (maximum) -- remove from refrigerator 1 hour prior to roasting.

IMG_5245 IMG_5245 IMG_5275 IMG_5278~Step 3.  To roast, insert a wire rack in the bottom of a large 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, then place a sheet of parchment paper on the rack.  Open each bag of chicken. One-at-a-time lift each half chicken up and out, allowing the excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag*, then arrange the halves, side-by-side on the rack in prepared pan.  Roast, uncovered on center rack of 350º oven, 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a tip of a knife.  Remove from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minute, prior to serving.

*Note:  Do not discard the marinade in bags.  It will be used to make the sauce (recipe below).

Making & reducing the dipping & drizzling sauce:

What could be better than an aromatic, plump, moist, melt-in-your-mouth-juicy half chicken roasted in the oven?  How about a coconut-creamy, cilantro-dreamy to-die-for sauce.  Quickly and easily made on the stovetop from the marinade the chickens marinated in, plus a few on-hand additions, if your family is like mine, don't hesitate to make a double batch of this sublime sauce.

IMG_5249For the Sauce (use all marinade reserved from above, plus the following):

1  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk 

3  tablespoons Thai Squid brand fish sauce

3  tablespoons Thai Golden Mountain brand seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar, or light brown sugar

1  packet Herb-Ox instant,  IMG_5254granulated chicken bouillon (1, small foil packet)

6-8  kaffier lime leaves (Note:  I purchase these unique flavor-packed leaves at my Asian market and keep them on-hand in my freezer. When it comes to Thai cooking, these are what gives it its signature herby-citrus flavor.)

IMG_5246 IMG_5246 IMG_5257~ Step 1.  Place all leftover marinade you can retrieve from the bags in a wide-bottomed chef's-type pan. Stir in the the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, palm or brown sugar, instant bouillon and lime leaves.  Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then adjust heat to gently simmer. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until nicely-thickened and reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes.

The rice, the garnishes & serving up supper:

Jasmine rice, a fragrant-scented rice, is a very-important staple-ingredient in the Thai kitchen.  It's got a heavenly aroma, and, a lovely, fluffy texture when cooked.  In my kitchen, a simple bed of this freshly-steamed white rice, scattered with bits of sweet and tart pineapple, crunchy oven-roasted peanuts and delicate cilantro leaves are all I need to complete my family's Thai feast. 

IMG_5273For the rice and garnishes:

4  cups uncooked jasmine rice, 8 cups after steaming

2  cups diced pineapple (from 1 medium-large fresh pineapple)

1  cup chopped and lightly-roasted, unsalted peanuts

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves (reserved from above)

all  the sauce, for dipping and drizzling, prepared on stovetop as directed above

IMG_5263 IMG_5263 IMG_5263 IMG_5263 IMG_5287~Step 1.  On each of 4, 9"-10" warmed dinner plates (big plates for this big meal work best), prepare and make a bed of 2-cups jasmine rice. Scatter 6-8 tablespoons diced pineapple, 3-4 tablespoons chopped peanuts, and, 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves.  Top each portion with one split-chicken half and a small bowl of sauce for dipping and drizzling.

Oh my Thai-American oven-roasted barbecued half chicken:

IMG_5288When Thai flavors meet this American girl's kitchen:

IMG_5316My family's food world is a bigger, better place indeed:

IMG_5297Thai-Style Oven-Roasted Barbecued Half Chicken:  Recipe yields 4 very-hearty Thai-American servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; rubber spatula; 1-quart measuring container; 2, heavy-duty 2-gallon food storage bags; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; wire cooling-type rack; parchment paper; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1ea2794970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8604f55970bCook's Note: For another classic Thai street food recipe (small marinated cubes or thinly-sliced chicken or pork threaded onto bamboo skewers and grilled), which can semi-easily be duplicated in the American home kitchen, try my recipe for ~ Thai-Style Chicken or Pork Satay w/Peanut Sauce ~.  It's family-friendly and a tailgate favorite of adults and most kids too.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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