Shake Your Coconuts
My favorite moments in the kitchen are the ones where the kitchen island is covered in cutting boards, ingredients and wine glasses, with friends assembled to laugh through the creation of a dish. If I had to recreate a desert island scenario with a top five list of partners in crime to cook with for life, my darling Neda would make the list every single time. Old skool dance moves – check. Dilligent drink refilling – check. Not-for-work jokes bordering on the inappropriate – check, check, CHECK. It’s evident that she’s spent a lot of time in the kitchen with bossy relatives, because she is considerate and helpful as a sous chef and chronically runs to wash the dishes (even when I scream at her not to…) Sure, there was that one time where she dumped the butter for the pretzels into the baking soda bath as opposed to setting it aside for later. But she repaid me with an ass-shake and some belly laughs. My love for her is endless.
When I had the auspicious task of coming up with a recipe for her in honor of her donation to the National MS Society, I wanted something as lovely and light as her personality. A recipe that would make her want to motorboat it at first blush. Since she was a fan of my Yogurt Chicken, I thought to adapt those flavors into a Southeast Asian-themed chicken marinade for a banh mi. This sandwich has all of the traditional Vietnamese condiments – shredded romaine, crisp daikon radish and carrots, and the cool crunch of mint and cilantro – adorning tender chicken prepared like a Thai satay. Nestled in the finest baguette you can find, you are in for a treat so glorious, you’ll want to scream “Son of a goat!” and break out into sassy jump kicks and boobie shakes.
You’re going to have more marinade than you need for the chicken, so if you are interested in grilling some shrimp, thinly-sliced pork, firm tofu, or sliced eggplant, set aside some of the marinade for your smorgasbord. Invite plenty of your favorite troublemakers over, cook with reckless abandon, and cackle until it hurts. I’ve learned from Neda that this is pretty much the whole reason for living. Love you, Feta Ravioli!
Grilled Coconut Chicken Banh Mi
The pickled daikon may seem a little difficult to make happen, but the sweet-and-salty crunch of this radish marinated in sugar, salt and vinegar makes it well worth the extra effort. And by extra, I mean very little effort. I use Andrea Nguyen’s recipe that takes a modest 10 minutes of prep and an hour of marinading. Back in the day, I used to have to get the daikon from an Asian market, but your well-stocked produce department carries these babies now. Epic win.
The pickled daikon may seem a little difficult to make happen, but the sweet-and-salty crunch of this radish marinated in sugar, salt and vinegar makes it well worth the extra effort. And by extra, I mean very little effort. I use Andrea Nguyen’s recipe that takes a modest 10 minutes of prep and an hour of marinading. Back in the day, I used to have to get the daikon from an Asian market, but your well-stocked produce department carries these babies now. Epic win.Makes 4 servings
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 3 tbs. of red curry paste
- 1 tbs. of fish sauce
- 1 tbs. of minced garlic*
- 1 tbs. of minced lemongrass*
- 1 tbs. of minced ginger*
- 1 tsp. of salt
- 1/2 tsp. of white pepper
- 1 lb. of chicken tenderloins
- 1 large baguette
- shredded romaine lettuce**
- sliced raw jalapenos
- sliced cucumbers
- shredded carrots
- pickled daikon
Get ready for an easy one, my loves. Whisk together the coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, salt and white pepper in a large tupperware. Toss the tenderloins into the marinade and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Heat your grill (or a well-oiled grill pan if you are outdoor grill challenged) and break the chicken out of the fridge. Grill your chicken until it is cooked through – about 4-6 minutes per side depending on the size and thickness of the tenderloins. The good news is that the coconut marinade helps to keep the chicken moist if you accidentally cook a little more than necessary.
Remove from the grill and set aside. While the chicken rests, cut the baguette into four pieces and split. Spread a little mayo on the baguette and top with as much greenery, herbs, carrot and pickle action as you’d like. Tuck 2-3 tenderloins into each baguette, close it up, chomp away and savor the glory.
* If your grocery store has them, try the Gourmet Garden tubes to save you time mincing. They don’t have the lame flavor of other pre-chopped garlic and ginger products, which I adore – just spicy goodness with zero work.
** Look for the pre-shredded lettuce with the bagged salad. It’s a lifesaver when you want to eat and you’re too lazy to slice.