Right out of college, back in 1982, Thai food was gaining momentum in the U.S. I remember working out hard, so I could pig out on delicious chicken satays with spicy peanut sauce at Chicago’s Star of Siam.
This recipe is my ode to that chicken satay. The skewers can be served as an appetizer or main course. If using wooden skewers, soak them first to prevent burning when cooking. If serving as a main course and prep time is limited, you can use whole chicken breasts or thighs instead. Just adjust the cooking time.
Except for those who have a food allergy to peanuts, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like peanut sauce. If you have vegetarians in your house, you can marinate tofu or vegetables in the marinade and serve them with the peanut sauce. The peanut sauce also works wonders on a vegetable platter for your next dinner party.
These days, the ingredients are readily available in most grocery stores, including Whole Foods, or any Asian market, which means I no longer have to go to a Thai restaurant after my workouts. Now I can just go home and get my fix of chicken satay.
Bibby Gignilliat is the founder of Parties That Cook, a San Francisco-based culinary event company; www.PartiesThatCook.com.
Chicken Skewers with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Makes 24 to 30 skewers
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk (shake well before opening)
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
Spicy peanut sauce:
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (well shaken)
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
¼ cup palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
¼ cup natural-style peanut butter
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Cilantro to garnish
If using wooden skewers, soak 6- to 10-inch-long skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the chicken breasts into thin strips, about 1 inch by 2 inches, about ½-inch thick.
Marinate the chicken: Combine the remaining ingredients — coconut milk, palm/brown sugar, curry powder, lime juice and fish sauce — in a shallow bowl. Add the chicken strips, toss to coat and marinate for 2 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.
For the peanut sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind paste, peanut butter, paprika and garlic and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until thickened.
Thread two or three pieces of the chicken onto each skewer so that the tip is covered with the chicken meat and it lays flat (i.e., do not bunch the pieces together). Wrap the remaining exposed skewer in foil. Broil under high heat, 1 to 2 inches from the heating element, for 2 minutes on each side. Or use an outdoor grill and grill until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve on a platter with a dish of the peanut sauce for dipping, garnished with cilantro.