3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs: $4.35
1/4 cup apricot or peach jam (pro-rated): $0.69
6 limes: $2.00 Small knob ginger: $0.28
Pantry items: Garlic, curry powder, soy sauce, peanut butter (optional)
Total cost (for 4 to 6 portions): $7.32
When I was a little girl, my uncle Victor was my chief tormentor. The youngest of my mother's three brothers had an impish streak that rejoiced in my vexation. He was devoted to me but had a rib-poking, name-calling, infuriating way of showing it.
Years passed, and Victor's son was born. In my young cousin, my uncle had a new target for his loving pranks, and I had a long-awaited reprieve. For the first time, I was able to see what years of peevishness had obscured: Victor, in addition to being a screwball, is one of the best cooks I know.
A graduate of a Chinese restaurant academy in Hong Kong, my uncle cooks with the fiery alacrity of one accustomed to short orders and flaming woks. Victor never did open the restaurant of his dreams in Vancouver, but he runs his home kitchen very much like one. He has that Cantonese mastery of balance, deploying sweetness, acidity, and aromatics with a generous but judicious hand.
Not having grown up in the United States, my vision of a cookout doesn't really include hot dogs or hamburgers. Instead, it's influenced by what my uncle Victor always serves at his: a selection of inexpensive meats in gutsy marinades, which might include Coke-basted chicken wings, or sweet, fatty pork neck dotted with lemongrass and bird's eye peppers.
Today's recipe, which you might consider for your Labor Day menu, isn't my uncle's, but is very much in his spirit. Tender morsels of dark-meat chicken are slathered in a marinade that's equal parts sweet, citrusy, and fragrant.
Curry powder provides golden color and rich aroma, and the apricot jam will ensure a luscious, char-speckled gloss.
You can prepare these skewers on a grill pan, under the broiler, or outdoors on the grill. I've included serving suggestions and a number of variations for this superbly adaptable--and always affordable--dish. Still within the $8 budget, the recipe will feed 4 to 6.
Curried Chicken Skewers with Lime-Apricot Glaze
- Yield:4 to 6
- For the marinade:
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup apricot or peach jam
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 tablespoon mild curry powder
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1-inch section ginger, coarsely chopped
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
- Lime wedges for serving
- Sweet-and-tangy peanut dipping sauce (optional; recipe follows)
(recipe follows), reserve about 1/5 of the marinade before it comes into contact with the raw chicken and set aside.
Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces. Thread the chicken onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water overnight. Leave plenty of room so you can grab the skewer at the bottom--the meat should not extend from one end to the other
Lightly oil grill pan and place over high heat until just starting to smoke. Working in batches, lay skewers on pan and cook until the chicken develops grill marks, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn each skewer over to brown the other side, an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Test for doneness by cutting into the thickest part of the skewer.
Broiler method: Preheat the broiler for at least 5 minutes and position the rack so that the skewers will be 3 inches from the heat source. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place each skewer on the pan, arranging them so that the meat is in the center of the pan and the skewers slightly hang over the outside, and slide into the broiler. Broil until the chicken develops a few char spots, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn each piece over to brown the other side, an additional 5 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Test for doneness by cutting into the thickest part of the skewer.
Grill method: Oil the grill rack liberally. When the fire is hot, place each skewer on the grill, making sure that the chicken, not the skewer, is directly over the heat. Grill the chicken until it is cooked through and has begun to pick up a few crispy brown-black spots, about 2 to 5 minutes (depending on how hot the fire is). Turn the skewers over carefully and continue grilling until the other side is browned, another 2 to 5 minutes. Test for doneness by cutting into the thickest part of the skewer.
Serve with peanut dipping sauce and/or lime wedges for squeezing.
Sweet-and-Tangy Peanut Dipping Sauce
Reserve about 1/5 of the marinade before it has come into contact with the raw chicken. Take desired amount of peanut butter and dilute with enough marinade so that a dipping consistency is reached.
Substitute orange juice for the fresh lime juice, omitting the added sugar.
To make a marinade for lamb or pork skewers, substitute redcurrant jelly for the apricot jam.
For an easy supper dish, pour marinade over chicken drumsticks and roast at 400F in a foil-lined baking dish, turning occasionally, until skin is caramelized and chicken is cooked through.
The chicken is great eaten straight off the skewer, with or without the dipping sauce, but here are a couple of delicious ways to stretch it out a bit:
Brush pita breads with oil and toast on the grill or under the broiler. Cut in half and stuff with chicken pieces, diced cucumber and peanut dipping sauce.
Make lettuce cups or wraps with Boston or Bibb leaves. Serve with peanut dipping sauce.