I have a new resolution to cut back on my daily trips to the market, and utilize what is already in stock in my kitchen. Months can go by without me remembering that, for no particular recipe, I purchased several bags of Beluga lentils to have for a rainy day. The obvious incentive for utilizing provisions in the pantry or fridge is that less goes to waste and you create extra space (for all the new ingredients I will undoubtedly buy tomorrow!). The less apparent motivation is that it forces spontaneous creativity, and some of my favorite recipes are actually the concoctions of whatever happens to be in house at the time.
On a recent evening my pantry provisions dinner was so successful that I made a trip out to the store the following afternoon to replenish the used ingredients and recreate the meal all over again that very night. It was a basic chicken and rice dish, two things I almost always have on hand, but I threw in a couple of odds and ends from the pantry to liven it up. Plain jane chicken breast is not all that interesting, but it can be a sponge for almost any savory flavor imaginable. I received a set of spice blends from Penzey’s for Christmas and one is labeled “sate”. It is essentially an Indonesian curry blend that incorporates spices such as coriander, ginger, tumeric and lemongrass, among others. I marinated the chicken in a generous rub of this, along with some Thai bird chiles, soy sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. After giving the meat several hours to absorb the flavor, I roasted it over high until the breast was cooked, and the sauce syrupy. Once cooled, I shredded the chicken and piled it on a bed of brown rice with plenty of the cooking liquid drizzled on top.
To make the rice more appetizing I substituted some of the cooking water with coconut milk and wove in a can of black beans at the very end for texture. Before serving I spruced it up with some chopped cilantro and extra lime juice. The end result was a surprising harmony of tropical flavors and a much needed pick-me-up on a cold, blustery day.
The wine I chose to pair with it, 2009 La Cana Albarino, matched perfectly with its slight effervescence, minerality and lime notes. Its crisp acidity quelled the heat of the chiles and was a good balance with the exotic flavors in the chicken.
2 whole chicken breasts
2 Tbsp Penzey’s “Sate” spice blend
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Thai bird chiles, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 C brown basmati rice
1 C light coconut milk
1.5 C water
1 C cooked black beans
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving
Combine the first ten ingredients together in a medium, greased baking dish so that you form a spice rub around the chicken. Allow the meat to marinate like this for 2 hours. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Combine the rice, coconut milk and water together along with twp pinches of salt. Cover, and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer. Allow the rice to cook for about 40 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is fluffy. Meanwhile, place the chicken in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until cooked. Allow the chicken to cool slightly before shredding each breast into large pieces. Toss the shredded chicken in the sauce before piling over a mound of the cooked rice. Garnish each serving with some of the cilantro and plenty of freshly squeezed lime juice.