Pan Roasted Chicken, Soy-Kaffir Lime Syrup, Cauliflower
When I first started cooking, I learned through immediate immersion. That is to say, I didn’t read a lot of books or memorize a bunch of techniques before I got in the kitchen. I just went in there and started cooking. It’s the best way to learn, in my opinion. Try something, make mistakes, learn from them, practice, and improve.
The first cookbooks I had were authored by Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. So, I ended up cooking fairly advanced recipes when I really had no idea what I was doing. Looking back a few years later, this small step has helped me more than anything else. It’s almost like I was taught by master chefs. I was whipping up aiolis and bearnaise sauce in my first few weeks of cooking. I would make dishes with up to three sauces on it. Of course, I wasn’t always successful – I made my share of mistakes. But at the end of the day, I’m a better cook for it. I got out there and didn’t limit myself to things that were at “my level”. I challenged myself to be the best cook I could be – and that came from getting out of my comfort zone.
Making sauces is one thing I enjoy above all others. It requires great technique and a mastery of combining flavors. A drizzle of this or a ladle of that can help take a dish from good to great. It’s the perfect complement to both the protein and the starch or vegetable. And one thing I love is that you can make one master sauce extremely versatile. Say, this soy-kaffir lime syrup taste great drizzled on a plate, but it can also be used as the base for a salad dressing, a glaze for a vegetables, or a marinade for meat. Once you make a large batch, the possibilities are endless. The sauce not only becomes a way to introduce flavor, it becomes an extremely versatile ingredient in your culinary arsenal through which your ideas are only limited by your imagination.
Pan Roasted Chicken, Soy-Kaffir Lime Syrup, Cauliflower (serves 4)
(Recipe adapted from Ming Tsai’s Simply Ming)
Soy-Kaffir Lime Syrup (makes 3 cups)
3 cups turbinado sugar, or brown sugar
2 cups naturally brewed soy sauce
2 cups kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce), or if you don’t have it another 2 cups of soy sauce plus 2 more cups sugar
1 cup fresh lime juice
8 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen), crushed, or the zest of 1 large lime
In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, soy sauce, kecap manis, lime juice, and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a very gentle simmer over medium heat, uncovered, being careful not to boil. Reduce the liquid by about half or until syrupy, 30 to 45 minutes. Test it for proper consistency by drizzling some in a line on cold plate – it should resemble maple syrup. Strain the syrup though a fine sieve to strain out the leaves. Let the syrup cool at room temperature and then use or store.
For the chicken and cauliflower
1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets
4 large boneless chicken breasts, skin on
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 bunch of scallions
1/4 cup soy kaffir lime syrup
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the cauliflower in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes, until tender. Remove to an ice batch to stop the cooking and then drain them. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Get a large pan, with some oil, over medium high heat. Season your chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. When the oil is almost smoking, lay in your chicken breasts and sear until the skin is nice and crispy – about 3-4 minutes. Flip the chicken breasts over, dump in the cauliflower, and drizzle the syrup all the ingredients (i used a basting brush to paint the chicken with the glaze).
Put the pan in the oven and let cook for 5-7 more minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
To assemble, lay some cauliflower on the plate. Top with one chicken breast. Garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and cilantro. Spoon a little bit more of the syrup over the food and around the plate.
What are the sauces that you like to make?