Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spicy Chicken

Let me start by saying that I do not recommend re-creating this dish. Seriously. Don't do it.

I was reading another food blog and came across an entry about a maniacally spicy Thai curry. The blogger mentioned how the dish was so spicy it created an altered state of mind. That got me thinking about my past experience with spicy food and I decided that I, too, wanted to get "high" through chilis.

So, this is an attempt to create my spiciest dish ever. However, I also wanted something that would taste good so I thought long and hard about chili-loving cuisines and how chili heat can be incorporated in a multitude of ways. I think I ended up striking a pretty good balance between flavor and raging, vengeful heat.

I came up with a blueprint for the dish. From Indian cuisine, I would start with an onion/ginger/chili puree and use that as a marinade for boneless chicken. The fresh chilis in the marinade would be roasted which is a very typical Mexican technique. A large handful of chopped garlic and Thai chile is how I usually make my Thai chicken stir-fry so I stole that from my SE Asian playbook. When I make Chinese mapo tofu, I usually toss in some powdered, dried chili and I thought that I could incorporate that idea in this dish so I came up with a special, proprietary blend of dried, powdered chilis. This addition gives the dish a rich, red color and fragrant aroma.

But what kind of chilis? There are a bewildering number of available choices...I rooted through my pantry and here is what I found:

See what I mean by a bewildering number of choices? Anyhow, the first step is to make the dried chili powder blend:
I started with a few Sichuanese chilis, a few Chinese dried chilis and some dried Thai chilis. To that I added Korean ground chilis, Mexican ancho chili powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. A good deal of heat, but, more important, an intriguing flavor. Don't ask for proportions because I just added a bit of this, a bit of that and constantly tasted until I came up with something that made me happy. Notice the cup of water...yep, I was already feeling the burn.
Roast some fresh chilis...I used two jalapeno and two serrano chilis. To roast them, just turn on the broiler and place the chilis under the broiler for a few minutes. Turn the chilis to roast the other're looking for somewhat blackened, blistered skin. The roasted chilis will be a little soft and mushy.
Stem the chilis:Chop up half of an onion and mince a one inch piece of ginger. Roughly chop a few cloves of garlic:
Place the ginger, onion, roasted chili, and garlic into a food processor and blend until smooth. If the mixture creeps up the side of the food processor, just scrape the sides down with a spatula and continue blending. Add a bit of water if it doesn't want to blend.
Taste for seasoning. I used fish sauce and vinegar. Vinegar because I wanted some tang, like an Indian vindaloo. Empty the blended mixture into a large bowl. At this point, I tossed in two tablespoons of my dried, ground chili powder mixture. I also tossed in 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black peppercorns. Stir to combine.Yes, it is pretty spicy.

Chop up some chicken into bite sized pieces. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Roughly 1.5 lbs. Combine with the marinade and mix well. Set aside to marinate for a few hours.
When you're read to eat, it's time to finish the rest of the prep work. Mince 15 cloves of garlic:

Chop 30 little Thai chilis. This is a significant number of peppers...I usually roll with 10-15 when I'm making a spicy stir-fry. And check out this multi-colored delight!Proof positive that a red chili is just a matured green chili!

Slice two fresno chilis:

Pick the leaves off of 1 bunch of Thai basil:
I also measured out some additional seasoning, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar and a fish sauce, soy sauce mixture...probably 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce.Gather all the ingredients:
This is in order of when they go into the pot...garlic/minced chilis, then some dried chili powder, then the meat/onion mixture, then the fresno chilis, soy/fish sauce/sugar and Thai basil to finish.

Hot wok, oil (use quite a bit...maybe 1/3 of a cup), toss in the garlic/minced chili:
Cook until fragrant. When the chili hits the oil, you'll probably start coughing/sneezing.

When fragrant, toss in a few tablespoons of the dried chili powder blend:
Cook the chili powder in the oil. Look for a rich red color.

Toss in the onion/chicken mixture. Mix well and cook for a minute or two. Toss in two cups of chicken broth:Bring to a boil and cook for a minute or two.

Toss in the sliced fresno chilis, brown sugar and the fish sauce/soy mixture. Mix well and taste for seasoning. Go fish sauce, salt, whatever you think it needs. It might be spicy. Chuck in the Thai basil and stir just so the basil leaves wilt.Done! Now that I think of it, some fresh squeezed lime juice would be a nice addition.

So, yah, this dish was pretty spicy. It wasn't AS spicy as I had hoped but I was nearly hyperventilating as I ate it. My stomach wanted to kill me. I was sweating profusely. It packed quite a punch. However, I think I can make something even spicier...we'll see if I get around to it anytime body is still punishing me for eating that much spice in one sitting. And like I said at the top of the post, please don't make this dish. I have a pretty high tolerance for spicy food. This dish might've killed a lesser man.

Final tally: 2 jalapenos, 2 serranos, 2 fresno chilis, 30 Thai chilis and approximately 4 tablespoons of chili powder. I also garnished my serving with extra chili powder and some bottled chili sauce.

Time- 30 minutes of chopping and all that. A few hours to marinate. Cooking time is around 10 minutes.

Food Cost-
Total- $4.75...probably serves 4-5...a little of this goes a long way. About $1.00 per serving.

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George said...

In your next video, try having a different kind of music playing in the background. Something like Enya.

Or maybe watch an episode of "Barefoot Contessa," and draw inspiration from her. You are like the anti-Contessa. "Beshoed Budgetcollegecook"

George said...

mike, i am feeling the need for spicy. I recommend you have another crack at "the spiciest dish ever"