Works for Peanuts


Truth is, the chicken even would’ve done this for free.  So flavorful and vibrant are the Thai spices that enrobe it, the bird rises to perfection when the grill’s flames seal in all those juices and caramelize the curry paste.  The peanut dipping sauce tempts, but really, the chicken has all it needs.

Fine, but do we?  As tantalizing as are the flavors that go into the marinade beforehand, including the pantry of herbs and spices that make up curry paste, the peanut sauce is the final element that seduces the taste buds.  Creamy, nutty (naturally) and maybe a bit tangy, the peanut sauce engages similar elements in the chicken and inspires the tongue to sing long after. Is it any wonder peanut dipping sauce is one of the country’s favorite condiments?

So winning is the combination of poultry and groundnut, Fine Cooking saw fit to feature and provide instructions for both in its August/September 2019 issue.  The recipe sat in the archives for over two years, before future menu planning unearthed it this winter.  From then, the grill called with ever more insistence.  By February, the temptation was to shovel a path to the device, to brush off the snow that had accumulated, and to get cooking.  Such are the depths of male obsession.

Somehow, resistance persisted through March, but now that  robins have returned and green bestirs the first brave branches, it’s grillin’ time!  Not a moment too soon, either, as the fires waited all winter to work their magic.  Their tasks include kissing the skewered chicken with a spotty char, tucking in all the bird’s juiciness and infusing it with the marinade’s spirit.

By the time the chicken comes off the grill, it’s fulfilled its calling and doesn’t require much else.  Greater passions animate diners however, especially as they’ve waited for this moment all winter.  Only a dip in the peanut sauce will make the wait entirely worth it.  Spicy, creamy, tangy, with an intriguing touch of heat…  Yes!  Maybe the bird isn’t working for peanuts, but everyone else on the back deck is.  Happy spring!

*****

Thai Chicken Skewers with Peanut Sauce

For the peanut sauce:

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, stirred
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter (*1)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  •  1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons Thai red curry paste (*2)

For the chicken:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (*3)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts only and sliced thinly diagonally, for serving
  • lime wedges, for serving

First, make the dipping sauce.  Put a small saucepan over a medium flame.  Add the coconut milk, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce and curry paste.  Whisk well to combine and continue cooking until the mixture reaches a low simmer.  Turn off the heat, cover and reserve for later use.

Next, move on to the chicken.  Cut the thighs into 1-and-1/2 inch pieces.  Put these in a large sealable bag, and add the oil, lime juice, curry paste, garlic, salt and pepper.  Seal the bag, leaving a good amount of air trapped inside.

Once you’re confident the bag is completely sealed, toss and rotate the ingredient until the marinade is mixed and the chicken is thoroughly coated.  Open the seal and force out as much air as possible, then reseal  “Massage” the marinade into the chicken, refrigerate for at least an hour, up to a day. (*4)

Set the grill to a high flame.  When it reaches 500°, reduce the flame to medium.  Thread the chicken on metal skewers, so they just are touching, but are not tightly packed.  Grill the skewers over a direct flame, turning every so often to avoid burning, 10 minutes total.

Put the skewers on a serving platter, sprinkle with scallion slices, and serve with lime wedges and peanut dipping sauce.

NOTES:

1 – “Chunky” peanut butter is fine.  In fact, in deference to it being used in a peanut sauce, perhaps chunky is even better.

2 – Available in most mid-sized or larger supermarkets.  If not, amazon always offers a lifeline for such pantry items.

3 – Instead, try peanut oil.  Not only is it more central to Thai cuisine, but peanut oil is more aligned with the dish’s character.

4 – The longer, the better.  Overnight is ideal.  Wait too long, though, and the lime juice begins to toughen the poultry.  Still, it takes a while for this to happen; marinating for 18 hours or so is ideal.

10 thoughts on “Works for Peanuts

    1. Much appreciated, Crystal!

      Not only can you do this, you should! It’s a perfect way to inaugurate the 2022 grilling season. Although, you are in a warmer climate, and you are in Texas, thus I imagine the 2021 grilling season never ended. For that matter, the 1892 grilling season still is ongoing too.

      Point is, Crystal, when you give this a try I’d love to hear about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have savored Thai Peanut Sauce over steamed vegetables and it was absolutely satisfying. Thank you for this recipe cuz now I can create it at home without paying expensive restaurant prices! Thanks, Keith! 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Tamara! Serving the peanut sauce over steamed vegetables is a really good idea, actually, and I’ll have to try it.

      It is excellent poured over steamed rice, and I imagine it would be similarly complimentary to snow peas or to asparagus. Thanks for the idea!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All I really have to say is yummy yummy, although it does recall many fine memories of delicious Thai dinners in beloved restaurants. I have not tried to make this dish at home myself and probably wouldn’t attempt it until getting back to the US. I’ve decided to stop trying to buck the system and just go with the flow. Less headache.

    A grilled feast even! What a perfect way to bid adieu to winter. Send it off packing til the end of next fall. No more shoveling snow… hopefully. No surprise Spring snowstorms, please. Those are just especially cruel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, JoAnn! “Adieu” to winter, or “Hey There” to spring? Either applies, really. As is typical of men, I was plowing my way to the grill even in January. Still, it was nice not to have to wait an hour this time for the flames to bring everything up to temperature. Plus, I only needed to use a little imagination to fancy myself a hawker in Bangkok’s food market.

      Good call on waiting until you’re stateside again before trying some recipes. Your heart’s there, but the marketplace hasn’t caught up quite yet. It’s similar to what I did when leafing through Gourmet for ideas. Some of the preparations really had potential, but 74 of the nation’s 75 Vietnamese-Hungarian convenience stores are in the 212 area code, meaning those recipes went into a pile awaiting the arrival of an Amazon order, yet to be placed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, it’s not just a man thing I don’t think. I used to do that in winter too when I had one of those small portable grills. It’s too long of a wait until spring sometimes.

        There’s a lot I miss about America. The stuff people take for granted! Luckily they have the beautiful beaches to save everything.

        I used to try a lot of recipes from Cooking Light, they were pretty good. I didn’t always keep the dishes light though, lol. Remember all that low-fat cheese they were trying to get people to eat there for a while. Yuck!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah JoAnn, seriously. When a Northern winter sometimes lingers until early May (and perhaps even later in Idaho), there’s no way it’s humanly possible to wait for perfect grilling weather. We’re talking about maybe two months, mid-June through mid-August. It’s going to take more than just snow or chilliness to put off a serious outdoor aficionado.

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who makes “light” recipes a little sexier. Replace fat-free yogurt with Greek yogurt. Chicken breasts with chicken thighs. Margarine with butter. Naturally, there’s no need to be gratuitous about it, and many recipes are just as memorable with the leaner option, but making full use of the marketplace often takes a recipe from “Meh” to “Wow!”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Agreed, particularly in reference to butter. The terms margarine or “spread” just make me cringe… soybean oil manufactured to look like butter? No thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. See, people like us, we definitely can Believe It’s Not Butter. We weren’t fooled for one second.

        As for all those studies one reads about margarine being just as coronary-friendly as is butter, if not more so, ha, ha, and a thousand times, ha!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s