It's a fact: Parents know the recipes for painless dinners. They’ve been there, done that at 5 o’clock on a weeknight, with hungry kids clinging to their legs. They’ve built up an arsenal of tried-and-true recipes to avert the meltdown and avoid ordering pizza.
Tonight, take a cue from mother and Food52er monkeymom, who got this go-to chicken recipe from her own mother. Soy Saucy Chicken and Eggs is a delicious crowd-pleaser for young and old eaters alike; throw in the Spicy Cucumber Salad for some green, and you’re good to go. After your meal, make sure you thank your mother or father for all those nights they put dinner on the table.
Serves 4 with leftover chicken and eggs
1 large or 2 medium European cucumbers
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 pounds chicken thighs
2 slices ginger
1 cup canned diced tomatoes; 3 fresh tomatoes, diced; or 3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (fresh or dried and rehydrated)
Dried red chili peppers (optional)
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
5 dried Thai chiles, or 3 for milder heat
1/2 jalapeño, minced
7 Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 cup packed torn cilantro leaves
We're assuming you have sugar, garlic, wine (rice wine, sherry, sake, or a sweet white wine), soy sauce, brown sugar, and salt. If not, be sure to add those to your list, too.
1. Boil the eggs: Put the eggs in a pot and cover them with water. Place the pot on the stove over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, then drain the pot and rinse the eggs with cold water. Leave the cold water running, crack the eggs under it, and then peel and set the eggs aside. Don’t worry if the eggs are hard to peel -- ugly eggs still taste good.
2. Prep the cucumbers: Peel the cucumbers, then cut them lengthwise into quarters and discard the seeds. Using the flat side of a cleaver or a large knife, bash the cucumbers several times. Cut the pieces lengthwise into thinner strips, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Place the cucumber in a medium bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Pour this mixture over the cucumber, mix well, and set aside.
3. Cook the chicken: Take off the skin from at least half of the chicken thighs, since it adds flavor but too much fat. Place 4 cloves of smashed garlic and the ginger slices in a large pot on medium-high heat. Place the chicken in, skin side down, and brown it on all sides for 5 minutes. Make sure that lthe garlic doesn't burn.
4. Make the sauce: Add 1/4 cup of wine to the pot of chicken and deglaze the pot for a couple of minutes. Then add in the tomatoes, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, mushrooms, and peppers. Add 1/2 cup of water, gently stir to mix the ingredients, and let the liquid come to boil. At this point, taste the sauce and adjust with soy sauce, sugar, or water. Add the cooked eggs, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. (You may also need to add more water so that the chicken and eggs are just barely covered.)
5. Stir-fry the salad dressing: Place a wok or skillet on the stove over high heat. When it's hot, add the peanut or vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the dried chiles, jalapeño, and peppercorns and stir-fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour this mixture over the cucumbers. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mound the salad in a shallow bowl, then sprinkle on the torn cilantro leaves.
6. Plate the chicken: Skim any excess fat off the chicken and serve it alongside the salad. Use water to dilute the sauce to your taste.
Photos by James Ransom