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  • Writer's picturethe_maestro

Summer Grilling: Thai Chicken Thighs

Things have been slow around here recently, mostly owing to the fact that my much-anticipated trip to California had to be shelved due to the new spikes in 'Rona cases across the country. I was planning since the beginning of June to be a part of the reopening of indoor dining in San Francisco, a place where the virus was well under control at the time I booked everything. There I had reservations to dine at the vaunted Atelier Crenn, one of the most spectacular restaurants in the country, allowing me to celebrate the chance to finally re-engage in one of my favorite things––dining out. I canceled the trip amid the news of the spikes, and just days later, the mayor of San Francisco suspended the re-opening of indoor dining. Fortuitous!

Even Maks feels the ennui

The news of the deteriorating situation 'round the country and the constant barrage of nonsense from certain *ahem* public officials and their disciples has just kinda sunk the Maestro into a depression where cooking interesting/elaborate things worthy of blog posts just isn't appealing. I retreated to my friends' home in Atlanta last week after I canceled my trip to try to get me out of my funk, and this week, I got a bit of pep in my step and bought some delicious things at the co-op. I was most excited to explore a recipe for one of my favorite things––Thai-style peanut sauce.

Peanut sauce is something I remember my mother making frequently when I was a child, and it was one of the few things from any type of "exotic" cuisine I enjoyed a little dabble of from time to time. Despite this, I'd never attempted making peanut sauce. No time like the present, as they say, and I married my newfound love of chicken thighs (organic, free-range chicken sourced from Echo Dell Farm, just 40 miles from us) with the peanut sauce for a take on Thai peanut satay.

In the morning, I went out to check my veggie garden to see the progress of the various plants, and was surprised to see that I'd been missing a pretty robust growth of green beans beneath the lower leaves and vines of my organic pole bean plants in the backyard. I also collected some sun sugar tomatoes and sweet onions for salsa, and a handful of the bigger carrots in the garden to pickle escabesche-style. I thought I'd miss the farmers market, but now that all these amazing organic veggies are rolling in from just outside my back door, I find myself saying "what farmers market?"

I made the peanut sauce ahead of time by combining peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, chili sauce, garlic, ginger, and brown sugar in the food processor.

After processing, a thick paste had formed. I added water in a slow stream with the food processor running until I achieved a perfect consistency. I then put it in the fridge to let the flavors meld for several hours before dinner.

I constructed a marinade with chopped basil and cilantro, green onion from the garden, Thai fish sauce, lime juice, lime zest, ginger, and brown sugar, letting the thighs sit in the oh-so-Thai mixture for a couple of hours before getting ready to grill the chicken.

For the garden-fresh green beans, I cooked some garlic and Chinese chili-bean paste in sesame oil in the wok before adding the beans. I let them get a nice sear and served them family-style, garnishing with sesame seeds. The aromas were so fantastic, I couldn't wait to taste my first green bean harvest from my garden!

For the chicken, I removed from the marinade and added oil, salt, and pepper to the chicken skin. I then grilled skin-side-up over medium heat until my instant-read thermometer registered around 150, at which point I flipped so the skin was kissed by the flames, getting crispier and more fantastic by the second.

I served the green beans and chicken family-style with a side of the peanut sauce (and ground peanuts, of course!), ground peanuts, green onions from the garden, lime slices, and some jasmine rice.

Wine to cook by: Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Columbia Valley. When pairing Asian cuisines, often heavy with spices, the best varietals are often the Austro-German grapes, like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or grüner Veltliner, which tend to have some magnificent acidity and (often, but not always) lower alcohol, which helps cut through the burn and complements all manner of flavor profiles. I'd err toward Gewürz for Thai food, but couldn't find a suitable one at the store this evening. No matter––Kung Fu Girl, a seemingly absurd wine, and a choice that Georgia questioned, is actually a really excellent and inexpensive example of Washington Riesling, and one you can find pretty much anywhere. Bright, driven by apple and lime, with a hint of sweetness.

Perhaps I have a pep in my step these days because Georgia and I are just under 72 hours from our departure to Alaska, where we will practice extreme social distancing in the tourist-free wilderness. While I know that food is kinda the point of this blog, travel is not off-limits, and I plan to post a trip summary once we return. I may also take myself salmon fishing while I am there, which would give me something decidedly culinary to write up! But besides a possible #TBT post next week, you won't hear from me probably for the rest of the month. I know y'all are crushed; try your best to cope without me.

A bientôt!

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