Peter Berley's Leek Soup with Peas and Sauerkraut
Testaccio's Gnocchi alla Romana

Zak Pelaccio's Chicken Breasts with Garlic-Chili-Ginger Sauce




No, no, no, no, no.

I most emphatically disagree with this recipe. I wish it wouldn't exist. It vexed me, irritated me, annoyed me to my core. It it were up to me, I'd strike it from existence. In short, I hated it.

It sort of hurt, hating it. After all, I love Zak Pelaccio's food. If it were up to me, I'd have a standing lunch date at the Fatty Crab every week. Also, I loved the mission of the article accompanying the recipe: how to make the lame old skinless, boneless chicken breast glam again. Loved it! (Also, must try the sauerkraut-stuffed, pan-fried chicken breast recipe now).

But this recipe was a doozy: my "gently cooked" chicken breasts were hard as rocks. I have poached many a chicken breast in my time and they've always been tender, juicy, a joy. These were rubbery, hideous things. German chicken breasts? Or this recipe? I'm looking at you, recipe.


Second of all, and this, I realize, is partially my failing because I emphatically do not subscribe to the school of Raw Garlic Adoration, but the Garlic-Chili-Ginger Sauce was so heavy on the stuff that it practically hurt. I woke up in the middle of the night after eating, oh, a teaspoon of the sauce, and had to go brush my teeth a second time. In the dark. In the middle of the night.

One word: UGH. Another word: wouldn't half as many garlic cloves still have worked?

The sweetened soy sauce was kind of interesting to know about, and the spicy broth was nice: I used it to cook rice the next day and that was totally tasty. But if that's the best thing that this recipe has to offer, I'm leaving it behind me in the dust.


Oh, and one administrative thing: After many, many requests, I finally got around to putting an RSS feed link on the blog. Want to subscribe to The Wednesday Chef? Look over in the left-hand column, all the way at the bottom. Enjoy. And thanks for your patience!

Chicken Breasts with Garlic-Chili-Ginger Sauce
Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 8 ounces each
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 5-inch-long piece fresh ginger root, peeled
8 fat garlic cloves
4 jalapeño peppers
1 quart chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice, more to taste
Cooked rice, for serving
Sesame oil, for drizzling
1 bunch roughly chopped basil, for serving
1 bunch roughly chopped cilantro, for serving
1 bunch thinly sliced scallions, for serving
1 European cucumber, thinly sliced, for serving

1. Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise and season with salt and pepper.


2. Slice about an inch of ginger root into thin rounds and place in a large pot. Coarsely chop remaining ginger and place in a blender. Thinly slice 2 garlic cloves and add to pot. Coarsely slice remaining garlic and add to blender. Thinly slice 2 jalapeño peppers and add them to pot. Halve remaining peppers, discard seeds and coarsely chop flesh; place in blender.

Add chicken broth to pot and bring to a simmer. Let cook for 10 minutes. Add chicken pieces to broth and let liquid come back to a simmer. Immediately turn off heat, cover pot and let sit for 10 minutes. Cut into a piece of chicken to test for doneness. If it is not done, bring broth back to a bare simmer, then turn off heat, cover and let sit for an additional minute or two.

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce and brown sugar until sugar mostly dissolves. Set aside. To the mixture in blender add fish sauce and lime juice along with 1/4 cup broth from pot. Puree, if necessary adding a little more broth to help mixture move in blender. Taste and add a pinch of salt and more lime if needed.

When chicken is done, transfer to a cutting board and slice. Remove garlic and pepper from broth and discard, if you like. To serve, heap rice in 4 shallow bowls and top with chicken slices. Spoon several tablespoons broth over chicken and rice, then drizzle with sweet soy sauce and sesame oil. Sprinkle on the herbs, scallions and cucumber. Serve garlic-chili-ginger sauce on the side; have additional sesame oil and sweet soy sauce on table for more drizzling.