It’s a gorgeous spring week in New York City, the windows are wide open, and before I find it impossible to resist the siren call of a full shift to picnic–summer-beach-fresh-everything mode (with some ice cream/pie/cookie breaks, naturally) I wanted to tell you about one last easy weeknight pandemic-era favorite: a soy sauce-basted chicken that my family would be happy if I made once a week forever.
I first made this in the early months, when all the restaurants were closed and we missed takeout*. I’ve made it almost monthly since then because it’s the fastest, easiest non-grilling way for me to turn a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts into a meal that everyone actually finishes. Browning the chicken well gives it a slightly crisp edge, and reducing a mixture of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and brown sugar around it while the chicken finishes cooking gives it a lacquered effect.
I turn it into dinner by making plain white or brown rice in the rice cooker**. If we have any broccoli, I’ll steam or roast it. And then I make a quick salad with a thinly sliced or julienned fresh vegetable, whatever we’ve got that’s crunchy, such as cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, asparagus, or in this week’s case, snow peas and sugar snaps. A soak in ice water really perks up snow peas, sugar snaps, and carrots if yours have also gotten neglected in the produce drawer. Toss with thinly-sliced scallion, salt, pepper, white rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil to taste and that’s it, a triumphant weeknight meal that I hope makes it into your rotation too.
*Origin note: Although I started making this in a pandemic pinch with leftover dipping sauce I use for dumplings, this style of chicken is a distant relative to the Cantonese dish called see yao gai or soy sauce chicken. Usually it’s a whole chicken braised in soy sauce with star anise, bay leaves, and Shaoxing rice wine in addition to the ingredients below, then chopped and served with vegetables and rice or noodles. It’s amazing, and a quintessential Chinatown favorite/staple worth seeking out.
** I’ve had this one for eight years and it was worth every penny, and not only because it plays twinkle-twinkle when it starts
6 months ago: Bialy Babka and Potato and Leek Gratin
1 year ago: Simple, Essential Bolognese
2 years ago: Austrian Torn, Fluffy Pancake
3 years ago: Chilaquiles Brunch Casserole
4 years ago: Rhubarb Upside-Down Spice Cake
5 years ago: Perfect Garlic Bread, Shaved Asparagus Frittata and Palm Springs Date Shake
6 years ago: Potato Scallion and Kale Cakes, Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and Crispy Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
7 years ago: Blue Sky Bran Muffins and Fresh Spinach Pasta
8 years ago: Spring Vegetable Potstickers and Essential Raised Waffles
9 years ago: Bacon, Egg and Leek Risotto
10 years ago: Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo and Ribboned Asparagus Salad with Lemon
11 years ago: Radicchio, Apple, and Pear Salad, New York Cheesecake and Shakshuka
12 years ago: Black Bread and Ranch Rugelach
13 years ago: Chocolate Walnut Cookies + More Flourless Dessert, Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
14 years ago: Corniest Corn Muffins and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake