Steven Raichlen’s Thai Grilled Chicken

Break out the grill for Thai-style chicken fragrant with lemongrass, ginger and curry powder.

The Aussies may love their shrimp on the barbie.

But we Americans can’t get enough of chicken on the grill.

After all, it’s economical, versatile and always a crowd-pleaser.

Especially when it’s tender, moist and flavored with a fragrant Thai paste like this one from “Steven Raichlen’s Planet Barbecue!” (Workman Publishing) by that master of the grill, Steven Raichlen. This book, of which I received a review copy,  is sure to whet your appetite with its more than 300 recipes inspired by the cuisines of six continents.

You marinate a quartered chicken (we used chicken thighs) with a paste of garlic, fresh ginger, lenongrass, cilantro, sugar, pepper, soy sauce and curry powder. Raichlen says to use a mortar and pestle, but a food processor will make easy work of it even quicker.  Let the paste do its magic on the chicken for at least four hours in the fridge or overnight.

The southern Thailand-style chicken grills up with nicely charred skin that takes on a golden hue from the curry powder. You can really taste the lemongrass and ginger, plus a warm earthiness from the curry powder.

Serve with steamed rice and an easy side vegetable dish. With the grill already hot, just lay down some planks of eggplant until tender. The, toss them in a bowl with a little fish sauce, sesame oil and Chinese black vinegar (use balsamic if you don’t have any), as well as chopped Thai basil. Add a few grindings of black peppercorns and you’re good to go.

It may not be your usual sweet, sticky, saucy barbecue chicken grill-out, but it’s guaranteed to please.

Serve the chicken with grilled eggplant flavored with fish sauce, sesame oil, black vinegar and fresh Thai basil.

Thai Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass and Ginger

(Serves about 4)

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 piece (3 inches) fresh ginger or galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh cilantro root or cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 2 tablespoons oil for basting

1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), quartered (2 legs and 2 breasts) OR 8 chicken thighs

Place garlic, ginger, lemongrass, cilantro root, sugar, pepper, and curry powder in a heavy mortar and pound to a coarse paste with a pestle. Work in the soy sauce and oil. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, combine these ingredients in a food processor and puree to a coarse paste.

Rinse chicken quarters under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels. Make 3 deep slashes in each piece of chicken (this helps the chicken absorb the marinade and speeds up the cooking). Arrange chicken quarters in a nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Spoon the marinade over the chicken, forcing it into the slits and turning pieces to coat well on both sides. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight, turning the pieces several times so they marinate evenly. The longer the chicken marinates, the richer the flavor will be.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to medium.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Drain chicken quarters and arrange them on the hot grate skin side down. Grill chicken until it is darkly browned on the outside and cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes per side. Start basting the chicken with oil after about 5 minutes. Watch for flare-ups; if they occur, move thicken to a cooler part of the grill.

Transfer chicken to a platter or plates, and serve.

Adapted from “Steven Raichlen’s Planet Barbecue!”

Another Steven Raichlen Recipe: Ginger, Garlic, and Honey Grilled Baby Back Ribs

Summer Barbecue Sides: Corn, Tomato and Scallion Salad

And: Green Bean Salad with Pickled Shallots

And: Long Bean Salad with Feta and Preserved Lemons

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