Sambal Chicken Skewers

You would think, after nearly five years of regular blogging, a person would become immune to the kindness in the blog community. At least that’s what I keep thinking this week, after publishing Tuesday’s post, and hearing such kind, thoughtful responses from so many of you. You would think I would be used to this and, accordingly, that it wouldn’t mean much, but, in fact, the opposite is true. You guys. Thank you. Thank you for reading here, caring about what’s said, and writing quick notes in response. More and more, I see that it’s a gift for bloggers to let the world into their lives, to be “publishing parts of [our] li[ves] for the world to read, [thereby opening ourselves up] to judgement and critique,” as Kelsey put it. But, like she concluded, I also see that it’s a gift that people do, in fact, read. It’s a gift that you come to this space. I might not ever get over the fact that friends and strangers listen to our stories, or the fact that you’re reading this one, today, but thank you.

Around here, in the world of “cooking my feelings,” it’s been a round-the-clock-kitchen week of buckwheat chocolate chip cookies, vegetarian pot pies, haphazard salad dressings made with whatever I throw together in the Vitamix, summer rolls, peanut sauce, beet greens, roasted beets, bananas topped with peanut butter, Dutch baby breakfasts and, I could keep going, but I think you catch my drift. Also, Sunday, after we listened to someone talk about the idea of grace, which is, put simply, undeserved goodness, we came home and made these Sambal chicken skewers from Bon Appetit.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

If I’m honest with you, the reason I’m so honored by your kindness is because I know I haven’t earned it: Why should you care about my disappointments? You have your own. And yet here you are, caring. And when you extend love to me, I find myself immediately thinking, What can I give back in return? It is a gift to give any sort of friendship, in any and all of its forms, but yet there’s a part of human nature that wants to earn what we’re given, to be independent, to need no one, to know what’s mine is mine. There’s a part of us that feels better about being the giver than about being the receiver. Because the truth is, taking from someone else is humbling. When my parents pay for me to go to college (they did), when my husband always is the one to mow our lawn (he is), when someone lets Tim and me stay in their beachfront house for free (this happened), I don’t get to be The Generous; I get to be the The One That Takes. I get to receive grace. Receiving grace—whether in the form of blog readers or weekend getaways—is wonderful and amazing and, also, not something you get to be proud about.

That is what I mean when I say the kitchen can be a place of grace; that cooking can be a gift; that on days when my heart is hurting, returning to the stove and putting together food—enjoyable, nourishing food—reminds me of the grace I’m being given, even in the midst of what is hard.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

Grilling these chicken skewers is not a labor of time or work; making them didn’t make me feel brilliant or victorious or like I have something about which to boast. Truthfully, the whole process is crazy simple: You combine ingredients for a marinade; add chicken; stir; thread chicken on bamboo skewers; heat a flat pan on the stove; cook. Start to finish, the process takes half an hour, maybe. The light investment yields such rich rewards.

And so, behold again, a testament to grace, to unexpected, undeserved good: Light work makes grill-less grilled Sambal chicken skewers. It is a meal akin to the chicken satay you find at Asian grills, hot and sticky, spicy and charred. Crisp outer skin breaks through to juicy, moist meat.





Grill-less Grilled Sambal Chicken Skewers
Serves two to four
Adapted from Bon Appetit‘s July 2013 cover recipe

In adapting this recipe, we converted the instructions for use on the stove, rather than a grill. If you prefer to grill the skewers, the instructions are basically the same—just be sure to soak your bamboo skewersbamboo skewers on Amazon ahead of time; then, cook the skewers over a preheated grill with a medium-high flame, rotating and basting as you do, for about 10 minutes.

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon of ghee (or coconut oil or other fat)
1/2 cup (packed) coconut sugar (or other sugar)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup red curry paste (like this onered curry paste)
1/4 cup organic soy sauce
1/4 cup Sriracha
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
1 1/4 pounds organic skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch pieces

Directions:
Warm a low-rimmed pan over the stove on medium-high heat (we used a cast iron “pancake” pan, sort of like this onepancake pan), and add ghee, turning the pan as it melts to get an even coat.

Whisk coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar, curry paste, soy sauce, Sriracha and grated ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken pieces, and toss them to coat. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer (we used five total skewers).

Transfer marinade to a small saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half, 7–10 minutes. This will be your basting liquid.

Place skewers on the warmed pan. As the meat hits the pan, you should hear a searing sound; this is good; it’s what will give your chicken that crisp, grilled exterior. As one side cooks and browns, turn the skewers 90 degrees, basting regularly; repeat until crisp and dark on the outside. This should take between 10 and 15 minutes total.

Serve, as we did, with a big salad of greens (recipe below).

Bed of Salad Greens
Serves two

While we pulled together this quick salad as an impromptu lunch side, its combination of cooling beets and hearty greens turned out to be a perfect match for the spicy chicken.

Ingredients:
1/2 head of lettuce, washed and roughly chopped
1 roasted beet, sliced thin
Apple cider vinegar and olive oil, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Combine ingredients in a big bowl; toss well. Serve beneath chicken skewers.

Cooksnaps
Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Erin

    I love your thoughts here…that receiving grace isn’t something we get to be proud about. I think that is a challenge to me, because while there are times when I do receive grace graciously, there are also times when I make excuses about it or apologize for someone having to do something to help me.
    I hope your weekend is filled with plenty of grace as it sounds like you are having a bit of a difficult season.

  2. Joanna

    For a girl who says she doesn’t get grace, you definitely know how to share it. You’re RIGHT. I never thought about it that way, but being The One Who Takes is so much harder, but rewarding in its own way because it forces us to give up the upper hand.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I read this illustration somewhere about a monkey with his hand in the jar around a nut. He doesn’t want to let go of the nut! He has to keep his fist tight! But if he only released it, someone else could turn over the jar, and the nut would fly free. It’s SO HARD to trust. Yet it’s SO EASY. As simple as releasing our grasp.

  3. felicia | Dish by Dish

    Oh my goodness Shanna. You just made me drool all over my keyboard. In Singapore as well as the rest of South East Asia, satay is local cuisine that can make any heart skip a beat. Plus, you used sambal – which is a chilli sauce so close to home, that I feel as if I were looking at my local Singaporean newspaper, reading about where to eat this weekend.

    Food aside (and drooled-over-keyboard aside), i just wanted to say, that as a reader, I’m thankful that you’re always so honest and authentic in your posts; that your writing – precisely because is always spilling over with sincerity and open friendship – is what causes us who read to react with love and concern. It’s because you’ve earned out trust, and our friendship, and because, it doesn’t hurt to know that someone else is listening (even if we are continents away), and has thought about what you’ve so bravely put out there on the Internet for the world to see (and which may sometimes so cruelly criticize). So thank you dear friend.

    big hug,
    F.

  4. Kathryn

    Ah yes, how much easier it is to give than to receive whether it’s a gift or a compliment or just a kind word. There is that strange paradox – I don’t feel that anyone ever has to deserve my kindness but I always have to deserve the kindness of others. We are so much harder on ourselves than anyone else. I love the idea of receiving grace though, it’s something that’s mentioned far too infrequently.

    And this meal? Pretty much my perfect summer eating.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks, friend. And you’re right: It is so much easier to be the one giving and feel comfortable with it than it is to accept a position of “weakness” in some way by letting someone else give to us. It’s so basic and so human that it almost seems crazy to be any other way. But man, I’m grateful for the grace I can’t give back to. I want to sit and rest in it.

  5. Helene @ French Foodie Baby

    Wow what you describe here is so deeply honest and sharp, I don’t know how else to describe it. I sometimes have a real hard time not being the “giver”, the generous one, that’s definitely my comfort zone. I guess our vulnerability teaches us about grace. Vulnerability has so much to teach us, I’m finding out… I think if people read your writing, respond and care, it’s because it resonates so much with them. It’s so true and human. So you ARE giving us a lot for the love and care we send your way!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thank you, sweet Helene. I think about vulnerability a lot, too. It seems to me that vulnerability opens the door for intimacy (it might not provide intimacy or guarantee it, but it makes it possible). I love the way blogs prove this to be true!

  6. Frannie

    Lovely post, wonderful recipe! I did coconut brown rice to help fill up my son, and it really was a hit. Am thinking that this will morph into Chicken Wings Sambal when football season arrives.

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