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.
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.
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 skewers 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.
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 one)
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
Warm a low-rimmed pan over the stove on medium-high heat (we used a cast iron “pancake” pan, sort of like this one), 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
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.
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
Combine ingredients in a big bowl; toss well. Serve beneath chicken skewers.