17 May 2010

Satay So Easy

Whether you're throwing a BBQ party or a cocktail reception, satay is an easy fit. While my version coats chicken breast, it would also go very well on cubes of tofu.

Satay used to be one of my least favourite dishes. But then I realised that I was being silly about mixing sweet and savoury. The nice thing, I've learned, is that satay is wonderfully flexible and easy to improvise. Like it spicy? Make it spicy. Like it mild? Make it mild. You can either make this ahead -- marinate your chicken overnight, or slather the marinade over the meat then freeze it in an airtight container for a week or two. In a pinch, don't marinate -- just coat your meat or tofu and grill right away.

Not wanting to grill on a rainy night? Make this into a stir fry. Skip threading the meat or tofu onto skewers, and cook it in a wok over medium heat, adding a bit of water as needed. Throw in some onion and veggies and serve over rice.

So flexibility proven, let's get to the simplicity part. Best way to illustrate that is through the recipe.

As with all my recipes, this one is loosey-goosey. Use fish sauce, or don't. Use a bit of white onion if you don't have green ones. Whatever. You'll notice subtle changes, but the recipe won't be ruined!


1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky, natural or not)
3 green (spring) onions, washed and peeled
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock (+ more as needed)
1 clove garlic
1/2 Tsp Sesame Oil (or substitute canola or whatever)
1/2 Tsp olive oil
1 Tsp fish sauce (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lime
small bunch of fresh cilantro or parsley (ie what would fit into a 1/4 cup measure unchopped)
red pepper flakes
cayenne pepper
black pepper

500 to 600 g of boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
I brick of extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4" cubes.

Before you do anything else, if you plan to grill this, make sure you have skewers on hand. If using wood skewers, soak them in some hot water for as long as possible - ideally 8 hours, but if all you have is 8 minutes, so be it.

Give the green onions a bit of a chop, using the white ends and about 1 inch of the green stalk off each. Chuck this into a food processor or blender. Save the rest of the stocks for garnish.

Roughly chop the garlic and cilantro or parsley. Throw that into the blender/food processor as well. Top off with the remaining ingredients in the sauce list. Shake in as much red pepper flake as you want, and do the same with the cayenne if you so wish.

Pulse the mixture until it goes smooth. You may need to add a bit more broth to make it manageable. You want a thick but pourable sauce. Taste, to ensure you're happy with the spice level.

Dump this into a big bowl, then add your chicken or tofu. Mix gently to coat. If time allows, put it into airtight container and refrigerate (up to 12 hours) or freeze for a week until your guests arrive.

When ready to grill, spray your grill liberally with non-stick spray before you light it. Allow it to heat up, then lower heat to medium.

While the grill is heating, thread your meat or tofu onto the skewers, leaving a few inches free at one end to facilitate handling them.

Cook the chicken for about 8 minutes, then turn over and finish with another 6 to 8 minutes. If using tofu, cook for just a few minutes on each side. Watch that the satay doesn't char, as your peanut butter may have enough sugar in it to burn easily. If you see things turning black a little early, just lower the heat accordingly.

When finished, serve on a platter with some thinned out red pepper jelly as a dipping sauce, or over rice with some grilled or stir-fried vegetables. In any case, garnish the skewers with some chopped green onion or a dusting of finely chopped cilantro or parsley.

As with any spicy dish, and certainly a spicy/sweet one, off-dry wines are a good pairing. I'd suggest an Ontario Reisling, or if you're feeling adventurous, a Muscat from Peller Reserve or Malivoire - both of Niagara region in Ontario.

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