How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chicken Rendang

Map: Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge
Almost 2/3 of the population lives on the Malay Peninsula,
with most of the rest occupying northern Borneo.
For this evening's dinner, I had decided yesterday to return to the core purpose of this blog, which is to encourage us to take a fresh look at the familiar recipe books in our kitchen. It was to be our first unscripted Saturday in our own house in a couple of months, and there was no excuse not to pull a book off the shelf and look for something new. It was also our first Saturday after the end of our farm-box season, so local vegetables, though they could be involved, would not dictate the menu.

I opened Extending the Table, an excellent collection of recipes from throughout the world, and started scanning the index for the main ingredients we had on hand. We quickly settled on chicken rendang (rendang ayam), which I later realized would be my first foray into Malay cooking.

I began by finely chopping an onion, one dried chili pepper and three garlic cloves. I grated  hunk of ginger root with our microplane and tossed all together in a small bowl. Once I had heated olive oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet, I added these and sauteed gently until the mix was golden brown and beginning to caramelize. I then added one pound of chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces, 1 cup of water, half of a 13.5-ounce can of coconut milk, and about a tablespoon of lemongrass paste. We were looking for fresh or dried lemongrass, but when we found the paste and neither of the other forms, we declared our quest successful enough. I heated all of this until boiling, and continued for just a few minutes until the chicken was nearly cooked through.

I then added the rest of the coconut milk and a tablespoon of sugar, returned to boil briefly, and then I lowered the heat and simmered for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, I sliced a cucumber (diagonally, as the recipe suggests, and with "racing stripes" as I always do cucumbers) and put it in the fridge. Near the end of the simmering, I cooked rice in a separate pan. At 90 minutes, the chicken was extraordinarily tender and the sauce greatly reduced, but still like a sweet gravy. We served it over the warm rice, with cuke slices on the side.

This paired very well with the lemony 2012 Rkatsiteli from our friends at Westport Rivers.

Where to find many of our cookbooks ...

Most of the cookbooks mentioned in this blog can be found in the Cook Book section of the online book store I helped to set up for our church. I encourage readers to do the opposite of what often happens -- use the online store to learn about books, and then buy them locally if you can. But if you are going to buy online, doing so through our store does return a small kickback to our community.
Sreenshot: First Parish Online Book Store

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