Saturday, February 12, 2011

Asian Barbecue Skewers

I apologize for missing posting last weekend.  I meant to actually write this post while I was watching the Superbowl, but unfortunately my camera ran out of batteries so I couldn't upload my pictures and because my weeks are so busy, it just had to wait.

Anyway, last week my roommate and I had our own Superbowl party.  She told me that for the game, she was going to make stuffed mushrooms, Philly cheese steaks, and veggies with hummus.  As she was getting ready to go to the grocery store, I thought: my crock pot cookbooks have some appetizers in them so I should take this opportunity to make one of them!  We looked through the options and picked the Asian Barbecue Skewers from the Crock-Pot Incredibly Easy Recipes cookbook.

Luckily, we had most of the ingredients, so I asked my roommate to pick up boneless skinless chicken breasts, scallions, and wooden skewers.  Now, the recipe actually calls for boneless skinless chicken thighs, but, as I've mentioned in previous posts dealing with chicken, I've realize that the chicken breast is the cut of meat that I prefer so generally, I just get that regardless of what the recipe actually calls for.  My roommate suggested that I pound out the breasts a bit before cutting them into strips, because the breasts were thicker than chicken thighs would have been.

The two pounds of chicken breast that the recipe calls for actually makes quite a few strips, which I then had to put on the skewers.  I will note especially at this point that the cookbook says that when you layer the skewered chicken into the crock pot, you should do it as flat as possible.  Of course, I thought this was kind of silly.  It can only be so flat when the crock pot is of the size that it is.

Then you make the sauce, made out of soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic.  We already had all of those ingredients (the soy sauce I bought when I made the Soy-Sake Asparagus back in December), though I had *just* purchased the sesame oil the day before when I had gone grocery shopping.  Now, the picture on the left is of the sauce after I put all the ingredients in.  I had wanted to take a picture that showed all of the individual ingredients, but while I was looking for my sesame oil, the soy sauce ate the brown sugar, so alas.

But here's where it gets important, leading to how I'd make this recipe differently were I to do it again.  The directions say, "Reserve 1/3 cup sauce; set aside.  Pour remaining sauce over skewers."  The picture on the right is what the dish looked like right after I followed this direction.  As you can see, the chicken is not covered by the sauce.  The dish cooks for three hours on low: that's two hours initially and then an additional hour after you turn the chicken over.  After it's done cooking, you put the chicken skewers on a plate and pour the remaining sauce over them.  The recipe says to garnish the chicken with sliced scallions and, optionally, toasted sesame seeds.  I started the recipe around 3:30 p.m., so it was already mid-way into the game when it was finished.  Unfortunately, I forgot about the scallions.

So this is what the skewers looked like when I served them.

And this is what it was supposed to look like according to the cookbook.

Now, the skewers weren't that bad, but the problem is that they cook unevenly in the sauce.  Even with turning them over before the last hour of cooking, as the directions say, the sauce is not evenly absorbed into all the chicken.  So, my recommendation?  Make more sauce.  If I were to make this again, I'd probably double or triple the amount of sauce that I make so that the chicken skewers would be completely covered in the sauce while cooking.

Now, we had a ton of leftovers (as you could probably have guessed, seeing as it was only two of us and my roommate had already made a massive amount of food), but I didn't really want to eat them as they were both because of the lack of flavor on some pieces and because they're a distinctly appetizer food.  To remedy this, I decided to make stir-fry.  I took all the chicken off the skewers and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Then, I added it to some fresh stir-fry mixed vegetables from Trader Joe's (pricier than frozen mixed vegetables for stir-fry, but the price was well worth it for both the freshness and the variety in there).  This was all being cooked from the very beginning in the tiny bit of the sauce that I had saved from the original skewer recipe and sesame oil.

I also added some stir-fry sauce, just the standard type that you get in the grocery store and voila!  Just add rice and you have a quick meal... one that I really enjoyed!

Now, because I made stir fry out of this recipe, it's difficult to figure out exactly how many servings it came out to be, but the cookbook says four to six, so let's say that this came out to be six: two that we ate as skewers and four that I'm having as stir fry.  That comes out to be about 163 calories per serving of the chicken alone (or 165 had I remembered the scallions).  But honestly, as an appetizer, each person might have only one or two skewers, so the calorie count in actual practice might be half of what it is for a "serving."  Making it into a stir-fry upped the calorie count to about 260 calories per serving, not bad for a meal (of course, note that this doesn't count the basmati rice which can be up to 320 calories per serving depending on how much you serve yourself).

I am not going to try to figure out the cost per serving for this dish because I already had many of the ingredients, but the only items that tend to be a little more expensive (and not often on sale at the grocery store) are the sesame oil (used in the original recipe and the stir fry) and the stir-fry sauce.  So, this would be a good appetizer for the grad student to make to bring to the potluck department get-together at the beginning or end of the semester.

This was my dinner tonight (plus a salad that I had already finished when I took this picture).

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