So it’s snowing here.
I’m fed up with winter. I’ve had it with my high-heeled open toed sandals peeking at me from the depths of my closet. My sweaters have been in a relentless rotation. My hands are constantly cold and I seem to have had the sniffles for months now, which means a chapped nose, which means I can’t really make it to the gym now can I? To make matters worse, I’m actually working on a project (can’t say what, sorry), so I’m not even able to leave the country to somewhere warm and beachy and margarita-y to dull my winter blues. And before you east coasters start chirping about what a suck I am and how hard you have it, I know you’re worse off. Let’s just all agree that winter blows, and it’s high time it took a long walk off a short pier.
The only way I really know how to beat any sort of blues is through food (okay, and drink), so I wanted to make something that took me far away to my own little kokomo, which is Maui. I’ve gone off about Maui before, so I won’t bore you here. But I will say it’s my favorite place in the world, and I make sure I get there yearly come hell or high water. One of the things that draws me back to Maui is the food– salty, sweet, full of “umami”, and just plain old comforting. I spent the first few years of my life there and went back every summer to visit my grandparents who lived there, so comfort to me is fried rice and shoyu chicken, lomi lomi salmon, tuna poke, and of course, kalua pork. Alright, I’ll come clean: yes, I’ve eaten and enjoyed spam, and you can take your judgement elsewhere because it is the BEST. *loses 500 subscribers* One of the best and most celebrated Hawaiian chefs is Sam Choy, who’s known as the godfather of Hawaiian regional cuisine. He’s taught me a lot about how to mimic the flavors of the islands at home, and I decided to pay homage to him with this dish. It’s insanely flavorful, relatively easy (even east coasters can do it!), and goes mighty well with a Mai Tai. Note that the rice needs to be precooked and cooled, and the chicken marinated for minimum 2 hours.
Hawaii-Style Chicken and Rice
4 cups of cooked and cooled basmati rice (this is an important step. I make my rice ahead of time and throw it in the fridge for fast cooling for an hour or so before I make this dish. Day-old rice works well, too.)
1/2 lb (about 5 links) sweet sausage. Chinese or Portuguese sausage works the best here, which is what the Hawaiians use, but it’s difficult to find. I managed to find some duck sausage at the market that has just the right amount of sweetness and fat content. Don’t skimp on the fat here. A sweet pork sausage would work too. Don’t go turkey sausage on me, it’ll be too dry.
2 eggs, scrambled with a dash of water
1 cup frozen peas
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (extra virgin olive oil works fine, too, but grapeseed has a higher heating temperature and works better to fry the rice)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper
2 lbs bone-in skinless chicken thighs (if you can only find boneless, that’s fine, they’ll just take about 10 minutes less to cook. Skin on is okay too, I just like to lie to myself and pretend it’s so much healthier without the skin)
2 cups brown sugar
3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
a few dashes of red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder (this works great on steaks, lamb, and pork, too. It’s an amazing ingredient and easy to find in the spice aisle)
an inch worth of peeled and grated ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
First things first if you haven’t already, get that rice cooked and in the fridge to cool. Marinate your chicken: combine everything but the extra virgin olive oil in a dish and coat the chicken liberally. Cover and refrigerate up to a day, or minimum 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the oven to 425 F. Heat a frying pan over high heat with the olive oil. Brown the chicken for two minutes on each side, then transfer to an oven safe dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork.
While the chicken is cooking, heat a large frying pan over medium-high with 1 tbsp of the grapeseed oil. Brown and cook the sausage through for a few minutes, then remove and set aside in a bowl. Add the onion to the fat in the pan and fry until translucent, about 5 minutes. Scramble the eggs in the pan with the onion, season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and fry, mixing into the onion and egg. Add the sausage back into the pan and the peas, mixing well. Add in the fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Fry for about ten minutes, and then keep on low heat while the chicken finishes cooking.
My favorite thing to serve alongside is some bok choy and chopped shiitake mushrooms sauteed in sesame oil with a couple of cloves of minced garlic. Super easy, and then you can say you had your greens, too!
SERVES 4, or 2 Hawaiians/JBS’s.