Vietnamese Chicken

When you work in the foodservice industry, food cost is a big factor in determining weekly menus. Fine dining restaurants worry about food cost, but not nearly as much as corporate cafes like mine, where I’m serving food for a set price each day that I normally can’t change. So I’m always looking for ways to cook “lower cost” items… that’s how I came up with this recipe. At work, I make this recipe using chicken thighs, which are about the cheapest part of the chicken you can buy (not including organ meat, which I don’t do.. I’m no Hannibal Lector!!), but this marinade is excellent on any piece of chicken. Breasts, strips and for game day tailgating, buffalo wings!! You can get away with a short time marinade for a few hours, but the longer you marinate the meat the better the flavor and the more tender and juicy the meat becomes. The sodium in the soy sauce “brines” the meat and anyone that’s cooked a big Thanksgiving turkey can tell you that brining is the way to ensure a juicy bird each and every time! So give this one a try sometime.. either for your next game day party, or simply for a low cost dinner at home with the family.

  • 4-6 chicken thighs, 4 breasts or 3 boneless chicken breasts cut into strips, or a bag of fresh/frozen buffalo wings (raw)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Zest from 1 orange, minced
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1 large ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce**
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp black or white sesame seeds

** I only buy low-sodium soy sauce and for this recipe I recommend you pick up a bottle. Because soy sauce is loaded with sodium, marinating overnight in regular soy sauce makes the finished chicken too salty. It’s like soaking a steak in Dale’s!

Chop lower stem from cilantro and discard. Place cilantro tops, garlic cloves and fresh ginger in the bowl of a food processor and process to a fine blend. In a large storage container or large ziplock storage bag, add the processed ingredients, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Add the chicken to the marinade. Cover or seal and marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator, turning every so often to ensure a good coating of marinade on the chicken. The longer it marinates, the more tender the chicken will become.

Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and arrange the thighs on a roasting pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 400F for an hour. If using bone-in breasts, cook on a hot grill until internal temperature reaches 165F, or if using boneless strips, stir-fry with Oriental vegetables and serve over hot steamed rice. Your cooking time with vary depending on the cut of chicken you are using, so it’s best to spend a few bucks at Walmart on a digital food probe thermometer. Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F and the longer you let it cook past that temp, the drier it becomes. (Think about an over-cooked turkey at Thanksgiving)

Garnish with sliced scallions, fresh orange slices or minced parsley.

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