Pat’s Seared Sesame Chicken
When dashing out to buy a bottle of wine, the logical expectation would be to return with something that may complement a special dinner. Leaving the state store with a new dinner recipe destined to become a regular in the weekly meal rotation would be an unexpected bonus! (For those who live elsewhere, Pennsylvania sells liquor through a system of “state stores.”)
Such was the case a few years ago when I bumped into a dear family friend at the liquor store. As I stared at the countless options of Pinot Grigio, Pat appeared with her characteristic Southern charm and warm smile. She was eager to describe her latest favorite recipe, certain my family would enjoy it as well.
Always happy to be on the receiving end of a great recipe, I listened carefully as Pat listed simple yet flavorful Asian ingredients and a very quick preparation. Requiring just a handful of basic pantry items and chicken, I had all the components to cook the meal that night.
Since there is no such thing as having too many easy recipes that taste great, I promptly posted the recipe on my Fountain Avenue Kitchen Facebook page. Within an hour, two people commented that they had a package of chicken in the fridge, but no inspired plan. Having everything conveniently on hand, they whipped up Pat’s recipe and offered rave reviews.
Not typically a broccoli fan, Pat noted that the chicken’s syrupy glaze actually made her side of this sometimes maligned vegetable taste great. Broccoli gets the green light from everyone in our house, so I often steam a bunch (even a frozen bag will do) to round out the meal.
Consider cooking more chicken than you need the first night, as leftovers are delicious. For two easy remakes, slice the chicken and pair with mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of optional sriracha sauce in a quick quesadilla. Or serve over salad greens with an Asian dressing, tossing in a combination of sliced cucumber, red pepper, avocado, radishes, and chopped peanuts or sunflower seeds, to taste.
Special note ~ The namesake of this delicious recipe was our dear family friend Pat Schroeder. Pat had been ill for several months, and as I was putting the finishing touches on my September 28, 2014 newspaper column–for which I coincidentally chose this recipe–I emailed a draft copy to Pat. She was thrilled that her recipe might be cooked and enjoyed by so many people. Sadly, Pat passed away before the newspaper went to print. I extend my deepest sympathy to Pat’s family.
This recipe has become a favorite meal in our house for both its ease and flavor. With a syrupy glaze created by three key ingredients and an Asian flavor adored by many, what’s not to love?
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce (use a gluten-free brand if necessary)
- Olive oil to lightly coat pan
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, opened flat (I sometimes use boneless, skinless breasts, pounded to an even thickness)
- 3-4 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Optional: about a third of a cup of chicken stock or white wine for deglazing the pan; chopped cilantro or sliced green onions for garnish
- Mix the honey, soy sauce, and ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Lightly coat a large non-stick or cast iron skillet with olive oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken thighs for 5 minutes; turn and sauté the other side for 3-5 minutes more or until cooked through. (Precise time will depend upon thickness of the chicken. The last time I prepared this recipe, I used the chicken breast option, and they took approximately 4 minutes per side.)
- Pour the reserved sauce over the chicken, and let it warm in the skillet for about 30 seconds, turning the chicken to coat both sides. If desired, pour in the stock or wine and scrape up the crusty pieces sticking to the pan, incorporating them into the sauce. (There’s a lot of flavor there.)
- Remove to dinner plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds and optional garnishes…and thank Pat!
For a fun Valentine’s Day option, slice boneless, skinless chicken breasts (this works best with the tender still attached) horizontally without going the whole way across. You will want to cut towards the rounder side, and then open it like a book. Next, with a sharp knife cut a small notch at the top and trim the sides, if needed, to form the heart. After doing this with many chicken breasts in the last couple of years, I have learned that some chicken breasts naturally produce a perfect heart shape and some require a little extra help in the way of trimming. A sharp knife makes this job easier. Whether the heart is perfectly shaped or not, it will be a hit to whomever it is served!