Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bowl Me Over: Almond/Asparagus Pilaf Bowls with Sesame-Soy Chicken

I'm a huge fan of one-pot meals, and this dish ALMOST qualifies. I cook everything but the chicken right in the rice cooker - what could be easier than pushing a button and walking away? You load up the rice, a few sticks of lemongrass, asparagus spears, shitake mushroom slices and even a handful of almonds for good measure. Add water, and then forget about it! The almonds, mushrooms and asparagus are a perfect al dente by the time the rice is done, and the lemongrass infuses the whole pot with a tangy, unexpected hint of flavor. Fluff in a mixture of herbs, and the pilaf is complete. Then in true rice bowl fashion, I top it with chicken chunks that have been marinated in a sinfully delicious sesame/soy sauce and then quickly stir fried. It's a fabulous meal with exotic flavors made in minutes. Go on - make a big bowl for yourself!

Almond/Asparagus Pilaf Bowls with Sesame-Soy Chicken

Chicken marinade
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon pressed garlic
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Reserve about 1/4 of the liquid to use as a sauce to pour directly on the finished rice bowl, to taste (YUM!). Use the remainder to marinate 2 chicken breasts that have been cut into bite-sized cubes. Let marinate as you prep other ingredients and let the rice cook.

  • 1 cup rice of your choice (brown, basmati, plain white... doesn't matter)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 6 shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 asparagus spears, sliced into 1-inch segments
  • 1/2 cup almonds (I use chili-lime flavored almonds that I get at the local farmer's market, but plain will suffice if you're not so lucky)
  • 1 spear of lemongrass, cut into 4-inch sticks
Throw all of the above ingredients together in a rice cooker, turn it on and let it do its thing. A tip for the lemongrass: pound the sticks with a meat cleaver to smash the fibers (helps to release the flavor). Once the rice is cooked, the vegetables should be perfectly cooked as well, and the almonds will be soft, but still crunchy. Remove and discard the lemongrass sticks. Fluff the rice with a fork, and add the following:
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, chopped
In a wok or saute pan, quickly cook the chicken cubes that have been marinating over high heat. Combine pilaf and chicken in a bowl and top with the reserved sesame-soy sauce. Voila - one dish meal (makes for easy clean-up too!).

This dish was inspired by the ingredients for the April "Royal Food Joust" hosted by; here's a link to the forum if you want to see what it's all about:

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