Appetizers for dinner!
It’s totally the way to go. Why save appetizers for parties and frou-frou occasions? Bust a few of them out on a week night and call it dinner.
Spring Rolls, Chicken Satay, and most importantly, Peanut Sauce are three of my favorites.
Three recipes for the price of one. We’ll tackle each one individually but I’ll also put a whole mess of links for recipes and shopping lists at the bottom of this post.
Here’s what you need for Chicken Satay: (orange cat optional but highly recommended)
Chicken Thighs, Vegetable Oil, Soy Sauce, Garlic, Green Onions/Scallions, Fresh Ginger, Limes, Chili Garlic Sauce.
Chicken Satay is basically skewers of chicken meat that have been marinated and grilled, served with a tasty sauce. It originated in Indonesia but has been adopted by most Asian cultures and is now a carryout menu staple.
For the best flavor, try to marinate your meat for a few hours or even overnight. To make the marinade combine 1/4 cup light vegetable oil such as canola or safflower with 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce.
You can see that I’m not measuring. Marinades are not an exact science and can easily be expanded upon or improvised depending on your particular tastes. This is a good all round marinade that I often make for simple grilled chicken breasts.
Squeeze in the juice of 2 limes.
Finely chop 2 green onions or scallions,
2-3 cloves of garlic,
and 2 Tablespoons of fresh ginger.
Add the onions, garlic, and ginger to the oil. If you like things a little bit spicy, add some hot sauce or 1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce.
I love chili garlic sauce because it adds heat through flavor and isn’t just burn your face off hot. Stir the marinade to combine all of the ingredients.
You can buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs or de-bone and de-skin them yourself. Cut away any extra fat and cut the chicken into large bite-sized pieces, about 2 inches.
Put the chicken in the marinade (you can also do this in a big zippered bag) for at least one hour.
Skewers! Metal or Wood. It’s your choice. If you choose wood, just remember that you need to soak them in water for about 20 minutes before you use them so they don’t catch fire on the grill.
Remove the pieces of chicken from the marinade and thread them onto the skewers. Discard the used marinade.
By the way, you could add vegetables like onions and cherry tomatoes to these skewers and call them kabobs.
Preheat the outdoor grill or oven broiler to a medium high heat. Cook the chicken skewers, turning a few times to cook both sides, until the chicken is firm to the touch and golden brown, about 4-5 minutes per side.
These cook fairly quickly since they are boneless and cut into such small pieces. Double check to be sure that they are fully cooked and there is no pink in the center of the chicken.
I’ll put a time line at the end of this post in case you want to cook all of these recipes for one meal as I’ve shown here.
On to the spring rolls! Here’s what you need:
Spring Roll Wrappers*, Rice noodles, Carrots, Green Onions, Mint and/0r Cilantro, Greens and/or Sprouts, Cooked Shrimp, and anything else you’d like to roll up.
These are quick and easy to put together but you want to have all of your ingredients ready to go assembly line style before you start.
I like to grate the carrots so that they don’t poke through the wrappers. Thinly slice the green onions. I like to leave the mint and/or cilantro leaves whole but you could also chop them if you want a more subtle flavor.
If your shrimp have tails or peels, discard them and then chop the shrimp into very small pieces.
I’m not a huge fan of sprouts so I use some small lettuce greens in my spring rolls. You’ll discover than you can put any number of veggies in any number of combinations into your spring rolls. Be creative and invent your own!
Rice noodles make the main filler for the rolls. They are sold in little bundles and don’t really need any cooking….
just a quick soak in a bowl of hot water (you can microwave it or quickly boil some water) in a bowl will soften them right up.
It only takes 2-3 minutes in the hot water for the noodles to soften and become almost clear. Drain them and set them aside on your ingredient assembly line.
Spring Rolls are made with a thin, almost see through wrapper. You can always find these at Asian markets but many regular grocery stores sell them as well. Look for them either in the Asian section or sometimes in the produce section.
Each wrapper needs to be rehydrated so that you can fill and roll them up. You’ll notice that the wrappers have a texture on one side. Use this texture to tell how pliable the wrapper is getting as it soaks.
Fill a pan up with water and soak the spring roll wrappers one at a time.
Since these are so thin, they only need to soak about 1 minute. You will feel that the texture starts to soften or go away as they soak.
When the wrapper is pliable and soft, take it out and place it on a cutting board or work surface.
You may need to experiment with a few wrappers to find just the right texture/soaking time ratio. It’s better to under soak the wrappers as they will continue to absorb water as you fill them. Get the wrappers too soggy and they tear and fall apart.
Place a soft, soaked wrapper down on your board and add some rice noodles and shredded carrots.
Sprinkle on a few green onions, some of the chopped shrimp and a few leaves of mint.
Add some of the greens and fold one side over the ingredients.
Fold in the ends (just like a burrito)…
and then continue to roll the spring roll using your fingers to tuck the ingredients inside into a nice tight roll. When you get to the end it should easily stick to the wrapper and form a seal.
Make each roll one at a time soaking the wrappers only when you are ready to make the next roll. At first you might have a wrapper that just doesn’t cooperate. If it tears and is unusable, just soak another transfer the filling ingredients and try again. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Add anything you’d like! I had some leftover asparagus that had been quickly steamed. Toss a spear on top and roll it right up.
You can make these rolls ahead of time and keep them moist under a wet paper towel. Store them covered, in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.
I often make these vegetarian by omitting the shrimp and adding more greens or other veggies.
I learned to make spring rolls from my friend Jen who, by the way, has 2 boys who love these!
You can serve spring rolls plain, with plum sauce for dipping (I buy a jar of plum sauce at the store and doctor it up with a bit of soy sauce and hot sauce), or with this awesome peanut sauce.
Once you’ve made your own peanut sauce, you’ll never buy the stuff from a jar again.
Here’s what you need for Peanut Sauce:
Peanut Butter (I like chunky), Coconut Milk, Soy Sauce, and Lime
Combine 1/2 cup of peanut butter with 1/2 cup coconut milk.
Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime…
and add 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce. I like to use light soy sauce so that my sauce is not too salty.
Microwave the sauce for 1-2 minutes stirring occasionally to combine all of the ingredients. If you want a little extra kick (yes, you do) stir in 1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce.
Use additional coconut milk to thin the sauce to the consistency that you like.
Since I am from a sauce loving family, I like to serve this with a little rice to soak up some extra peanut sauce.
Who needs expensive carryout when these Asian inspired dishes are so easy to make at home!
Here are the recipes:
and the shopping lists all together:
If you want to make all of these for one meal (a good idea), I suggest the following time line:
1.) Early in the day or the night before, make the marinade and marinate the chicken pieces.
2.) If you’re serving with rice, prepare the rice about 20 – 30 minutes before you want to eat.
3.) Make the spring rolls and store them covered in a damp paper towel in the refrigerator
4.) Make the peanut sauce.
5.) Put the chicken on the skewers, heat up the grill, and cook the chicken satay.
6.) Put it all together, make yourself a mojito, and dig in!