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When life gives you... lemongrass?

Posted Jun 18 2009 12:00am
When a friend took us out to eat to a Vietnamese restaurant, I admit I was skeptical and more than a little leery. I'm not very adventuresome with food and I had visions of raw fish dancing in my head. It didn't help that I understood approximately 0% of the menu and that our host decided to help us out by ordering some items on the menu for us. With an inward "ugh!", I politely passed by the fish soup, but gingerly took a bite of the entree he had suggested. I was more than pleasantly surprised - it was delicious! And what's more, DH loved it too! With his diet restrictions (see All About Me for more info on THAT topic!) I always keep my eyes peeled for foods he can both eat and enjoy, so as soon as we got home, I googled "lemongrass chicken", found some recipes and proceeded to search high and low for lemongrass.

Not as easy as it sounds! Or maybe it doesn't sound easy, depending on who you are and where you live. At any rate, it was not at any of my local grocery stores, but I kept looking. I finally found it at a Harris Teeter near my sisters' and it was surprisingly inexpensive. Since then, I've realized you can buy it in many forms and the Asian grocery store (duh!) is the easiest place to find it. You can also buy a plant and grow it; it's an incredibly easy plant to grow and take care of.

I usually use fresh lemongrass, either from my own plant or from Harris Teeter (one of my fave grocery stores btw... they have EVERYthing!). It's a little bit of work, but not so much that it can't qualify for "quick and easy" status.

But today I did not have any fresh lemongrass, and I had a package of dried lemongr ass that's been wasting away in my cupboard for a while. I decided to put it to use... and discovered that fresh is definitely better! In order to use the dried lemongrass, you have to soak it in very hot water for quite a while, and even then it's still woody to the point of being inedible. It still imparts at least some of the lemongrass flavor to your dish, but not as much as the fresh stuff. So I probably won't use the dried lemongrass again, which means I probably should purchase another plant (since mine died despite the fact that it IS easy to take care of, I promise!) so I can make this yummy dish more often.

So here we have it.... Lemongrass Chicken.

It's QUICK, at least once you have prepped the lemongrass itself. You have to marinate the chicken in the sauce, but only for 5-10 minutes, which is no biggie.

It's EASY despite the lemongrass, especially if you have a fresh plant. Just chop off a stem or two, take off the outer layers, and mince the core. Everything else is basically just a stir-fry.

It's CHEAP: lemongrass itself is very inexpensive (if you have a plant, it's practically free), and if you use boneless skinless chicken thighs (bought on sale of course!), it's a well-priced main dish. The only other ingredients are honey, soy sauce, some garlic and onion and rice to go with it.

It's HEALTHY, too, of course. Chicken is a nice lean protein, and as for lemongrass, according to www.nutritiondata.com , "This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Folate, Magnesium, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Iron, Potassium and Manganese." Use reduced-sodium soy sauce to, well, reduce the sodium!

Lemongrass Chicken

1.25 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 TBSP honey
3 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP minced fresh lemongrass
1 TBSP canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced, optional
1 lg onion, thinly sliced, optional
3 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped, optional

1. Cut the chicken across the grain on the diagonal into 1/8-in strips. Combine chicken, honey and 1 TBSP soy sauce in bowl, and stir to mix. Marinate for 5-10 min.

2. Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat and swirl in the oil. Add garlic (optional) and lemongrass and stir-fry for about 15 seconds, until fragrant but not brown. Add the chicken, and continue to stir fry about 1 minute, until the pieces turn white. If using the onion, at this point, move the chicken aside and stir-fry the onion for about 1 minute in the center of the pan. Add remaining soy sauce and continue stir-frying until the chicken is cooked, which will take about 2-3 minutes.

3. Top with chopped fresh cilantro, if desired, and serve over rice.

See? It's Quick, it's Easy, it's Cheap, and it's Healthy!

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