As soon as we got our hands on Andrea Nguyen's new "Vietnamese Food Any Day" Nancy Leson and I went right to work. The book focuses on recipes for Viet food using ingredients available at most American supermarkets and Nance and I each cooked off several of them..
"The first one I made was the sizzling rice crepes," Nancy said. The crepes are made of rice flour, colored and flavored with turmeric and coconut milk and filled with ground pork, shrimp, beans spouts and green onions. "I've had this at local Vietnamese restaurants and it was really great to make it at home with things you can buy at your local supermarket."
A few days later she made the rice noodle salad bowl. "Noodles with fresh vegetables and marinated grilled meat."
I opted for the "Gratitude" chicken, celery and rice. This dish calls for schmaltz, rendered chicken fat. I don't usually have any of that on hand so I picked up a value pack of chicken thighs, eight of them for just $6.50. I boned them out, trimmed the fat and skin, covered them with an inch of water in a skillet and let the water boil away until the fat liquified.
I saved the cracklings (the ones I didn't eat right there and then) to mix into the finished dish and roasted the bones to fortify the stock the rice cooks in. I poached two of the thighs in the stock and froze the rest. Andrea says it's fine to use oil if you don't have schmaltz, but I think chicken fat adds a lot of flavor. Final steps are a quick sautee of the celery and cooked chicken, before it cooks the rest of the way on the rice.
And the final result...
Andrea Nguyen appears at Seattle's Book Larder Monday, March 18, 6:30-8 p.m. to talk about and sign "Vietnamese Food Any Day."
"Improvisation is too good to leave to chance." – Paul Simon