Christopher Kimball's Milk Street airs Saturdays at 2:00 pm.
Food writer and photographer Naomi Duguid’s stunning books provide keen insight into the people and foods of the countries she visits. One of our favorites, Burma, includes a terrific recipe called Aromatic Chicken from the Shan Hills. It’s simple, yet has deep flavor. We wanted to finesse things to make this even faster and easier for the home cook. We swapped in boneless thighs for Duguid’s bone-in chicken and switched to a Dutch oven instead of a wok. She suggests a mortar and pestle, but we used a blender to make a paste of lemongrass, garlic, ginger and shallots. This meant we could skip a marinade and let the chicken season as it cooked. A dose of red pepper flakes added moderate heat, but traditional Burmese food can be fairly spicy; if you want more heat, increase the red pepper flakes or stir in a slivered jalapeno, serrano, or bird’s eye chili with the cilantro. We liked the chicken over steamed rice or thin rice noodles.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Don’t use the fibrous outer layers of the lemongrass. You want only the white, slightly tender (but still firm) inner bulb. Trim the root and all but the bottom 5 inches of the stalk, then peel off the first few layers. If you buy lemongrass in a plastic clamshell container, it likely already has been trimmed.
8 ounces plum tomatoes (2 large), quartered
4 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and bottom 5 inches chopped
2 large shallots, quartered
2 ounces fresh ginger, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
8 garlic cloves
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges, to serve
1. In a blender, combine the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the turmeric, pepper flakes, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, and garlic. Blend until a thick paste forms, about 1 minute, scraping down the blender as needed.
2. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, the chicken, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and the paste coats the chicken, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thickened, 7 to 9 minutes. Off heat, stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Serve with lime wedges.