Saveur (May 2014)
We have it.
We blame Saveur, but we want to pass it on to you, too.
You see, the May issue of Saveur is a bit different from typical editions of the magazine. Titled "A Day of Cooking," it progresses through a 24-hour day following stories of food and people from around the world.
At 6:21 a.m., someone is ordering brioche French toast from room service in L.A.'s Bel-Air Hotel. By 3:34 p.m., we're having afternoon snacks in Abu Dhabi. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, we're in a chef's home making quesadillas as a late night meal. It's an inventive, fresh issue, and each story has a corresponding recipe.
We fell in love at first read in Indonesia (2:00 p.m.), with the description of Ayam Jeruk, "an addictive warm salad of grilled shredded chicken and roasted coconut tinged a bright yellow from fresh turmeric roots."
If we can't jaunt to Bali, we were at least going to give this recipe a shot.
But just like we're substituting this dish for a trip to the Indonesian isles, we had to make a lot of substitutions in this recipe itself.
As you might expect from an exotic recipe, there are several ingredients here that you ain't gonna find at Harris Teeter. In fact, we couldn't find the following ingredients at either Harris Teeter, Whole Foods or the tiny Japanese market in our neighborhood that we always kind of forget is very specifically Japanese and not, in fact, a pan-Asian superstore:
- Asian shallots
- Balinese long pepper
- Indonesian shrimp paste
- a Holland chile
On top of that, we accidentally bought two young coconuts at Whole Foods instead of two regular ol' mature coconuts, thinking they'd be interchangeable. They're not. Young coconut meat is more of a soft gel consistency and doesn't shred or toast. So we ran out and bought a bag of unsweetened shredded coconut. (One exotic item we did have on hand was fresh Kaffir lime leaves, thanks to a little potted Kaffir lime tree we bought a few years ago and have somehow kept alive. We love having it -- the leaves add a wonderful flavor to stir-frys and other dishes. And they make a killer martini when muddled with gin.)
Anyway, after all those substitutions, is it even worth making this Ayam Jeruk?
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes.
Okay, so here's what all we subbed in:
- Asian shallots -- we used regular shallots, as per the recipe's suggestion
- Balinese long pepper -- we omitted, as per the recipe
- Candlenuts -- macadamias, again as per the recipe
- Galangal -- we used fresh ginger in double the amount, which we read online makes a passable substitution, even though it's definitely not the same
- Indonesian shrimp paste -- we used 1 tablespoon fish sauce in place of 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
- a Holland chile -- we used two jalapenos
- fresh coconut -- roughly a cup of dried unsweetened coconut
- red Thai chiles -- we couldn't find fresh, but we reanimated some dried Thai bird eye chiles
In the end, did we even really make authentic Ayam Jeruk? Eh, maybe not. But what we made was something in the general neighborhood of Ayam Jeruk.
And more importantly, it was crazy -- crazy -- good.
The prep here isn't hard, but it's a little laborious. There are a lot of steps. And a lot of equipment, including a grill, 2 skillets, a spice grinder and a food processor. If you don't have all those items, should you give up? No way! Substitute! One word of warning: we dirtied just about every dish in our kitchen making this recipe, so it's not a simple endeavor.
Anyway, the reason for the somewhat-involved prep is that you're building a lot of layers of intense flavor. Like the Malaysian Beef Rendang we made a couple years ago, this Ayam Jeruk has so much complexity of flavor going on. It's savory, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, funky and spicy -- all in one bite.
In fact, we found it quite addictive. (Do yourself a major favor and double this recipe. The leftovers are remarkably good.)
Our advice to you? Do whatever you need to assemble the ingredients you need for this. You can probably find them at H Mart or another large Asian grocery store, and you could certainly source them online. Or make substitutions like we did.
But you definitely ought to try this. We loved it.
It's not quite as good as going to Bali for the real thing. But it's an excellent substitution.
Serves 2 to 4
NOTES FROM ZACH AND CLAY OF THE BITTEN WORD
We made a number of substitutions in this recipe. See above for the full list of what we substituted.
1½ lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
2¾ cups canola oil
1 coconut, cracked open and shredded
12 small Asian shallots or 4 medium regular shallots, thinly sliced
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. whole black peppercorns
¼ tsp. whole coriander
1 Balinese long pepper (optional)
2 tsp. ground turmeric
16 cloves garlic, peeled
3 candlenuts or unsalted macadamia nuts
1 (½") piece galangal, peeled and thinly sliced
⅔ cup cup coconut milk, preferably UHT from a carton
½ tsp. Indonesian shrimp paste
5 small red Thai chiles, stemmed
1 Holland chile, stemmed
Kosher salt, to taste
4 fresh or frozen Kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Cooked white rice, for serving
Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high.) Rub chicken with 2 tbsp. oil; grill, flipping once, until cooked through, 40–45 minutes. Let cool, then discard bones; finely shred meat and skin. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat a 12" nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook coconut until golden, 12–15 minutes; add to chicken. Add 2 cups oil and ¾ of the shallots to pan; heat over medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are golden brown and crisp, 10–12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper towels to drain; set aside. Discard oil.
Grind nutmeg, peppercorns, coriander, and long pepper, if using, in a spice grinder into a powder; transfer to a small food processor. Add turmeric, half the garlic, the candlenuts, galangal, and 3 tbsp. water; purée into a smooth paste. Add 2 tbsp. oil to pan; heat over medium-high. Cook paste until fragrant, 2–3 minutes. Transfer to bowl with chicken. Add coconut milk to pan; simmer over medium heat until reduced by half, 2 minutes. Let cool; add to chicken mixture.
Add remaining shallots and garlic, the shrimp paste, chiles, and salt to food processor; purée into a smooth paste. Heat remaining oil in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat; fry paste until golden, 6–7 minutes. Let cool; add to chicken mixture. Stir in half the fried shallots, the lime leaves, and juice; garnish with remaining shallots. Serve with rice.