Ga Xao Xa Ot – Spicy Lemongrass Chicken

Had another go at a Ravenous Couple recipe, this time for a lemongrassy chicken (ga xao xa ot). I like their recipes and their site is an excellent resource, but it seems that I always want to alter things a fair amount to get ’em the way I like ’em.

In this case, when I make this again (and I will), I will scrape off the chunks of lemongrass from the marinade before I cook, and I won’t bother with adding any garlic or lemongrass to the frying oil. Both tallasiandude and I don’t particularly like the texture of the chunks of seasoning on the meat.

So my version wound up being:

cut up package of boneless chicken thigh, and mix in a bowl with:

1 minced shallot
3 cloves minced garlic (maybe mash this up so it’s not in minced chunks)
1 stalk lemongrass, mince the tender white end
1 tbsp red chili pepper flakes
1.5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp (generous, probably more like 3) fish sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp fresh ground pepper

I started late, so rather than “marinade the chicken for about 2 hours or overnight covered in the fridge” I just did an hour on the counter.

Scrape off the marinade bits from the chicken (maybe even rinse), and if you feel like it strain them out of the marinade liquid so you can add that liquid later with the coconut juice. In a large frying pan heat 1-2 tbs of cooking oil on high heat and add the chicken and dried peppers and sear until outside is browned, and stir occasionally. Add stock/coconut juice, cover and cook until juice is reduced by about half. If it seems like it is going to dry out and burn, just add the liquid sooner and let it stew. It tended to seem cooked when it really wasn’t, so cut open a chunk to check that it’s cooked through.

I served mine with jasmine rice, steamed broccoli, and steamed sugar snap peas. Delicious!

cuban slow-cooker beef (ropa vieja)

I continue to get Woman’s Day magazine (long story, they won’t stop sending it here and I do not pay for it), which sometimes has recipes that are the germ of something interesting. Always they are reduced down to their simplest, most easily accessible ingredients and the most inoffensive flavor profile, but often there’s the germ of a decent quick meal in there.

Recently there was a recipe for slow cooker Cuban-style beef and peppers. I rarely like slow cooker recipes because they come out bland, but this one seemed like it had a shot, being both suitable to a watery cooking method and chock-a-block with flavorful ingredients.

I wound up modifying and winging it, but I did use this Saveur recipe as a guide. Mine had red pepper, cubanelle pepper, onion, lots of beef, dry vermouth, capers, cumin, and oregano, and made the house smell nice after 6 hours in the cooker. I drained off the liquid and boiled it down and thickened it a bit with arrowroot and amped it up with more salt and spices and vinegar. I topped mine with chopped olives but didn’t add them to the pot since tallasiandude is actively not into olives.


omg shakshuka. We learned of it from our friends A & C when they served it to us for brunch. Ever since then, I’ve been making it over and over, because it is so unbelievably delicious. And easy. And healthy. I keep meaning to make a big batch so I can have enough to freeze, but frankly I just keep eating it up till it’s gone. Hopefully this time I will save some out to the freezer, since I have so many other cooking projects on the go this week as well. Mmmmmm… eggs in spicy tomatoey sauce, mopped up with toast.

I use David Lebovitz’s recipe, and just kinda eyeball quantities and timing. Always good. You’re welcome.

Vietnamese lemongrass pork

I made this pork about 6 weeks ago, and it came out OK, but not the way I expected or wanted it to be. It was very dark in color, sweeter than I’d like, and nothing like the delectable grilled pork I’d had in Vietnamese restaurants.

So this time I winged it, aiming for the flavors I crave. It came out much much better. And I am gratified to report that even though I did this to bone-in pork chops well over an inch thick, since that’s what I had and there was no time to butcher them into thin slices, the flavor penetrated well and the result was noms.

I used:
2 big-ass bone in pork chops, well marbled with fat

and stabbed them a bunch of times all over with my knife so the marinade could enter. Then I let them sit for several hours in:

minced lemongrass – I used the thick, tender 2-3″ of one stalk
several tbs fish sauce – I like this to be the dominant flavor
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
a squirt of agave syrup
1-2 tbs thin soy sauce (the regular stuff, not thick soy sauce which has molasses)
a drizzle of toasted sesame oil

Fire up the oven to 350F and start a cast iron pan on high but not full blast. Scrape the lemongrass bits off the chops. If you don’t have fatty meat, put a little oil in the pan. When the pan’s hot, sear the chops on both sides but be careful not to let it burn too much (the sugar will tend to char), then stick the pan into the oven for 10-25 minutes. Duration depends on how cooked they got in the sear, how thick they are, etc, so just poke them and if they are firm, they are done.

Pull them out, rest them for 10 minutes, then eat them up yum with rice and pickled veg, or make bun, or whatever you like to do with delicious fish-saucy lemongrassy pork.


Back in 2003 I went on a car trip in CA with my newish boyfriend, the tallasiandude. We had a really good time (nudge nudge wink wink) driving up Highway 1 and stopping every half hour to do something or other.

One of the stops was in Solvang, a bizarro tourist-trap town billing itself as a bit of Denmark in southern California. We stepped into a bakery and for some reason I was entranced by these simple-looking cookies. Little nondescript beige logs with an appealing crackly surface. I bought them even though they were some form of marzipan cookie — normally I hate marzipan or anything almond flavored besides almonds — because I was so entranced by them.

These were the most delicious cookie I had ever had, right there in that moment. No idea why. Still not especially fond of almond-flavoring, but with the memory of those cookies in mind, I tried a few almond-flavored things in Sweden last year and they were all delicious, so I decided to trust the Scandinavians in general on this topic.

Ever since that trip in 2003 I had been trying to find a recipe for those cookies on the internet. Of course I’d instantly forgotten what they were called, which hindered the search considerably.

But somehow or other, a few weeks ago I stuffed the right terms into the search and this recipe came up. Shazam! That looked like my cookie!

I resolved to try it. It even called for the very same brand of almond paste I had brought back from Sweden.

Today I made them, and I was right — same cookie. Crunchy chewy crackly outer layer, sticky marzipan innards. DELICIOUS! They stick to the parchment like a motherfucker, so next time around I think I will butter the paper. I wonder if I can source Odense almond paste anywhere closer than Sweden?

Vietnamese Week, Day 4 (dinner party)

Day 4 was a dinner party with friends. The pork belly and pickled bean sprouts went over a treat, and we made some shrimp on sugarcane (yum) and green papaya salad (turns out I really like cucumber in it) and some Pok Pok wings (holyshitOMGnoms).

The actual wings served at Pok Pok in Portland were better, I will grant, but these have a salty-sweet intensity that punched all my buttons. Everyone involved wound up with wing sauce everywhere and needed a bit of a scrubdown before the main course. Noms.

Also: avocado smoothies. Swoon.