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Thai Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Yield 4
Cilantro stems get in the act in this recipe; they're pureed with the leaves, jalapeños, garlic, fish sauce, and sesame oil to make a flavorful coating for grilled chicken. The dipping sauce, which also contains cilantro, is a classic Thai sweet-and-sour sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, 2 smashed, 2 minced
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems, plus 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/3 pounds in all)
  • 6 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water

How to Make It

  1. Light the grill or heat the broiler. In a blender or food processor, puree the jalapeños, smashed garlic cloves, the 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems, the fish sauce, cooking oil, sesame oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Put the chicken in a shallow dish and coat it with the cilantro puree.

  2. Grill the chicken over moderately high heat or broil it for 5 minutes. Turn and cook until just done, about 5 minutes longer.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small stainless-steel saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to a simmer, stirring. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour the liquid into a small glass or stainless-steel bowl and let cool. Add the minced garlic, the 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, the red-pepper flakes, and water. Serve each chicken breast with a small bowl of the dipping sauce alongside.

  4. Wine Recommendation: The rich, unctuous texture and pronounced fruity flavor of a dry gewürztraminer from France's Alsace region will provide a lovely contrast to these strong, spicy flavors.

  5. Notes: Asian fish sauce is available at Asian markets and many supermarkets

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