Two weeks ago our son Gio and I headed to Pelican Lake to celebrate the 97th birthday of my grandmother, Sunny Mathison. My mom and I prepared a feast of family favorites, including several recipes we've already shared like our Tuscan Bean Salad, Gio's Olive Tapenade, Marilyn's Apple Spinach Salad and our recently featured Strawberry Shortcake. These dishes were a perfect complement for the main course, a dish my grandmother began making a couple of decades ago, which we now call Sunny's Peanut Butter Ginger Chicken.
This was the first time I'd ever tasted this dish, and I have to confess that I was a little skeptical about it when my mom and I were planning the menu. I'm a white-meat-eater when it comes to poultry, and this dish consists of just the legs and thighs of the chicken. But, my mom is the same and she loves this dish, so I decided to go with her recommendation.
Just the aroma of the chicken as it baked in the oven was enough to pique my interest. The kitchen smelled heavenly, filled with the mouthwatering scents of savory roasted chicken, ginger and peanutty goodness.
My grandma Sunny originally made this dish with just skinless drumsticks, and my mom added boneless skinless thighs for a little more variety. You can find the thighs already prepared in your local grocery store, but skinless drumsticks can be a little harder to find on a regular basis, and my mom has a great trick for skinning them at home.
Take a paper towel or set of pliers and, using one hand to hold the top of the drumstick, use the towel or pliers to grip the skin and then pull it straight off the drumstick. My mom is a pro in the kitchen, and I watched her skin eight drumsticks in less than two minutes, then I did a few myself, just to make sure it was as easy as it looked. It is.
This simple dish is quick to make and uses basic staples that most of us already have in our pantries, including ground ginger, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and peanut butter. The recipe calls for a chunky peanut butter, but a creamy version will work just fine.
My mom prepares the sauce first, and lets it marinate at room temperature until the chicken is ready to bake. When making the sauce, she mixes the dry ingredients with the peanut butter first, then adds the wet ingredients, followed by the green onions, which helps the flavors to combine better.
As a rule, always wash chicken before handling it and then pat it dry with a paper towel. For this dish, the chicken is browned first and finishes cooking in the oven.
To begin, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the chicken and brown each piece on both sides until a nice, golden brown. Next, place the browned pieces in a baking dish, cover with the sauce and bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, or even longer if desired, up to 60 minutes.
This dish is perfect for a family dinner, or to bring to a friend in need. You can prepare and bake it to serve immediately, or you can break it down into steps to accommodate a busy schedule. You can even bake it and store it in the freezer for up to two months. No matter when it's served, Sunny's Peanut Butter Ginger Chicken is sure to bring some sunshine to your table.
Sunny's Peanut Butter Ginger Chicken
Serves 6 to 8
8 drumsticks, skinless
8 thighs, boneless and skinless
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
For the sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter (smooth is fine)
1 can chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup green onions, sliced
In a medium bowl, mix the salt, garlic powder and ginger with the peanut butter until incorporated. Stir in the chicken broth, lemon juice, Worcestershire and honey until well mixed, then add the green onions. Set aside.
Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. If skin is still on the drumsticks, use a paper towel or pliers and, holding the top of the leg with one hand, use a paper towel or pliers to grip the skin and pull toward the other end to remove.
In a large skillet or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the chicken and brown until just golden brown. Adjust to medium-low heat if needed to avoid splatters. Transfer chicken to a baking dish, and cover with all of the sauce. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes until a rich, golden brown, or longer if a darker brown is desired. Serve immediately and enjoy, or freeze for up to 2 months.
• Advanced prep: Prepare the sauce and brown the chicken, then marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking.
• The chicken can be baked and then frozen for up to 2 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes until hot.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 10-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.