Coriander and my Famous Chicken

I love coriander for its versatility: it crosses many cuisines, and its flavor is very different when used fresh versus dried. Fresh coriander is also known as cilantro. Coriander seeds are what grows the plant, and can be used whole or ground.

Coriander is so widely used across many cultures that it is just about impossible to say where the plant originated. It grows wild in western Asia and southern Europe, and is cultivated the world over.

The seeds have a warm, nutty, citrus flavor that is slightly spicy but not hot. Coriander seeds are a primary ingredient in Garam Masala spice blend, as well as many Indian curries. They also show up in pickling, sausage, beer, and rye bread recipes. You can even roast them and eat them as a snack.

You’ll see cilantro in a lot of south Asian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Russian, Indian, and central Asian recipes. It has a citrusy, fresh taste. Like lavender, though, some people find the taste to be soap like. It’s one of those fresh herbs you either love or hate. I adore it.

My Famous (coriander) Chicken

One of our family’s favorite recipes uses both fresh and dried coriander. In fact, my kids call it my “famous chicken.” Full disclosure: I didn’t create the recipe,only found it, but I’m taking their praises as far as I can.

5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
8 whole chicken legs, split, or 8 drumsticks and 8 thighs (about 5 pounds total)
Thai sweet chili sauce, for serving

Combine the garlic, cilantro, fish sauce, vegetable oil, hoisin sauce, coriander, kosher salt and pepper in a blender until smooth. Arrange the pieces of chicken in a large, shallow glass or ceramic dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken and turn to coat the pieces thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.

To roast the chicken: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover baking dish with a lid or foil and roast chicken for about 25 minutes. If the sauce begins to char, sprinkle a few tablespoons water into the dish. Remove the lid or foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the skin is crisp and the meat is cooked through.

To grill the chicken: Light a grill. If using a gas grill, turn off the center burners; if using a charcoal grill, once the coals are covered with a light ash, push them to opposite sides, forming a well in the middle. Set a disposable drip pan in the center. Cook chicken on the hot grate above, skin side down, with the cover down for about 40 minutes. The skin should be crisp and the meat should be cooked through.

Both methods: Once cooked, transfer to plates and serve with Thai chili sauce.

We serve this recipe with jasmine rice and either steamed broccoli, or braised napa cabbage or baby boy choy. It makes a regular appearance in our meal rotation. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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