Grilled Chicken Satay Bao/350 Brewing Hop Shaped Guitar/Mastodon “Emperor of Sand”
We absolutely love bao, the tiny little Asian buns that are a cross between a puffy taco shell and a small throw pillow. Well, way more appetizing than that description, but you get the picture. About a month or so back we tried a “cheater” recipe for these hard to find, even harder to make buns using Pillsbury crescent rolls, they weren’t too bad but we wanted the real thing tonight. Luckily we found a great little Asian market by the house with the authentic bao buns frozen, all we had to do was steam them for a few minutes then fill them with something delicious. For that something delicious we went with the classic chicken and peanut butter combo found in the popular chicken satay by marinating chicken thighs in coconut milk, garlic, ginger and sriracha then grilling them until charred and juicy. The chopped chicken gets a quick toss in a spicy homemade peanut sauce then topped with a cool vinegary mix of cukes, red onion and cilantro before a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and a drizzle of sriracha finish things off. For the beer, we cracked open our growler of 350 Brewing’s Hop Shaped Guitar IPA. On the stereo, we had cranked up the highly anticipated new release “Emperor of Sand” from the mighty Mastodon.
Grilled Chicken Satay Bao – Since we want the chicken thighs to soak up as much flavor from the marinade as possible, we’ll start there so that they can spend some quality time together in the fridge. In a large dish place about 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs. In a measuring cup combine 1 cup coconut milk with 1 tablespoon of sriracha and a heaping tablespoon of crushed garlic. Whisk well to combine. Place fresh slices of peeled ginger between the chicken thighs then pour over the marinade. Toss well to combine, cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.
After the chicken is sufficiently marinated we can take them to a hot grill and place them down over direct heat. Grill for about 8-10 minutes per side until charred then transfer to the cool side of the grill to finish add cooking for another 5 minutes or so. Remove the chicken from the grill and tent with foil to keep warm.
Back in the kitchen in a medium sauce pan warm 2 tablespooons of grapeseed oil, once heated add 2 chunks of peeled, fresh ginger to the oil and stir until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the ginger and in 1 cup of coconut milk, 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter and another shot of sriracha.
Whisk until smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, thin with a little more coconut milk. Now we dice the chicken and add it into the pot. Stir the chicken into the sauce making sure everything is well incorporated then keep warm.
The last item of business is the Asian slaw that we make by adding 1/2 red onion chopped, 1/2 an English cucumber chopped and small handful of chopped cilantro. For the dressing, all we need is 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar and a tablespoon of honey whisked together then tossed with the veggies.
To assemble we open up the freshly steamed bao buns and fill with the chicken mixture then top with the slaw.
The final touches are a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and a sriracha drizzle. Just when we thought we were hooked on getting these when we were dining out, we’re even more hooked now on making them at home which we will be doing often.
350 Brewing Hop Shaped Guitar – Being a growler club member at 350 means every month we get to feature a new tasty brew from this soutside brewery. This month it’s the delicious Hop Shaped Guitar IPA. The beer pours a cloudy dark amber, almost brown with a slight head covering the top of the beer. The aroma is dank and resiny with a little tropical sweetness. The flavor is certainly hop forward with great bitterness but it also has substantial malt body with a medium mouthfeel. The beer is super well-balanced and delicious and made for an excellent pairing with the fiery baos.
Mastodon “Emperor of Sand” – There are few great bands out there that get criticized the way Mastodon does, not as bad as say, a Metallica does, but enough vitriol is expunged on them to make you scratch your head and ask “why?” There’s the obvious “they changed their sound, I was a fan of them back when they were metal and saw them in a club with only five people before they became popular” people but those people usually hate everything anyway. For us, we love it all and this new album has enough of the old off timed prog metal and the new more melodic sound to keep everyone happy even the High Fidelity-ers (we just coined that term by the way). The opening track is “Sultan’s Curse” and it encompasses both the old and new in one song, much like “Crack the Skye”. It’s heavy AND melodic and great opening track. “Show Yourself was the first teaser single and the song is the epitome of catchy, one that we found ourselves cranking up and singing pretty much daily. It’s got a QOTSA swagger to it with incredible vocals layered on top, by far the best song on the album. “Precious Stones” is another tune we’d put in the “melodic” category, not as heavy or dark as much of the band’s material but it’s a fast paced burner just the same. A little of the classic sludginess comes back on the swampy riff that slithers its way through “Steambreather” placing down the heavy foundation that the layered, airy vocals navigate over. On the appropriately named “Roots Remain” the band gets back to their metal beginnings on this thrashy, proggy slab of heaviness. Carrying on with that same formula is “Word to the Rise” which shows the band changing tempos on a dime while volleying back in forth between vocal stylings. “Clandestine” is another example of the those tweener songs that is a perfect mix of the old and new, its up there as one of the best tracks on the album. “Scorpion Breath” is another great track full of dark and heavy tones, it’s a full on metal assault on the ear drums. The album ends with “Jaguar God”, an 8 minute epic that starts off with a very Pink Floyd-esque feel to it complete with super clean acoustic guitar and atmospheric, chill vocal harmonies. As you would expect, the songs ramps up, but subtlety, starting with a quicker tempo. Slowly but surely the song builds and builds, getting heavier and heavier both in the vocal and instrumental departments before coming to a close with beautifully arranged solo and jam session. Time will tell as to where this album lands on the list in terms on the band’s discography, more than any other band it seems, their albums always change chart positions for us depending on our mood at the time but its definitely up there as one of their best.