This blog was written by guest blogger, Margaret Lester, Dietetic Intern from Southern Regional Medical Center.
Cook with it! Lemongrass Chicken is what’s on the menu next week at Good Measure Meals – alongside Edamame Risotto with Ginger Glazed Carrots. I have eaten lemongrass in restaurants as a flavoring for meat, but have never cooked with it myself and until now, I had never even seen the actual food itself!
The lemongrass plant grows in stalks with long grassy blades and can be used in a variety of ways. Lemongrass looks a bit like a green onion to me, but it tastes fresh and mild and adds a nice aroma to food.
The grassy blades at the top can be sliced thinly and added to soups, while the fibrous roots can be minced or grated for tea, cooked in curry, or used as a rub for meats.
Lemongrass is widely used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking, often in teas, soups, and curries. Locally, you can find fresh lemongrass at a specialty or Asian market
If you want to cook with fresh lemongrass, purchase stalks that are thick, light green, and firm, not dried-out or wilted. Cut off the top third of the stalk, as it is usually dry and fibrous (not delicious), and trim the root tip. Now you’re ready to bruise the plant!
I know what you’re thinking. “Bruising? No thanks!”
But bruising releases the lemony aromatic oils. To bruise, simply lay your knife flat across the stalk and smash (carefully) with the heel of your hand.
Next, take out the tough pieces. These can be used to flavor broths, but should be removed before serving as they are not to be eaten. Slice what remains into thin rounds, removing the fibrous outer layer if necessary. These thin rounds can be added to a lettuce salad or crushed into a paste and added to curries.
Additional uses of lemongrass include preserving and herbal remedies. Historically, lemongrass oil was used on ancient Indian palm leaf manuscripts to preserve them and prevent humidity from destroying them. Lemongrass is also traditionally used in tea to treat cough and cold and is thought to soothe the digestive tract, used to treat stomach cramps and indigestion.
Fun fact: The lemongrass plant is a relative of citronella, the oils of which is used in candles and sprays to ward off bugs.
Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Red Quinoa and Vegetables
Recipe from Epicurious, adapted from Self Magazine
3 medium shallots, roughly chopped
2 stalks fresh lemongrass (tough outer leaves removed)
1 piece ginger (about 1 1/2 inches), peeled
1/4 cup plus 5 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts (about 5 ounces each)
3/4 cup red quinoa
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or stock)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 pound fresh sugar snap peas, strings removed
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Marinade: Puree shallots, lemongrass, ginger, 1/4 cup oil, lime juice, tamari, sugar, sea salt, pepper, and coriander in a blender until smooth. Place chicken in a baking dish and spoon on marinade, rubbing it on all sides. Cover; chill 1/2 to 2 hours. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook quinoa until toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until quinoa absorbs liquid, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat; let sit, covered, until ready to serve. Heat a grill pan or skillet over high heat; coat with cooking spray. Cook chicken, turning once, for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning once, until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove chicken; let rest two minutes. Slice each breast on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook sugar peas and peppers until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add mint and toss. Divide quinoa among 4 plates. Top each with 1 sliced chicken breast and 1/4 of the vegetables.
Per serving: 465 calories, 13.6 g fat (1.4 g saturated), 43.1 g carbs, 7.3 g fiber, 42.2 g protein
Nutritional analysis provided by Self Magazine.