Friday recipe: satays on a stick

If you know anything about Iowa beyond its stereotyped abundance of corn and hogs, you likely know about our world-famous state fair, under way through Sunday (although we also like to brag about our great public schools, friendly people, user-friendly lifestyles and – YES! – our arts and culture). And while lots of state fairs serve foods on a stick, my theory – go ahead, challenge me – is that the Iowa State Fair is the grand-daddy pioneer at poking pegs into a plethora of fair fare (check out this list!) that’s usually deep-fat-fried, battered, cheese- or chocolate-covered, rolled in nuts and/or wrapped in bacon, like this year’s new version of the state fair classic, the corn dog.

Needless to say, not many people go to the Iowa State Fair to limit their waistlines. Sure, you can go for healthier options (here’s that list), but my guess is you’ll find longer lines for the chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookie dough pops (new this year!) than for salad on a stick.

Dayna Smith for The Washington Post

But stick does not equal evil when it comes to food, like the recipe for these lemon-herb chicken satays, provided by The Washington Post. You can adjust and change ingredients of the marinade, which keeps the chicken moist. And while you have to allot the time to soak 16-20 small skewers (30 minutes) and marinate the chicken (30 minutes to two hours), they cook fast, in as little as two minutes per side. They make great appetizers or a main course with, say, that salad on or off the stick.

If you don’t have a grill or prefer to pass on the sticks, you could cook the chicken in a skillet on your stove, stirfry-style.

Lemon-herb chicken satays

  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Small handful of chives, chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, smashed
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice and 1 or 2 teaspoons zest)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into strips 1 inch wide, 5 to 6 inches long and 1/4-inch thick

Combine the basil, parsley, chives, garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil, 4 tablespoons of the vinegar, the sugar, salt and pepper to taste in a blender. Puree until smooth, adding vinegar as needed to make a thick yet pourable marinade.

Thread the chicken strips onto the skewer. Ideally, each skewer will have one strip of chicken, but smaller pieces may be threaded together if necessary. Use a silicone pastry brush to coat each skewer with the marinade, then carefully place the coated skewers in a large resealable plastic food storage bag (with the pointed ends facing in the same direction). Place the bag on a tray and seal; refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

When the grill is hot, arrange the marinated chicken satays on the grill, keeping the uncovered part of the skewers away from direct heat if possible. Close the lid and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until the chicken starts to brown and the edges look done.

Use tongs to turn the skewers over. Close the lid and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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