THE WASHINGTON POST – Burgers, hot dogs, ribs are all summer barbecue essentials, but there is one grilling food group that will forever have my heart: skewers. From kefta kebabs and tandoori chicken skewers to lamb souvlaki, Thai moo ping and negima yakitori, my hand will always gravitate to anything grilled on a stick.
The common practice of skewering proteins and vegetables on the same stick, however, can result in uneven cooking, so what if, instead, we pair hot skewered protein with crispy, crunchy, cooling vegetables? And, of course, if there are raw vegetables, you need a highly dippable sauce. Put those things together – skewers, veggies and dip – and you have a platter built for a party.
The workhorse of this recipe is a punchy sauce – made with coconut cream, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, serrano peppers and coconut sugar to balance the heat – that does double duty as a marinade and dip. First, the ingredients are blended and a portion is used to coat cut-up chicken thighs. (You could also use chicken breasts, but thighs are more moist and flavourful). The lime juice in the marinade paired with the smaller size of the chicken means it only takes a few hours for the flavour to permeate the meat, cutting out overnight marinating.
Then, the remaining base is blended with avocado, transforming it into a creamy, verdant dipping sauce that highlights the fresh herbs. Plus, the lip-smacking heat from serrano peppers and a subtle umami funk of the fish sauce pair particularly well with raw vegetables. Just make sure to press a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap on the surface of the sauce while the chicken is marinating to prevent oxidation and preserve the dip’s luscious green colour.
When it comes to the vegetables – or crudités, if you’re feeling fancy – there are no hard-and-fast rules. I often use platters like these as an opportunity to go wild at the farmers market or use up odds and ends from my crisper. Combine crunchy vegetables – think carrots, cucumbers and radishes – with leafy ones, such as cabbage, or little gems with a few seasonal dippers, such as cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Another great thing about this platter is so much of it can be prepped ahead of time. Start by making the marinade and skewering the chicken the morning of your cookout. You can prep most of your vegetables a day ahead, as well. Then, come party time, all that’s left to do is to grill and assemble.
HERBY COCONUT CHICKEN SKEWERS PLATTER
This platter of herbaceous chicken skewers and crunchy vegetables is built for sun-filled barbecues and leisurely grazing long into the evening. The star of the show is a punchy sauce of coconut cream, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, garlic, lime and serrano pepper that does double duty as marinade for the chicken thighs and dip for the crunchy vegetables.
Use the suggestions below or any mix of crunchy, leafy, dippable vegetables. For six to eight people, you’ll want about two to two-and-a-half pounds of mixed produce. You’ll also need wooden skewers.
Make Ahead: The wooden skewers need to be soaked in water for at least 20 minutes before grilling.
For the chicken and dip
– Three-quarter cup coconut cream
– Three tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar
– Two tablespoons fish sauce
– Two teaspoons fine salt, divided
– Finely grated zest of two to three limes
– Three tablespoons fresh lime juice
– Five cloves garlic, chopped
– One to two serrano peppers, roughly chopped
– Four cups fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
– Two cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
– One medium avocado, halved and pitted
– Two-and-a-quarter pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into one-and-a-half-inch pieces
– Neutral oil, such as canola, for greasing the grill
FOR THE PLATTER
– One bunch small carrots (eight ounces total), green tops trimmed, peeled and halved lengthwise
– One English cucumber, cut into spears
– One to two watermelon radishes (six ounces total), thinly sliced (may substitute one small bunch red radishes)
– Six ounces snap peas
– One cup (six ounces) cherry tomatoes, halved if large
– Quarter medium head red or green cabbage (six ounces total), cut into big chunks
Make the chicken and dip
In a blender, combine the coconut cream, sugar, fish sauce, one teaspoon of salt, lime zest and juice, garlic, and serrano peppers. Blend on high until smooth.
Add the cilantro and mint, in batches, and blend on high until smooth, being careful not to overblend and heat the sauce, 15 to 30 seconds. Transfer one cup of the sauce to a large bowl and set aside.
Scoop out the avocado flesh and add it to the remaining sauce in the blender; process until smooth, about 15 seconds. Transfer to an airtight container, and place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to prevent discolouration (if using parchment, cut the circle to fit inside the container). Cover with a lid and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Add the chicken and the remaining one teaspoon of salt to the bowl with the reserved marinade, and toss until evenly coated. Thread three or four pieces of chicken onto each of the soaked wooden skewers, and set on a rimmed baking sheet or plate. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to overnight.
When ready to cook, prepare the grill for direct medium heat.
Lightly oil your grill. Working in batches if necessary, place the skewers on the grill and cook without moving them, until the chicken develops grill marks, six to eight minutes.
Turn and cook on the other side until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant -read thermometer.
If grilling in batches, transfer the cooked skewers to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Assemble the platter
Transfer the creamy herb-coconut sauce to a small bowl. Stack the skewers on a large serving platter and arrange the vegetables on the rest of the platter.