It's a game I often play when grocery shopping in international markets: planning for one impulse buy. Sometimes it's coconut vinegar, another time fresh tamarind. It sure beats a pint of ice cream, but the idea has a purpose beyond fun. Think of ingredients like tools or paints in a palette. The more flavors you have, the more you can paint. This makes healthful eating more than just nutritionally sound — it makes it interesting.
That's how Lemongrass-Chipotle Chicken was born. Unlike dried minced garlic or onion, dried lemongrass cannot be simply sprinkled into a dish. The results are too woody and fibrous. Instead, dried lemongrass can be infused to make a tea, broth for a soup stock, the foundation of a sauce, or in this case, a variation on an eastern North Carolina vinegar-based sauce paired with poached and shredded chicken breast. For little fat and tremendous amounts of protein, lemongrass imparts minerals and several variations of vitamin B.
Do you have to experiment with ingredients to reap maximum nutritional benefits? No, but making health food interesting isn't about what you have to do. It's about proving what's possible — to yourself as much as anyone.
Makes three to four 6-oz. servings
3 quarts water
3 tablespoons ground chipotle powder
Half package (Approx. 2 oz.) of dried lemongrass (available in Asian markets)
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Fill saucepan with water and add all ingredients except chicken. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add chicken and reduce to a simmer. Simmer 6-8 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and place onto a cutting board to cool. Once cool, pull chicken into strands with fingers. Return liquid to a boil and reduce by one-half to three-quarters.
Remove from heat and pour liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a separate bowl. Discard solids. Return strained liquid to heat and add vinegar. Continue to simmer and reduce for 15-20 minutes. Add chicken and stir until meat is thoroughly covered in sauce. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until chicken absorbs most of the sauce. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasoning.
Per 6-oz. serving: calories 218.5, total fat 2.2 g (saturated fat 0.6 g, polyunsaturated fat 0.5 g, monounsaturated fat, 0.5 g), cholesterol 98.6 mg, sodium 113.5 mg, potassium 525.6 mg, total carbohydrate 7.9 g (dietary fiber 0.8 g, sugars 2 g), protein 40.4 g. Vitamin B-12 10.8 percent, B-6 52.1 percent, iron 17 percent, magnesium 14.7 percent.