After the more formal ritual of the holidays, I always like to start the new year with a festive night of spicy Vietnamese-inspired food and some unfussy decorating. I love paper lanterns and on a recent trip to New York City I couldn’t resist a mad dash into the new Pearl River emporium in Soho. There are countless varieties of lanterns (and other great decorating items) and the store will ship anywhere. For me, the lanterns were reason enough to throw a party. I also like to go to Target, which has a great garden light section, wonderful paper lanterns and other outdoor options.
For cuisine, I am constantly looking for food that’s exciting for me and bland enough for my kids and for fussy eaters. This Vietnamese oven barbecue chicken and pineapple stir-fried rice is an easy crowd pleaser.
Vietnamese Oven Barbecue Chicken
1 whole fryer chicken, cut into pieces; or 6 to 8 thighs
4 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 tblsp. sesame oil
1 cup ketchup
1⁄3 cup white- or rice-wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
Place chicken in oven under broiler until skin begins to brown. While you are browning the chicken, sauté ginger in the sesame oil until soft. Pour in the rest of the ingredients and simmer until thickened slightly. Remove chicken from oven, cover with sauce, then put back into oven and bake on 350 degrees for about an hour. Serves 4 to 6.
Pineapple Stir-Fried Rice
2 cups jasmine, or other long grain rice
4 cups water
1 tblsp. white vinegar
1⁄4 -1⁄2 cup canola or safflower oil
1 jalepeño, minced
Soy sauce, to taste
1 can pineapple, drained; or 1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
Bring rice and water to a boil. Stir in vinegar, cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside with cover on.
In a separate pan, heat 1/4 cup of oil until just smoking. Quickly toss in about half of the jalepeño, half of the rice and stir until it begins to slightly brown. This takes about three to five minutes and can be hastened along with a few dashes of soy sauce to taste. Repeat with second half of rice and set aside.
In the same pan, heat a bit more of the oil and quickly stir-fry the pineapple, adding a few dashes of soy for color. Fold the pineapple and cilantro into the rice and serve. Serves 4 to 6.