Crisp-Skinned Vietnamese Chicken with Peaches

I was at the beach all weekend, literally sitting in a chaise lounge talking to girlfriends.  It was so much fun, but I got no shopping or prepping done for the week.  Once we got back into Tunis, we stopped at a roadside stand for some produce.  They had these pretty, little, doughnut peaches and I bought them not entirely knowing what I was going to do with them.  I really appreciate the stone fruit season, here.  It is in spring and it allows me to enjoy some of the fruits I miss every August in Washington State when I have to leave to come back to Africa.

I had some chicken thighs and creme fraiche so I thought I would make a poulet a la peche I remember making a couple of decades ago when my husband and I were cash tight.  I had gleaned peaches after a harvest and he had home butchered some chickens he got from the absolutely free ads in the newspaper and we had a gourmet dinner one hot August evening at the little table in the kitchen of our first house.  That is a good memory.

Searching for a recipe, however, I found this light, crisp, spicy dish that sounded so much better.  Because these peaches slipped nicely out of their skins after I parboiled them, I decided to leave them whole, but the recipe directs slicing them into the salad.  I can’t remember the last time we fried chicken, but it was so worth it to create the crunchy contrast to the minty salad and the sweet peaches.  The recipe is from the Australian magazine Gourmet Traveler and it is making me think a little fondly of our days in Southeast Asia, which are good memories, too.

Serves 6

Ingredients

For Deep Frying

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 chicken, cut into 12 pieces

Salad

  • 3-5 peaches, peeled, halved, stones removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthways and thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 1/2 cup (loosely packed) each coriander and mint
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (I substituted toasted macadamia nuts)

Nuoc Cham

  • 1 tablespoon each fish sauce and lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 long red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Procedure

Heat oil in a deep saucepan or deep fryer to 180 degrees C.  Pat chicken to dry with paper towel then deep-fry in batches, turning occasionally until golden (10-12 minutes per side).  Drain on paper towel and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meanwhile, for nuoc cham, whisk fish sauce, lemon juice, sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to combine, then stir in chili and garlic.  Set aside.

Combine peaches, cucumber slices, and herbs on a serving plate.  Top with crisp-skinned chicken.  Drizzle with nuoc cham.  Scatter with nuts  and serve.

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