Japanese Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Smashed Cucumber

I am a big fan of Diana Henry (and have written about her here and here). She is cheeky yet thoughtful, sophisticated yet simple. This cookbook (A Change of Appetite), one I turn to time and again to up my salad game, is her gander at healthy eating.  

Her take is simple:  More veggies, less meat. Heavy on freshness, light on processed foods. 

And Henry takes us on a whirlwind tour of healthy food from across the world. From Scandinavia to Cambodia, North Africa to Peru, this cookbook opens up a world of possibilities for the healthy palate. 

I have been thinking about my diet more these days.  One of the most important people in my whole life is in the midst of a health crisis, and we have been talking a lot about food that is good for you. There's a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of advice that contradicts itself. I just want something that is simple and easy to follow.

Enter Diana Henry.

She just advises to eat well, to enjoy the process, and to be aware of what you put in your body. She doesn't get too preachy, she encourages indulgences, and she always delivers something satisfying. These are mantras I can embrace.

This recipe for a Japanese chicken is an easy one, but it does take some advance planning. There is an hour long marinade and a bake time of 40 minutes. However, the active time with this dinner is pretty light. 

Yep, there's some chopping at the outset, but then settle in with a glass of wine and a book while you wait for dinner to be done. (But make it one glass, and of red wine, or at least according to the multitude of information about the power of red wine for heart health.)

So, let's do this together, friends. Let's be a little healthier this summer.

Starting with this dinner right here.

I promise, you won't miss any of the unhealthy things you have been eating, and you won't get any misinformation from Diana Henry.

Japanese Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Smashed Cucumber

4 Servings 

For the marinade
3 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sake or dry sherry
3 Tbsp packed dark-brown sugar
½ Tbsp brown miso
2/3 cup ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 tsp togarashi seasoning (or ½ tsp chile powder)

8 bone-in chicken thighs

For the salad
1 1/2 cucumbers
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp pickled ginger, finely shredded
Small handful of shiso leaves, or mint leaves, torn (optional)

1. Mix together all the marinade ingredients. Pierce the chicken on the fleshy side with a knife, put the pieces into a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the chicken. Massage it in well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and put the pieces in a shallow ovenproof dish in which they can sit snugly in a single layer. Pour half of the marinade onto the chicken. Roast for 40 minutes, basting every so often with the cooking juices and the leftover marinade. Once 20 minutes have passed, don't add any more leftover marinade – it needs to cook properly as it has had raw chicken juices in it.

3.  When the chicken is at about the 1/2 way point, peel and halve the cucumber, scoop out the seeds and discard. Set the cucumbers on a board and bang them gently with a pestle or rolling-pin, then break them up into chunks with your hands. Crush the garlic with a pinch of the salt and massage this and the rest of the salt into the cucumber. Put in a small sandwich bag, squeeze out the air and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4.  After 40 minutes check the chicken for doneness – the juices should run clear when you pierce the flesh with a knife. Remove from the oven.
5.  When you're ready to eat, drain the cucumbers in a sieve and add the pickled ginger. Add the shiso leaves or the mint. Serve with the chicken and, if you're in the mood for something more filling, some rice or rice vermicelli.


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