Gai Pad Krapow, or chicken with basil

January is an odd month for food. After a few weeks of festivities around the holidays I’ve usually eaten my fill of decadent meals. Enough with the chocolate, with the gravy, with the rich stuffings and bread puddings. And along with my stomach, after the holidays my wallet is usually also going through a bit of a downsizing. Cheap, healthy food is certainly the order of the day.

But on the other hand I’m still a little worn out from cooking over the holidays, so I don’t really feel like an epic undertaking. And man, even if health and budget are concerns I’m still not going to suffer through eating something that tastes like cardboard. I want flavor, and freshness, and I want it now. I want.. Thai!

Gai Pad Krapow gets top marks in everything I’m looking for in a weeknight post-holiday dinner. The main ingredient is ground chicken, a healthier alternative to beef or pork. It’s amazingly simple to make, with most of the work being done chopping aromatics, and tastes delicious. Pair it with a bowl of rice for a heartier meal, or with a spicy cabbage salad for a lighter, lower-carb experience. You can change the exact nature of the sauces and peppers to create the flavor you want — I tend to go with a sweeter sauce to offset a really spicy salad.

Weeknight Gai Pad Krapow


a head of butter lettuce
a package of ground chicken
a big (big!) bunch of Thai basil
4-ish garlic cloves, finely chopped
roughly the same amount of ginger, finely chopped
a large shallot, finely chopped
hot peppers to taste, finely chopped (fresno peppers are my favorite)
fish sauce
sweet Thai chili sauce
vegetable oil
salt and pepper


aromatics and basil for gai pad krapow

Pretty colors!

  1. Finely chop your garlic, ginger, shallot, and peppers.
  2. Chop the big stems off of your basil, but keep the leaves and little clusters whole.
  3. Put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan on about medium heat.
  4. Once the oil is hot, throw in your garlic, ginger, shallot, and peppers. Saute them until tender, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the ground chicken to the pan.
  6. Once the chicken has a little sizzle on it, turn the pan down to medium-low and add the fish sauce (don’t be shy!), chili sauce, and salt and pepper.
  7. While you’re waiting for the chicken to cook all the way through, break the head of butter lettuce into a pile of full-sized leaves.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked, add all of the basil. Stir it in and cook until the basil is wilted and green, about 2 minutes.

You’re done! Go family style with a big bowl of chicken mixture and a plate of lettuce leaves for wrapping. Serve with rice or a spicy cabbage salad or both.

Jessica, aka Liore, can usually be found griping about video games on her blog and podcast at Herding Cats, or on Twitter. She likes saying “flavor profile” and dislikes measuring things. Jessica is currently super into Asian cuisines.


Progression Based Cooking: An Unconventional Cast Iron Technique


Thanks NPR for the idea!

Recipes are an important part of cooking and learning to cook, but lately I’ve tried to focus more on technique than on mastering specific dishes. On a recent edition of NPR’s All Things Considered, I was blown away by a rather simple technique for cooking chicken that I had never thought of before. As a part of their Found Recipes series, the original radio mention did come with a recipe, but I ignored that almost entirely for my own version using this interesting technique.

Here’s the rub: you take a whole chicken, split it, and do whatever magic you normally do to season your baked chicken. While you’ve got that going on, you heat up a couple of large cast iron skillets in your oven. You want this really hot because they are going to provide the direct heat source to brown and cook your bird. I didn’t have two 10″ skillets like the article originally called for, but I made do with a 12″ and an 8″.

It hadn’t occurred to me until I was already in the thick of the process how scary it would be. There I was with two cast iron skillets that would sear anything, most especially me, and I had just laid my two chicken halves skin-side down in one. I had coated it with a nice cooking oil, so it immediately starting a-sizzlin’ and a-buzzin’ with activity. Resting the other skillet on top to weigh down and sear the top-side, I realized that I was about to carry the two heaviest pans in my entire kitchen – plus a whole chicken – all stacked one atop the other to an oven built in the wall, just above my head.

I made it without breaking or burning anything, but not a moment too soon.

After 25+ minutes in my 450 degree oven, I took the tower of hell-forged iron and slaughtered beast out once again to find a perfectly cooked, incredibly moist and delicious bird. I couldn’t be more pleased, though I definitely have to figure out a better way to move it from one place to the other. I don’t mind a little adrenaline rush, but I don’t what should be a regular technique in my arsenal to go under-used because I am afraid I will brand myself, you know?

I had seasoned the bird with a lot of Italian things like Basil, which I love, but the accompanying sides were all Southern comfort [insert easy joke about how my evening was spent eating an entire chicken and drinking lots of Southern Comfort]. I reheated some left over butter beans (lima beans cooked in bacon fat and pronounced as one word sounding like ‘buttabean’), did a really thin cornbread in a little lard, and baked a potato. All in all, a pretty yummy meal!

If you happen to have a couple of similarly sized cast iron skillets, I really recommend this technique assuming you have the muscle (and coordination) not to drop the whole bloody affair. It made a really yummy chicken!

C. T. Murphy can more regularly be found over at his blog, Murf Versus. You can also find him on Twitter, where he is frequently at his weirdest. His favorite food is Thai, though his roots are in Soul Food, and he only ever cooks Tex-Mex. He’s a strange fellow.