For many of us there are probably a number of memorable dishes we've tried and will never forget. For me, it's often a trip down memory lane. From the simple and very delicious seasoned meat patties (ćevapčići) I purchased from a street vendor in the former Yugoslavia, to an extravagant four course meal (about 25 years ago) at Le Bernardin in NYC, where I sampled the most amazing sea urchins.
Sprinkled in between are tasty and unusual dishes which have made a huge impression on me. One such meal was here in Dallas a few years back. The main course of grilled cornish hens had spent a lengthy dip in a savory fish sauce marinade, before hitting the hot grill. They were absolutely wonderful; crispy on the outside and deliciously succulent on the inside. I have thought about them often.
Recently I got in touch with the host about those hens. He remembered the dish but no longer had the recipe. A great shame, as it had been an amazing combination of flavours.
I've tried to recreate that marinade from memory, and used it here on chicken thighs. I roasted them in the oven because it rained the day I planned to grill them. I loved them, although they weren't the same as those cornish hens. Sometimes it's more than the dish itself that makes the meal memorable.
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp ginger, finely minced
2-3 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken thighs, (about 1.5 lbs)
Combine the fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger, hot sauce, honey,chili flakes and black pepper in a non-reactive bowl. Add the chicken, cover with wrap in leave in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours, turning over once or twice.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Lightly oil a baking dish and add the chicken in one layer, skin side up. Bake for about 25-35 minutes, or until the juices run clear from a thigh pierced near the bone. If the skin isn't as dark or crispy as you'd like, then place the chicken underneath the broiler for a couple of minutes.
Serve with a spoonful or two of the juices which have gathered at the bottom of the pan.