Rice hogs the spotlight as Asia's premier starchy grain. Most people have no idea millet is an ancient ingredient in Korean cuisine. For thousands of years, Koreans who lived in areas of the peninsula unsuited for rice cultivation were able to sustain themselves and their families with millet.
It wasn't that long ago when plain white rice was a rich man's food. The poor could only afford to eat it on special occasions such as Chuseok, New Year's or ancestral days. During the rest of the year, millet fortified the poor, giving them the quick carbs to perform a hard day's work out in the fields.
In America, millet is bird food, literally. Although many people assume millet is a grain, it's actually a seed and as such is gluten-free and full of vitamins and minerals that are unlocked after a good soak.
This month's Secret Recipe Club recipe comes from the blog Loving Life. After an hour or so of indecision on the perfect recipe to replicate for my blog, I finally settled on this recipe for several reasons (in no particular order):
- Millet aka 메조 mejo. This recipe an opportunity to introduce one of Korea's "alternative grains." I call millet that only because many people just learning about Korean cuisine have no idea of how fundamental millet was to its foundations. Millet also is an easy swap in recipes that call for a grain product such as couscous or rice.
In Korea, there are two types of millet,메조 mejo, or basic millet, and 차조 chajo, or "glutinous millet." I'm using 메조 in this recipe.
The kind of millet you want for this recipe is on the left. Forgive the blur ... darn iPhone camera. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
- Cast iron. I love my cast iron skillet and any excuse to whip it out for a recipe, especially in cooking for a crowd.
- Thyme. I planted some thyme last year, and it's still growing very well in my front yard. I harvested a good portion of it last fall, dried it out and stored it indoors. But there's still fresh stuff holding up to our cold Northern California winter.
Chicken and Mushroom Millet (닭 버섯 과 메조)Inspired by the recipe from Kirsten of Loving Life via Whole Foods Market
(Serves four as a main course; I divided the dish in half to serve two)
Ingredients1 tablespoon canola or EVOO, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced (I replaced it with rehydrated shiitake aka pyogo mushrooms.)
1/2 cup uncooked millet
11/2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 cup mushroom broth (from rehydrated shiitake mushrooms)
11/2 cup shredded Swiss chard (without stems), kale or spinach (I used spinach.)
- Soak the millet in warm water for eight-24 hours before cooking. This will remove phytic acid from the millet and improve digestion.
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then arrange half the diced thighs in the skillet.
- Cook the chicken, flipping the pieces over until deep golden brown all over, about 10 minutes total.
- Transfer chicken to a large plate; repeat step 4 with the remaining chicken.
- Once all of the thighs are browned and transferred to a plate, add onions, mushrooms and millet to the same skillet and cook, stirring often, for five minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more.
- Stir in broth, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Nestle chicken into skillet, submerging it in the millet and vegetables; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until chicken is almost cooked through, or about 30 minutes.
- Uncover skillet and gently stir in the leafy vegetable, spinach in my case. Cover skillet and cook until the millet and spinach are tender and chicken is cooked through, about five minutes more.