Caramel for Dinner (and Dessert)
Vietnamese-Style Caramel Chicken with Broccoli
Traditional Vietnamese-style caramel chicken promises a dish that balances a bittersweet caramel with salty and spicy flavors, but most recipes miss the mark. Cooking the caramel until it was a deep, dark color was key to achieving the right complex bittersweetness, while fish sauce (in a 1:4 ratio of fish sauce to caramel) lent the traditional balancing salty component. A combination of ginger and black pepper provided the right amount of heat. Cutting the boneless, skinless chicken thighs in half, rather than into smaller bits as called for in many of the recipes we found, gave the chicken more time to absorb the sauce, while a quick soak in a baking soda–water bath helped the chicken stay juicy over a longer cooking time that turned the meat ultratender. To complete the meal, we steamed broccoli to serve alongside.
by Lan Lam
I love making layer cakes. Tall, imposing ones that make a splash at parties and serve a crowd. The components should be pitch-perfect and strike that balance between kid birthday nostalgia and adult sophistication—a moist, tender crumb; distinct, spreadable filling that’s just thick enough to glue the layers together; and frosting that’s silky and full-bodied but not so sweet or rich that a forkful is overwhelming. Chocolate cake is my favorite, and I’ve made plenty layered with buttercream, ganache, and mousse. But this time I wanted to home in on chocolate and caramel—a combination that has a kind of visceral appeal.