Unfussy Fare

Triple Sesame Ginger Chicken


Do you like sesame noodles? Are you tempted to lick the falafel sandwich dressing right off your fingers? Yes? Then this is a recipe for you. Sesame rules the roost here. It”s deep, subtle, and toasty. Sesame is the perfect companion for roast chicken, which boasts a toasty subtlety all its own. The meat stays lusciously moist, since it cooks right in the marinade. At the same time, the skin turns a lovely, crispy, burnished brown. The green onions are meltingly delicious after an hour of stewing in the sauce. And the pan sauce…well if it weren”t for my pesky pride, I would tuck right into a big bowl of  it. Since I still retain a teensy little bit of decorum, I”m forced to settle for savoring the sauce-drenched rice in slow, deliberate mouthfuls. This one is a keeper.

I shy away from recipes with long ingredient lists. I like to be able to taste each ingredient, which is hard when there are 243 of them. I make an exception here, because I typically have all these ingredients on hand. And in spite of their numbers, they come together in a unified marinade with its own heft and personality. Besides, this recipe is blessedly simple to make. Chop, stir, and pour. Then, hours later, or even the next day, just pop it in the oven. If the stock market offered this kind of return on investment, I”d be retired by now.

Triple Sesame Ginger Chicken helped redeem me for overlooking my husband’s birthday until the day was nearly over. Luckily, he’s as pitiful as I am when it comes to remembering special dates. It’s best to have more than one date-forgetter in a marriage. Unless you’re armed with sesame chicken, in which case you may just be forgiven. If you”re only halfway out of the doghouse on day one, this chicken makes delectable leftovers on day two.

I adapted this recipe from a book I picked up at an airport newsstand years ago. It looks and feels like a magazine, but I guess it’s technically a book. It’s called , from the Best of Fine Cooking series.  It’s got plenty of intriguing recipes, a flimsy magazine binding, gorgeous pictures, and all sorts of helpful pointers on cooking with chicken.

P.S. The picture above doesn”t include the magnificent sauce. Sorry for that little oversight.  It”s a lot to juggle: the food, the hunger, the family, the camera. Oh, and there”s no law that says you have to use thighs for this recipe. You could mix it up with some other chicken parts. I’m just partial to thighs. On chickens, that is.


serves four

1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup sesame tahini
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sherry
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce
8 chicken thighs, with skin and bone (about three pounds)
1 bunch scallions (reserve one for garnish), white and light green parts, cut into one-inch pieces
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Mix first ten ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well to blend.

Poke three or four slits in each piece of chicken with a sharp knife. I usually cut off big loose flaps of skin with kitchen shears, to reduce the fat factor a bit. Your call.

Place chicken thighs in a 9×13 baking dish. Pour marinade over and flip the chicken pieces to coat.

Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours, turning chicken a few times.

Remove chicken one hour before roasting, to bring to room temperature. Turn the pieces skin-side up. Tuck scallion pieces under and around the thighs.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Roast chicken uncovered for one hour. Baste with pan juices a couple times in the second thirty minutes.

Remove chicken from pan and tent with foil. Pour pan juices into a bowl or a gravy separator. Skim fat off pan juices.

Serve chicken on cooked basmati rice. Pour some of the pan sauce over, sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped scallion.

9 Responses to “Triple Sesame Ginger Chicken”

  1. Alyssa says:

    Yum. Seriously. I love sesame and this recipe looks about perfect. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Paige says:

    This is motivating a trip to the market this afternoon!!
    Something that usually happens only after all edible materials are consumed, much procrastination, creative excuses/reasons why I should really wait another day, a couple of orders placed for delivery and/or take-out and/or a near desperate need for paper products and/or cleaning supplies.
    Never admitted this before, but I once even rinsed some dirty dishes with a dab of hand soap (before running them thru the dishwasher with actual dishwasher detergent) and once threw in a little shampoo in the washing machine in an attempt to stretch the last drops of laundry detergent.
    There, I’ve bared my “dirty” secrets/creative uses of soap-based products, to make the point that this chicken sounds DELICIOUS!
    Not sure why I’ve come to dread grocery shopping so much, but I’m off now to gather the reusable shopping bags (many w/ pithy liberal sentiments printed on the front) for a trip to Whole Foods (even tho I’m currently stocked with TP, DOG FOOD & coffee: you know, all the ESSENTIALS)
    Now, If I can only keep from burning the Basmati….
    XO (and a big hug and hello to William too, of course!)

  3. Gillian says:

    Alyssa: My pleasure! Good to know there are fellow sesame-lovers out there.

    And Paige: Soap is soap,right? Except don’t ever put liquid dish soap into your dishwasher. Picture my old Kiowa Street kitchen knee-deep in suds. I never said I was smart…

  4. Jud says:

    I did this with boneless, skinless thighs (availability) and they were great, but likely the missing skin took away from the final effect. Good reviews from the diners.

  5. Gillian says:

    Hi Jud: Yes, I imagine you didn’t get the crispiness factor without the skin. But on the bright side I imagine there wasn’t much fat to skim off the sauce…I always find skimming fat a bit disgusting.

  6. Elona says:

    I love tahini, and this looks delicious…but there is one small problem. My husband.

    OK, so he’s not really a problem in general, he’s just a picky eater and will not eat chicken thighs nor will he eat chicken breasts with skin. Any thoughts on how I could modify this recipe and not end up with super dry chicken (which often happens when I substitute breasts for thighs in a recipe)? Any tips regarding cooking time, covered vs. uncovered, temperature adjustments, etc. would be appreciated. Thanks and keep on blogging!

  7. Gillian says:

    Hi Elona: Hmmm. You pose an interesting challenge, especially since dry chicken is crime against poultry. Jud (commenter above) says his tasted good with no skin. So there’s a hopeful note. If I were you, I would cook as directed with chicken breasts, then remove the skin from your husband’s piece for the last ten minutes or so, and give it a little extra basting.

    Or you could try using skinless breasts (bone-in) and cooking them upside-down until the last ten minutes or so. That way most of the meat will be submerged during cooking. Cover with foil if the bones start to look too brown, and remove the foil for those last few minutes.

    If your devotion to your beloved leads you to use boneless,skinless breasts, then I would brown them on the stovetop first and reduce the cooking time to about thirty minutes. You might then want to reduce the sauce a little in saucepan on the stovetop, until it thickens to a nice consistency. Good luck!

  8. Grandy and Esme says:

    We’ve made this two weekends in a row, first for us and then, because we loved it, for company Saturday night. We used natural boneless, skinless chicken breasts–and there was still a lot of taste left! It is truly fantastic, especially when paired with the kale-brussels sprouts recipe! This is perhaps the best dinner we’ve had in a long time. Thanks so much, Gill, for experimenting and advising us about what is really good. I love to cook but do not read cookbooks, so it is a wonderful advantage to have you foraging ahead, finding what’s really good. And it was such a delight to tell our guests where the recipes came from and to recommend your blog.

  9. Gillian says:

    I’m delighted you like it so much! And also glad to hear the boneless, skinless chicken works, since lots of people prefer to buy chicken that way. Thanks A&E, for being such loyal readers and recipe testers.

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