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Dorothy Dean presents: Sweet, savory and spicy caramel chicken is a Vietnamese-inspired favorite

UPDATED: Mon., June 21, 2021

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

You are going to love this Vietnamese-inspired dish that glazes tender chicken thighs in the most delicious aromatic sauce. Full of sweet, savory and mildly spicy flavors, caramel chicken is sure to become a family favorite.

The sticky sauce, which gives it its name, is a perfect balance of sweet and salty. With brown sugar as its base, it’s infused with fresh garlic and ginger, then combined with the umami flavors of soy sauce, vinegar and fish sauce.

This one-skillet meal starts on the stove top, where the chicken thighs are seared until the skin is crisp and browned. They’re removed from the skillet, and the sauce is stirred in, melding with the brown bits in the pan.

The thighs return to the skillet to be coated and nestled into the sauce before heading into a 400-degree oven to caramelize to tender, succulent perfection. A vibrant sprinkle of cilantro, green onions or jalapeños adds an inviting kick of flavor and color to the gorgeously glazed chicken.

Caramel chicken pairs wonderfully with rice, which is ideal for sopping up the insanely delicious sauce (and you could totally double it). The mild heat comes from red pepper flakes, which you can adjust to your liking, adding more for spicier or leaving them out.

Caramel Chicken

Adapted from foodnetwork.com.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup dark brown sugar

8 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 (2-inch) piece ginger, finely minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

⅓ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup fish sauce

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon oil

Rice, for serving

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to melt, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and continue cooking and stirring for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, fish sauce and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Pat dry the chicken with a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large oven-proof skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the chicken in the skillet, skin-side down, and let it brown without moving it for about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and lower the heat to medium.

Add the brown sugar mixture into the skillet and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Place the chicken back into the skillet, coating both sides with the sauce, and leaving it skin side up.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake, basting the chicken with the sauce midway through cooking, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. For extra-crispy skin, place the skillet under the broiler for about 2 minutes.

Serve over rice with sauce.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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