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Van Van Chicken

If you know anything about conjure from the Crescent City, then you know about Van Van oil. Van Van is the old school conjure oil that removes roadblocks, opens the door for success, and draws in good luck. It's commonly used to dress mojo bags, to make incense and powders, and to even wash floors.

I've always loved the smell of Van Van oil, so I decided to experiment in the kitchen and make some chicken that had a little juju to it. This is a super easy, no-fuss marinade that produces a juicy and flavorful chicken. It's perfect for weeknights!

Van Van Chicken


2-3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 lemon, juiced

2 tbsp. avocado oil (or any neutral-flavored oil), plus more for oiling the pan

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. lemongrass paste*

1-inch knob of ginger, minced

1 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped

1 tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped


*If using fresh lemongrass, use 2 stalks and remove the rough outer layer. You can avoid finely chopping the stalks by throwing them into a blender with the rest of the ingredients, minus the chicken.

You'll likely have to work in batches with the chicken to ensure the skillet doesn't get overcrowded.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Marinate Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Special Equipment: Large skillet, whisk, and blender (optional; see notes)

If making the marinade by hand, whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl until combined. You can also throw the ingredients into a blender or food processor.

Pat the chicken dry and then toss it with the marinade in a large bowl. For easier cleanup, you can put the chicken in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, pour the marinade over it and massage the marinade into the chicken. Store the marinated chicken in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes, heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs to the skillet, smooth side down, and cook for about 5 minutes. It should be easy to flip over at this point.

Now lower the heat to medium. Flip and continue to cook for 6-7 more minutes, or until the chicken registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat or instant-read thermometer.

If you want to get a little saucy, add some chicken broth to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. Let that cook for another minute and then pour over the chicken when serving.


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