Sunday, March 12, 2006

You put WHAT in the soup?

For several years now, Jenny and I have been having "experimental dinner night". One of us (usually her) will cook a meal found in a cookbook that neither of us has tried, and, get this ....we eat it. I guess it originated from way back when we were first dating- our first date, in fact. She took me to see "Babbet's Feast" in the SWKT at BYU. Turtle soup indeed.

Anyway, I think in terms of success/utter failure we're about 3 in 10, that is every 10 experimental meals we'll find about 3 that we add to our "repertoire". Every once in a while though we run across a recipe that we fall hopelessly in love with. We find ourselves dreaming about it, drooling over it, writing poetry about it, etc. I will share one of those with you now: Peanut Chicken

(I never use exact quantities)
Raw or canned chicken (better raw)
Sprinkle chicken with cinnamon and cumin powder. How much? More than you'd think, but more cinnamon than cumin.
Meanwhile, saute a chopped up onion in olive oil. Throw some garlic in there too.
Mean-meanwhile, in a blender pour 1 or 2 cans of cut tomatoes, several large spoonfuls of peanut butter (more if you like it creamy, and peanut buttery), a bunch of fresh cilantro, and crushed hot red pepper. As with most blenders yours probably has a "blend" button. Press that now. Stop. Put the lid on. Now start it again.
When the onions are done (remember those?) add the chicken and cook that for a few minutes. Then add the sauce, and another can of cut tomatoes. It'll need salt. Serve over rice.

I think we have this like once every two weeks or more.


Jenny said...

How to respond ... this post opens up several possibilites. My first reaction is to point out that the concept of success/utter failure is relative, culinarily speaking. I know I've had several disasters (the pasta dish with a walnut/garlic pesto where I completely burnt the walnuts when trying to toast them and thought that it wasn't so bad and so I made it anyway and it really was inedible comes to mind) but I'd say 8 out of 10 are worth repeating.

Just last week I finally tried a combination experimental meal (several segments were new) and I really enjoyed it ... Nick, however, indicated the next day that he was eating the leftovers only because he was "really hungry" and I'd left him "precious little alternative." Hmm. My appreciation lies on several levels: I liked it because it was simple, fast, easy to keep the ingredients on hand for, and it tasted good. It wasn't like the meals I've had at the Tree Room out at Sundance (they're more in the realm of a completely satisfying sensual experience) but then again, we're talking about a weeknight dinner here. So, here's my recipe for an experimental meal worth repeating: Balsamic Glazed Chicken with Lemon Couscous

(I'm with Nick on exact quantities when it comes to meal preparation--they're flexible, as are the ingredients themselves....)

The Glaze:
Saute 1 med. onion, finely chopped, and several cloves minced garlic in olive oil. Add a bit of rosemary and a pinch of salt. When it's all nice and soft, add the following (mix it all together first): 1/2 C balsamic vinegar, 1/2 C broth, 1/2 C apple juice, and 1/4 C honey. Let is simmer until it is reduced by half and thickened up a bit.

The Chicken:
Meanwhile, take several chicken pieces (we used breasts and pounded them flat first) and rinse, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Heat up a frying pan to med. low and cook pieces in a spot of olive oil, about 5-6 min. per side (until done and a nice light brown crust has formed). Set aside on a plate covered by tented foil when they're done until the glaze is ready, then cook them for about 1 min. in the glaze (spoon glaze over them as they cook). Serve with some more of the glaze and onions piled on top.

The Lemon Couscous
Meanwhile (this should probably be first) make the couscous. Bring 2 C broth to a boil, add 1 C couscous, stir, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit about 15-20 min. (until liquid is absorbed). Meanwhile, chop fresh parsley if you have it on hand (if not, use dried) and zest and squeeze a lemon if you have one on hand (if not, use about 1/4 C bottled lemon juice). When the couscous is done stir in parsley and lemon stuff. Serve on the side of the chicken.

The Salad/Veggie
You're on your own here ... :)

The whole thing only took about half an hour. And it was different. It'll reappear. I've got to stop talking. I love talking about food. It's almost as good as eating.

Moral of this meal: Experiment upon the bird, and ye shall be filled.