Arroz con Pollo Étouffée

Arroz con Pollo Étouffée, con per miso, s’il vous plaît

In other words, I’m in a spastic, frantic frame of mind!

It’s nearly two hours past my normal bedtime and I’m pausing to let the day’s events soak in. I’m submitting this post without editing, and that’s a scary thing for me. I don’t usually spend a lot of time editing what I write but, I rarely throw caution to the wind by allowing my hands to type out the thoughts in my head without giving consideration to the quality of prose or grammar. Today is a day when I violently throw caution against the wall, just to hear it make a satisfying “splat”.

It’s been a long day. It’s been a long week. Many successes and many failures. So goes the life of a work-a-day-Joe, such as myself. I wanted to leave work today in time to ship a package to a loved one. That didn’t happen. During the drive home, I was stuck in traffic, behind a sea of cars and a parade of police cars and emergency vehicles that maneuvered through the gridlock toward an accident. I found an alternate route, only to encounter another accident. I gnashed my teeth, still reeling from the tremendously bad day at work, and crept along, thinking about what I could make for dinner, once I arrived home.

It never came to me. I was so preoccupied by the events of the day that I couldn’t focus on what to make for dinner. Once I arrived home, I immediately went to the refrigerator and started pulling out items. I pulled out some fresh vegetables, left over chicken and a little bit of butter. I went to the pantry and grabbed some rice, olive oil and flour. I put everything on the kitchen counter and stared at the items and started to put everything together, in my mind.

I texted my wife, who is out of state, visiting my mother-in-law. I gave our dog her daily antibiotic, because she’s healing from a vicious fight with a racoon.

Time to put dinner together, eh?

I pulled out a few fresh tomatoes, yes I still have tomatoes from the garden, and that’s something that I cling to, in these trying times. I shaved some dried thyme leaves from the stem, another gift from the garden. I pulled out a carrot, 3 semi-wilted green onions and two partially frozen celery stalks from the “crisper drawer” from the refrigerator. Why are my vegetables freezing in the refrigerator?!

I wanted to hear some music but I didn’t want to fight with Alexa and the almighty Amazon. I’ve had enough of that. I imagined that I was listening to ZZ Top’s “Asleep in the Desert” and I went to work.

Once I started putting everything together, I tried to put a name on the thing I was creating. I was leaning so heavily on Tex-Mex and Cajun concepts that I decided that this would be a marriage of arroz con pollo and etouffée. It was a beautiful marriage. You should have been there!

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil

1 fresh red serrano chili

3 chicken breasts (about 1 pound)

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 carrot, peeled and diced finely

2 stalks of celery, slightly frozen and diced finely

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced finely

2 Tbs melted butter

1 1/2 Tbs flour

4 Roma tomatoes, diced finely

2 tsp crushed, dried thyme leaves

3 green onions, chopped, separate white and green parts

1 ounce shrimp bouillon cube

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 tsp Cajun seasoning

3 cups cooked white rice

Directions:

Prepare steamed white rice.

While the rice cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.

Add the chicken and serrano chili and cover the pan. Simmer at low heat for 10 minutes.

Turn the chicken over and add the garlic. Simmer at medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove chicken and keep warm.

Chop the vegetables.

Removed the chicken from the skillet and keep warm. Deglaze the skillet with a little water.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and the vegetable (excluding tomatoes). Simmer covered for 10 minutes.

Mix the melted butter and flour. Add the mixture to the skillet. Set heat to low and whisk for a minute.

Add remaining chicken broth. Add shrimp bouillon, Cajun seasoning, tomatoes and thyme. Stir over low heat for a few minutes.

Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the skillet. Mix to combine.

Add cooked rice, a little bit at a time. Mix and add the rest of the rice.

Simmer for a few more minutes.

Serve in large bowls with soft bread, on the side.

And there you have it. Stress has been relieved. Once again, good food prevails.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to sit down and jot it all down while listening to the soundtrack to the Terry Gilliam move, “Brazil” and Joni Mitchell’s album, “Hejira.”

Life is strange. Life is good. Life goes on.

Let it all come out. Don’t hold back. Share the ups and downs with the ones you love and, when you sit down for dinner, be a listener.

And now, it’s 3 hours past my bedtime. My pillow is calling!

Chicken Curry

I enjoy making a delicious curry dish every now and then but I have to admit, curry vexes me.  I’m the sort of guy that likes to know the subtle intricacies of the ingredients that I use but I have to admit, my understanding of curry is shamefully shallow.  Fortunately, my lack of understanding doesn’t prevent me from cooking with curry.  I’d like to make my own curry blends someday but, for now I will keep relying on my tried and true prepared blends.

Many years ago I received a boxed set of six curry spices from a friend.  Each container held 2 ounces of various spices.  There was Chaat Masala, Tandoori Masala, Garam Masala, Tea Masala and two that were simply labeled Hot Curry and Mild Curry.  I have used a little of each of them over the years and I still have those containers in my cupboard, tucked away in a far corner.  They have held up remarkably well over the years.  Some spices lose their potency and aroma over time but these seem to have incredible staying power!  I only use a teaspoon or two when I make a curry. 

This is a variation of a turkey curry that I bravely made several Thanksgivings ago, while visiting relatives.

Ingredients:

1 tsp hot curry

1 tsp mild curry

1 tsp turmeric

2 Tbs olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ Tbs fresh ginger, minced

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

½ cup chicken broth

1 ripe tomato, chopped

A pinch of salt

1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water (thickening slurry)

1/3 cup coconut milk

2 Tbs chopped cilantro

1 green onion, chopped

Directions:

Mix the spices in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and ginger, sauté for about 30 seconds.

Add the onion and sauté until they almost turn golden brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the curry spices.  Sauté another 30 seconds and then remove everything from the wok and keep handy.

Add the chicken to the wok.

Stir-fry the chicken until the chicken turns white and firm, about 5 minutes.

Once the chicken has cooked, add the cooked onion and garlic and stir. 

Add the chicken broth and tomato and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add a pinch of salt.  Stir and taste.  Add more salt, if you like.  Stir in the cornstarch and water slurry, to thicken sauce slightly.  Simmer for a few more minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and turn out to a serving bowl.   Serve warm with cilantro and green onions over basmati rice.