Looking for a really quick meal that's not quite your usual mac and cheese standby? This one is mild enough (without the pepper flakes) that even kids are likely to enjoy it.
Quick Curried Chicken and Vegetables
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in 1 to 2 inch cubes
1/2 c chopped onion
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced, about 1 cup
1 1/2 c finely shredded cabbage
1 c frozen peas—no need to defrost
1 to 2 t curry powder, to taste
Salt to taste
1/3 to 1/2 c cider or apple juice (see NOTE)Pepper flakes, cayenne, or hot sauce (optional)
Put just enough oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom, probably about a tablespoon. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and the onion and sauté over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with the curry powder and salt. After about 5 minutes, add the sweet potato cubes, stirring all to evenly brown. After another 5 minutes, add the cabbage and half of the cider stir, and cover tightly. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the cabbage has begun to cook down. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding pepper flakes or hot sauce if desired. Stir in the peas and more cider if needed. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until the peas are thoroughly heated. Serve over rice or noodles.
NOTE: If you don't happen to have either fresh cider or apple juice, you can use a tablespoon or so of frozen apple juice concentrate and about a third of a cup of water.
Now, a little narrative to go with the recipe:
It was 11:50 am and I needed to put together a really quick meal to serve 4 or 5 people in half an hour. There was half a chicken breast (not de-boned, about 13 oz including the bone and skin) in the refrigerator along with some sweet potatoes that needed to be used up. While I could have settled for a nice midwestern “casserole” with the sweet potatoes served up on the side, I was looking for something a little more adventurous.
The resulting “experiment” was so good that I tried it a second time just to be sure it worked—and it did! The dish seems meant to go with rice, but it even came across well with egg noodles, the “starch of choice” on my first try. (Don’t ask me why, because I don’t have an answer, but I somehow became fixated on using those noodles no matter how the chicken would be prepared!)
I was able to shave perhaps five to ten minutes off the total time by NOT preparing the ingredients mise en place. Maybe you’ve never seen this term, but you may well have been influenced by the method of preparation it represents.
Mise en place simply means that everything has been “put in place” before you begin to cook. So when Rachel Ray or the Barefoot Contessa or whoever begins to prepare a dish on one of your favorite food shows, there will be a line of little dishes and measuring cups with all the vegetables diced, the cheeses shredded, even the oil measured out.
It is all well and good to have gone through the entire recipe to make sure you have all the ingredients (or appropriate substitutions if necessary), and there are times when it is most efficient to have something prepared ahead of time. However, there are also times when you can begin cooking even as you are still cutting or shredding or whatever. This dish is one of those situations, as the following timetable shows.
11:50 Pour oil into skillet; start the rice (for this timetable, I am using white rather than brown rice).
11:55 Take chicken from refrigerator. Preheat skillet with oil in it. Put on disposable gloves (optional) and cut up chicken, setting bones aside for making broth at another time. Put chicken in the skillet and take off gloves. (Because I would be using the bones for broth, I could cut the chicken quickly, not worrying if I left a lot on the bones; it would not be going to waste!)
12:00 Peel and chop onion and add to chicken. Stir.
12:05 Peel and dice sweet potato and add to chicken. Stir. Add seasonings and cover pan.
12:10 Shred cabbage and get cider out of refrigerator. When the sweet potatoes are just starting to become tender, add the cabbage and cider, cover, and let simmer. Stir rice and turn heat lower if now boiling.
12:15 to 12:20 At some point, taste the chicken and vegetables and adjust seasoning if necessary, adding a little more cider if desired as well. Take the rice off the heat when done, fluff with a fork, and keep in a warm place.
Between 12:15 and 12:25, you can set the table, perhaps set out a tray of fruit (Grapes? Apple, orange, or pear wedges? Whatever is in season is good), and be ready to serve the food within half an hour of starting out.
12:20 Add the peas, stir well, and allow to sit for about 5 minutes to be sure peas are heated through. That’s it; it’s ready to serve.
About those bones: you could turn them into broth while you are preparing this meal (method follows), but it may be more efficient to put these bones into a container in the freezer and then make broth when you have a little larger supply. If you do have enough to make broth right now, you could start that pan at the same time that you start the rice and chicken curry, probably simmering a little longer while you eat dinner. (If you do this, I would advise you to set a timer so it isn’t completely forgotten—voice of experience talking here!) Then, as you are cleaning up the dinner dishes, you can lift the bones out of the broth, with the meat pieces falling off the bones, back into that wonderfully rich liquid. Dump the bones, pull the meat out and set aside for a chicken sandwich or casserole base, and either freeze the broth or refrigerate it for making some really good soup later in the week.
See how easy that is?!?
Rich Chicken Broth
Chicken bones left after deboning chicken parts (See NOTE)
Poultry seasoning and/or sage
Place bones and any meat clinging to them in a large saucepan. If you have skinned the chicken and have some of that, it can also be added for more flavor.
Add enough water to cover the bones. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning or sage and salt, using about a teaspoon of each for each two to three cups of water. Cover and place over high heat.
Bring water to a boil and turn to a very slow simmer. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the amount being cooked. When the meat is falling completely off the bones, remove from heat and pour into a colander. Separate the meat from the bones for use in sandwiches, casseroles, etc., and discard the bones.
Chill the strained broth. When the fat has hardened, this can be lifted off and discarded, leaving fully de-fatted broth. This is usually very rich so you can usually dilute it half and half with water or milk in recipes calling for canned broth.
NOTE: This same method can be used for “cooked” bones left from a roast turkey or chicken, including that rotisserie chicken you picked up on an especially hectic day. Put the bones in a pan with any leftover drippings or juices and then add enough water to cover.