The holidays are rrrushing upon us, and that's not the only thing rushing in. By. Around. Whatever, it's one of Those Days(tm) again. The tenant downstairs needs the dryer repaired (and she wants it repaired NOW), the cat needs to be taken to the groomers, insurance rates have just gone up. Not to mention this column's due, the toaster oven blew up five minutes ago, that's only a beginning; it goes it goes it goes, money is round it rolls away.
I know I know, don't let that put a dent in the day, too much to do to throw m'self a pity party… think sweet thoughts. Now there's an idea. What with the rrrapid approach of the New Year, let's think thoughts of sweetness. After all, we pray "May it be Your will to renew for us a good and sweet year" and we perform the symbolic act of eating sweet foods, traditionally flavored with honey.
Let's try a two-step but still one-pan tongue-tingling savory-sweet Japanese-Meets-Bistro fusion dish that's easy'n'elegant. Not only fast to put together, it doubles effortlessly for the unexpected company dinner AND as a twofer, you have the start of a main dish salad over a bed of greens with any leftovers. Who knows, you might want to make leftovers!
One of the other signs ("simanim") of the season is the humble carrot. A few of which I usually have, ermm, ah, delicately aging in the more distant and dimmer corners of the fridge, but I digress. Carrot in Yiddish is "mehr" or "more" so they symbolize the hope to accomplish more mitzvot, to gain more understanding, and to increase our prosperity for more tzedakah.
Following is from the trad French repertoire, a cooks-by-itself soup that's perfect for those, errrmmm ... mature, that's it, "mature" ... carrots described above since the sugars are already developed. Of course, if you lack those specially-aged orange beauties, yum rockets fresh from the market are perfectly fine. Not only is it economical in time spent preparing it (you can certainly juggle in the first steps of the chicken while the vegetables are braising and finish the soup while the glaze is reducing), it's economical in using materials that otherwise would go to waste. And you know how I feel that willful waste is woeful want!
4 chicken cutlets or boneless skinless breasts
1/3 cup seasoned flour (seasoned with salt and pepper, that is)
3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as corn, vegetable, or peanut
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup sake or dry sherry (or just use another ¼ cup apple juice, for a total of 1/2 cup apple juice if not using alcohol)
3 tablespoons soy sauce (reduced-sodium is fine)
1/2" fresh ginger, minced/crushed OR 1/4 teaspoon dry powdered ginger
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons honey
pinch white pepper
3 chopped green onions, green part included (optional)
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds (optional)
Dredge chicken in seasoned flour, and shake off excess. Heat oil in pan on high heat. When you see the oil take on a shimmer, lay cutlets carefully in the pan. Turn heat down to medium high.
After about 4 minutes or so, check cutlets to see if they're golden brown--just lift up one corner and take a peep (take two, they're small). It's important that you don't move them much because what we want to do is create a "fond" ("base") from the crusty bits that we'll use as part of the sauce later.
When the chicken is browned on one side, turn them over. Turn down the heat to medium and cover the pan. Now you know what the next direction is. . . clean your workspace.
After that, mix together the liquids, that is, the apple juice and sake/sherry and soy sauce in a cup or small bowl. Have the ginger, brown sugar, white pepper, and honey at the ready. This is called "mis en place" or "the order of the workplace." Loosely, "setup." This is the very first concept drilled into apprentice chefs. Have all your ingredients laid out and in the order you're going to use them. It's not just for the professionals; it's for the busy day cook as well because having this done in advance is going to get you going. You have to slow down before you can speed up!
Back to the fut. . . I mean the chicken. The chicken is covered, and cooking. After about 10 minutes, check to see if it's done. Take a fork and pierce in the center and about halfway down. Any juices should run clear. OR, with a Polder- or instant-read type thermometer, the interior of the cutlet should run about 170 F or so.
Remove the cutlets to a separate plate--for safety, don't put them on the same plate they were on before. Pour off excess fat/grease/oil from the pan and place it back on the heat. Turn it up to high and pour in the juice-sherry-soy mixture (do this at arm's length and turn your head to one side so you don't get a steam blast). With a spatula, scrape the browned bits at the bottom of the pan and push them into the liquid until you can see most of them are dissolved.
Add the ginger, brown sugar, white pepper, and honey and stir the sauce until it's all mushed together and dissolved. Bring to a boil. Carefully, with a tongs, lower the cutlets into the sauce and continue boiling and reducing (boiling down). Spoon sauce over cutlets, and keep reducing the sauce until you see bubbles begin to form. Spoon sauce over cutlets again and watch the bubbles get larger as the liquid boils off and the glaze forms. Eventually, the bubbles will turn into a froth. It's done.
Plate the chicken and ladle the glaze on them. Schprinkle on some chopped green onions and white sesame seeds if you like. For extra credit, if there's time, slice the happy little chicken pieces across the grain and reassemble into cutlet shapes before garnishing.
1. Flour the chicken, and brown on one side.
2. Flip chicken over, cover, lower heat, and cook 10 minutes.
3. Remove chicken from pan.
4. Deglaze pan with liquids, add dry ingredients, mix until dissolved. Bring to boil.
5. Place chicken back in pan, and reduce sauce until glaze forms, ladling sauce over chicken periodically.
6. Plate chicken (slice and reassemble katsu-style if you wish) and ladle extra glaze over.
7. Garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds, if desired.
1 lb. carrots
1 large onion
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon flour
2-1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons rice
1/4 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
salt and pepper, to taste
Honey or sugar, to taste (optional)
Peel and chop carrots. Chop onion. You can do this in a food processor and you don't need to clean the container after chopping the carrots. Saving time already, see? Maybe you already have chopped onion, leftover from another project? Well, if not, that's a good time-saver. When chopping onions, chop more than you need for that particular dish/meal
and then you have them quick-quick-quick for another recipe in the next couple of days.
Melt the margarine in a pan and sweat carrot-onion mixture (remember, from the last piece, cook it slowly covered) for 10 minutes.
In another pan, take a half a cup of the chicken stock and cook the rice.
Sprinkle flour over the veggies when cooked, and toss to coat them.
Pour rest of chicken stock onto the vegetables and add thyme. Bring up to a rolling boil (that is, a boil that can't be stirred down) and stir vigorously. Reduce heat to a bare simmer. By the way, this is SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)--whenever adding ingredients, bring to a boil first and then turn down the heat as required. This prevents food-borne illnesses, because you're beginning again from a zero point when it comes to cooling and storage. We're also creating a binding for the soup to keep it from separating if it sits later. Anyway, that's that with that and back to le potage.
Cook until vegetables are completely tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and (optional) sweetener.
Now puree it in a food processor, blender, or even better with an immersion-style blender in the pot itself. Add the cooked rice to the soup. That's all there is to it. Easy-sneezy.
1. Chop carrots and onions.
2. Sweat veggies in margarine for 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over veggies and toss/stir to coat.
3. Cook rice in half-cup stock.
4. Add rest of the stock to the veggies and cook 20 minutes.
5. Puree veggies.
6. Add rice.