food experiment

So my cooking activities are limited.  That is, I make about a half-dozen interesting recipes and K, who is generally happy to do the same thing over and over again, never asks for anything different.  And since he does the grocery shopping, my kitchen is generally stocked with just the ingredients for those same half-dozen things.

So last year on Valentines, I launched a new recipe – chicken, with a cheesy spinach sauce over chicken and mushrooms. Decided to create a tradition this year, by fixing K something new on VD (which we really don’t bother to celebrate otherwise)…

Tossed some rice and water into the rice cooker before getting started.  Began with chicken breasts; cut strips, browned them in chili oil, and set them aside. Then cooked up mushrooms and some fresh garlic in the same skillet, also with chili oil, and set them aside. Next were onions cut into good-size chunks and fresh green beans, again in that same skillet, with more chili oil, then set aside (but kept separate from the chicken and mushrooms).  I had pre-cooked the veggies a bit in the microwave so they just needed a quick saute.  At this point I put a cup of orange juice and a cup of chicken broth in the skillet and brought it to a simmer, added about a cup of shredded carrots, the pulp and juice of a whole orange, a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar, a heaping tablespoon of corn starch, and a dash of salt.  Simmered that for a few minutes to get the carrots started towards cooked/softened, then put the chicken and mushrooms back in and let that simmer for 15 minutes.  Tossed in the veggies and about a cup of caramelized walnuts.  Served it over the rice.

It was nice.  There was nice flavor contrast – the sweet of the brown sugar and carrot, the tangy of the orange juice, and the hint of spice from the garlic and chili oil.  There was texture contrast, since the walnuts and beans were crunchy, the chicken was meat-y, and the rice and onions were soft.  I felt good after eating it, as I usually do when indulging in lots of fresh veggies.  And it didn’t take terribly long to cook overall – which is a major criteria for acceptability in my household.

I made a few mistakes – like, initial skillet was too small to hold the final mixture, I’ll use a stewpot next time.  And I simmered at slightly too high a heat so the orange juice and sugar caramelized a bit at the bottom of the pan – I think it’d be better without that trace flavor. I don’t think the orange pulp added anything noticable to the mix, and it’d have been easier to use just orange juice.  And

pointed out that it would benefit from some ginger, so I’ll try that.

K informs me that I should give him the ingredients list for this one, so I will have the chance to correct those mistakes and I’ll have another tasty dish in my repertoire. I’ll never reach the level of expertise of someone like

or

, but it feels good to be slowly expanding my range.

Of note… I actually am capable of cooking a bunch of other things that we never eat around here.  But, K is pickier than me and I try to avoid the ingredients that he isn’t fond of. I wouldn’t be so accomodating to kids, but I figure K’s old enough that it’s unlikely his eating patterns will change at this late date…

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