Slowly getting back to some semblance of a normal life. Felt alert enough tonight to cook without burning the place down, though how one can achieve that with an electric stove, one can only wonder.
Something other foreign postdocs have noticed (i.e. moaned about during lunch) is the way a lot of the meat here leaks copious amounts of water when fried. While that’s happened to me only twice, I’ve not had that problem since I found a decent source of meat. Whole Foods has a half-decent meat section, where they stock organic beef, some of which has even been hung long enough to develop some flavour. Although the price is considerably more, I’d willingly give up alcohol to have good meat (not that I have to just yet). Same with the chicken. Since finding organic chicken not only at Whole Foods, but also at Ralph’s, my frying pan has been almost spit-free. This isn’t the best-controlled experiment, as I’ve not really explored the non-organic options. But since I eat organic meat for the simple reason that it’s the only way to be sure the meat is hormone- and antibiotic-free here, I’m not exactly going out of my way to buy the regular stuff.
So. The experiment in brown. I don’t know why it is that, surrounded by colour, I could only think to buy some mushrooms to have with my chicken. As for the chicken, easy-peasy:
- Heat some oil in a pan over a medium-to-high heat. Place some chicken thighs (or legs) in the oil, skin-side down. Allow the chicken to develop some colour (golden brown is the aim, not charred brown), and turn over. This may take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat.
- When the chicken is browned all over, turn the heat right down so that the oil is gently bubbling. Get yourself a few cloves of garlic, with skins left on. Smash with the blade of a largish knife and throw into the pan. Stick a cover over the pan and let the chicken cook. Again, depending on size of chicken pieces and heat, this could take anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes. More if your chicken was more closely related to a turkey (embarrassing story from my childhood somewhere there…).
- While the chicken is cooking, look through the veg box/fridge to find some inspiration for an accompaniment. If you’re me, realise that you’ve got no colour in the kitchen, and resign yourself to slicing some mushrooms.
- Dig out a half-open bottle of Chablis some friends left in your kitchen when they left the country, and taste to check it’s not gone off. Pour out a decent measure and refrain from drinking on an empty stomach.
- At the same time, dig out the genuine creme fraiche bought almost 3 weeks ago from a Trader Joe’s and sniff it to check it’s not gone off either. Amazingly, it hasn’t… (There’s something odd about the way milk, yoghurt and cream lasts so much longer in the US. Preservatives? Better storage? Whatever it is, it’s freaking me out…)
- By the time you’ve finished rummaging around the kitchen, the chicken will be ready. Add the mushrooms to help soak up some of that lovely chicken fat. Or if you’re conscientious, and fat-conscious, drain the fat out of the pan first. But make sure you’re not removing the “jus”…
- Remove the chicken, garlic and mushrooms from the pan, and add the large glass of wine. Let it bubble away on a high heat.
- When the wine has “reduced” (read: evaporated. what a waste…) to half its volume, add a huge blob of creme fraiche. Make that three very generous tablespoons. Or more.
- While it’s bubbling, realise you forgot to season the sauce, and decide it doesn’t matter anyway. Squeeze a forlorn half of a lemon into the sauce. Actually, make it a quarter unless it’s a very small lemon.
- Serve. With any other brown accompaniment you can find. In this case, bread frozen a whole month ago and defrosted in the microwave.
- Eat. Feel fulfilled that you’ve survived another session in an alien kitchen.
And because your dishwasher hasn’t received his visa yet, do the dishes… Cos they won’t keep for another 3-4 weeks.