etís see, whatís in the fridge
- Frozen boneless/skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 an onion
- a box of red wine (same one as before)
- an opened jar of spaghetti sauce
- a head of cabbage
I also have an old jar of pickles, but thatíll have to wait
for another day.
There are times when I get home, and I just donít feel like
cooking. Today is one of those days. At least the fridge is
still pretty well stocked Ė no need to resort to drastic
measures quite yet. And luckily, the cave-person brain hasnít
fully emerged yet [see Whatís in the Fridge
series intro]. I
still have some minutes before my blood-sugar dips into the Hulk
range. What has emerged, however, is a brain that doesnít want
any complicated cooking tasks taxing its delicate cells.
Therefore, weíre doing the easy thing tonight.
Itís time for a braised dish.
What is braising, you ask? (Go ahead, ask.) In itís
simplest form, the chef (that would be you) lightly browns a
piece of meat, then throws vegetables on top, adds a little
liquid, covers and cooks on low for awhile until it all gets
nice and soft and stewy and yummy and the house smells nice
(time it right and have your friend who youíve had a crush on
drop by). Why brown the meat first, you ask? (Go ahead.) Iím
told itís to seal the juices in, but I do it to give it
color and a little of that nice flavor (you know,
"brown" flavor -- the darker color the food, the
better it seems to taste, right?). Braising is easy. Just throw
stuff in the pan, cover, and forget about it. The only snag: it
takes awhile to do proper braising. Like 45 minutes or even
Well, screw proper. Incredible Hulk brain starting to peek
through. Hulk not proper. Need food quicker. So we raise the
temp and cut down the time. Just use the meat right out of the
freezer (no defrosting needed here). If you donít have
cabbage, ANY vegetable will do, including frozen vegetables.
Thatís the easiest. Frozen meat. Frozen veggies. The only
fresh ingredients you then need are onion and garlic. You could
even skip those, but sautťed onion and garlic add LOTS to any
dish -- they form the base of the flavors. Just about all my
recipes start with onion and garlic.
Remember, this recipeís very flexible. You could make a
great dish with just the chicken and cabbage, and whatever
spices you have in the cupboard (or even sans spices, although
it always feels good to sprinkle something into the pan,
regardless of actual effect). Donít have spaghetti sauce? Use
any kind of tomato product: fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato
paste (reduce the amount), tomato soup, ketchup (reduce amount),
or none at all -- I just happen to have spaghetti sauce). Donít
have wine? Try chicken broth. Donít have chicken broth? Try
beer. Donít have beer? Try water. Donít have water? Then youíve
got bigger problems than worrying about this dish.