Culinary Mad Science

Yesterday I was so excited to make dinner. I like to cook and cook often enough, but it was one of those nights where my wife and I were just out of ideas. All of the usual go-tos sounded boring. And I also really, really didn’t want to go to the grocery store so whatever happened had to be made out of the ingredients we already had on hand. It felt like a kitchen challenge TV show.

First was the easy part, the protein. Frozen chicken breasts would cover that. But How to spice them up? Most of the chicken we consume is either Tex-Mex style or some kind of Italian-garlic hybrid. I wanted something different. Good thing I always fight to have an array of Indian spices on hand. Shawarma seasoning? Perfect. I’d bake those in some garlic olive oil, the shawarma seasoning and a little salt and pepper at 375 degrees. I needed vegetables now.

Well, we had a half of a green bell pepper and a half of a red bell pepper left over from the last couple of nights so those were an obvious choice. I also wanted onion. We had plenty of uncut yellow onion, but I found a partially used red onion in the fridge. So the challenge-nature I put upon myself won out and I used the red. I still wanted a bit more and tossed some frozen green beans into the mix. These all went into a large sauce pain. Little olive oil so they didn’t stick. Some salt, pepper and a little shawarma seasoning of their own for flavor and consistency.

That was all great, but I wanted more. Even with the seasonings, it was the same seasoning and I didn’t want to run the risk of bland-town. That meant a secret sauce.

Something you should probably know about me is that I love Indian food. Seriously. I eat myself absolutely stupid whenever a curry dish and rice are involved. Naturally, I wanted a curry-like sauce. Here’s where it got tricky. First, I didn’t want to serve this over rice as we’d just eaten rice the previous two days and a third day in a row sounded old. Second, I wasn’t even sure we had enough rice to make if I decided to change my mind. And third, I wanted a thicker sauce that would act more like a gravy than the stew-like curry bowls like usual. This meant cooking the sauce separately instead of letting the chicken and veggies simmer in the liquid as it cooked down. This was also important in case the sauce sucked. Then I could dump it without having ruined dinner.

So with only ingredients on hand, I used the last of our coconut milk, a splash of half and half, some Madras curry powder, some turmeric and some ginger. I really wanted lime juice figuring it would compliment the shawarma stuff well, but guess what? We were out of it, so I settled for lemon juice instead. This concoction boiled for 20 minutes with constant stirring so it wouldn’t burn. It also didn’t thicken, so I added a roux with cornstarch. It totally did the trick.

I thought the whole thing would take maybe 40 minutes, figuring that’s how long the chicken would cook. I was thinking about the steps all day long as I kept looking up lemon curry recipes to make sure that those two flavors actually went together. I was so excited that I was going to take pictures of the whole process and if not outright impress all of you, then at least tantalize you with the awesomeness.

But nope. Took me an hour and a half. AND I was so caught up with timing and not burning the sauce, I didn’t snap a single picture. Not even of the finished meal. I was too tired and too hungry to remember. Instead, I tore into it like a savage.

The good news? It was freaking delicious!

I’ll make sure to take pictures next time …

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