Friday, May 25, 2007

Slivered Snowpea and Chicken Salad

Milo’s teacher thinks there may be a chance that the little mule will do his homework if I set a timer and ignore him, saying that I have work to do too. We both get a half hour. Unfortunately, it’s the half hour in which I was planning to sprawl on the couch with a good book, but once a temp, always a temp. I still remember how to fake it. Milo doesn’t even bother. He just hopped up and wandered away, bitching to beat the band. I’m afraid if I look up, I’ll see that someone else has helped himself to my couch. Oh wait, he’s back. Better look busy before Big Daddy comes and yells at us both.

Slivered Snowpea and Chicken Salad

Poach a pound’s worth of boneless, skinless chicken breast in half a box of organic chicken stock. Does anybody else think that seems a tad cannibalistic? Like serving Titus Andronicus a stew seasoned with his own chopped-up children? Oh well, steer the course. You too, Milo. Ten minutes ought to do it for the chicken, and I’m sure there are certain high-achieving little girls in his first grade class who could bang out all their Word Wall words in half that time, but my boy appears to have skipped ahead and is now cutting something out with scissors.

Idle hands are the devil’s work, so let’s quit staring into space and wash and string a pound of snow peas. This is probably what those mainstream family magazines have in mind when start in to yakking about fun kitchen activities in which the whole family can be involved. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a one for unsolicited advice…and by the time I go begging for it, it’s usually too late. Say, has anyone else noticed that those mainstream family mags are starting to tank at an alarming rate? I just received obituaries for both Child and Nick Jr. Family Fun. (Uh, anybody want to buy a service article about Six Super Ways to Keep from Killing Your Kids in the Former Yugoslavia?) What could this signify? Is it time for the freaks to take over the world? Because my timer hasn’t gone off yet.

Let’s look at this problem another way.

Q: If Mommy’s kitchen is three feet wide by six feet long, and she has zero helpers, how long will it take her to string a pound of snowpeas without drinking half a bottle of wine and turning into a creature that’s two-parts Bitchmother, three-parts Grounds for Divorce?

A: Back to that bed of nails, you!

If you’ve followed instructions carefully, you should be ready to drain the chicken. Reserve the stock for another purpose. (Other than that, Mr. Andronicus, how did you like the stew?)

Don’t feel bad if you’re still stringing snow peas, because we’re ten minutes shy of resetting that timer for our third time. If you finish before we do, stack them up, and slice them into matchsticks. It’s a mindless activity, but one I find oddly therapeutic. Also, that’s the way you’ll need them later on, so might as well get a jump on it.
Speaking of which, this salad isn’t going to dress itself. No, I’m not going to dress it for you. It’s your salad. You dress it. And don’t whine. For all the time you just spent whining, you could have been done by now. What do you mean you don’t what the ingredients are!? Oh, for the love of…here!

3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
and 2 tablespoons of your favorite nut or seed butter. (My favorite’s whichever one the kids refuse to eat, before it goes rancid and I have to throw it away. Almond butter worked great. Sunflower Seed butter was nice, too, even if it was a couple of warm days shy of joining Child and Nick Jr. Family Fun.)

Mince a couple cloves of garlic and a tablespoon’s worth of ginger, and stir fry them in a teaspoon of sesame oil in a big pan or wok.

Sorry to veer off topic, but Heaven help me, I’m on the verge of biting my tongue in half, that’s how dearly I’d love to feed this child the answers. Anything to put an end to this hellish exercise! Just between you, me, and the snowpeas, it’s the Cat in the Hat.

Oh right, the snowpeas. Throw them in the wok now, before the garlic has a melt down on you. Stir them around for the minute or two it will take Milo to write the letter C. You don’t want to be serving dinner at midnight, after all.

Throw the snowpeas into a bowl with the dressing and the shredded up chicken breast, toss in a couple of slivered almonds or whatever and let’s eat before that infernal timer goes off a fourth time. There’s no reason why this should have taken you more than thirty minutes.

In other news, doesn't THIS look delicious? I'm not sure how long it will keep, though, so if anyone has any suggestions on how to cook it...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Long Time Comin' Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas

If you’re at pains to understand why anyone would drag a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce all the way from Brooklyn to Budapest, bang out a couple skillets of these fuckers and you’ll have your answer.*

Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas

Take one of those big knives they won’t let past security anymore, and work out your aggression on a bunch of scallions and an innocent clove or two of garlic. Goddamn! Every time I try to type “clove or”, this melon farming laptop changes it to “clover”. Which would probably taste just fine, but it’s a little too close to the recipes in the The Sarajevo Survival Guide, an amazingly defiant, hilarious, and sad-making document of what came to constitute “ordinary” life during the three year siege. Pray you never need your clover, and don’t ever let me catch you taking the availability of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for granted.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, dump in your scallions and garlic, and season with salt, pepper, and a half-tablespoon of oregano. I know you won’t let them burn after that guilt-making reminder of the privilege and plenty in which we – or at least I – all too often forget we dwell.

After four minutes or so, you can add a pound of boneless, skinless chicken titties and two cups of chicken stock. All hail America, where it comes in a box! Throw the lid on and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate, let it cool and shred it into reasonable pieces with your super sanitary fingers.

If you really want to wallow in no-war-here convenience, you can skip that step by snagging yourself a pre-cooked bird off the grocery store’s rotisserie! Or hell, give yourself a break and use last night’s leftovers! You’ll still need some chicken stock, but not so much. How much? Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… I’m sorry, I’m still getting reacquainted with these American keyboards. In Croatia and Bosnia, the Y has been relocated to what we in the Land of the Free think of as the Z position, which is kind of discombobulating where your name contains two of them. I’m not even going to discuss the lengths to which I had to go to make the @ symbol. Suffice it to say that I really hate coming off like a dithering, technically challenged matron in front of the cool expat boys who know how to do things like set themselves up with live video feeds of their hometown hockey games and get their Internet bar a glowing plug in the New York Times...

So, let’s say, like, a cup and a half.

Dig around in your backpack for that can of chipotles, crack her open, select two fit-looking specimens, and chop them up fine.

These go into the stock along with a cup of canned tomatoes, and by canned, I mean canned and diced, because, what is this? The Dark Ages? (Did I mention that I spent the last three weeks doing our laundry in the sink, like some old hippie woman hunched over her tailgate in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert, cutting potatoes into a hot pot plugged into her cigarette lighter? Actually, that woman was probably a decade or so younger than I am now…I wonder what she’s up to now.)

Let that simmer for twenty minutes or so unless you want your quesadillas to have the consistency of gazpacho.

Add the shredded chicken and let the simmering continue unabated. Crack open a beer and thank your lucky stars for the relative peace and prosperity in which we live, where protein and delicious, smoky peppers can be procured on the free market with the local currency by those with a hankering to recreate the plate-licking dish they ordered the last time Rolf Potts breezed into town, always a happy excuse for local travel writers to flock to the Half-King for brunch. (Hell yeah, I’m a travel writer! Or I will be when Gourmet sends me to Serbia to do a story about that seventh generation bee keeping wine maker!) Those of us who can’t be bothered to cook it ourselves can live secure in the knowledge that no one will try to shoot us as we stroll toward 23rd and 9th to satisfy our cravings. Or if someone does, that’s just proof that no matter how many Disney stores you put in Times Square, it’s still New York Fucking City!

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Dios mia, we almost forgot the guacamole. This you must make fresh. That green paste next to the sour cream in the refrigerator case tastes like what I imagine military meals-in-a-pouch must be. Do swing by that aisle for a tub of sour cream though. My paternal grandmother, after she moved to Arizona, made a point of taking a drink from every water fountain she passed. I try to make it a point to never pass the dairy case without picking up some sour cream. I think it’s important to honor our ancestors in whatever way we can.

So, you know how to make guacamole right? Good. Let’s see you put your money where your avocadoes are.

Right, then, Henry Ford, let’s fire up the production line. You will need a package of queen-size tortillas, your prepared chicken mix, sour cream, the guac’, and 12 ounces of pale grated cheese (You’re sitting pretty if the label says Queso, but if Monterey Jack’s as Mexican as your grocery gets, es no problema, Gringo, Hombre!

Don’t forget a cookie sheet, a big skillet or griddle, a spatula, a couple of plates, and plenty of counter space.

To make one unit, you’re going spread less chicken filling than your big eyes are telling you you want on a tortilla, sprinkle it with cheese, top it with another tortilla, and carefully slide it into the hot skillet you’ve got fired up on the stove. Press the spatula on top of that sucker and pray that you’re not going to have a situation on your hands come flipping time. You’ve got two minutes to gird your loins, and then you’re going in. Do the best you can. If some filling leaks out, harness whatever potty-mouthed self-loathing rises to the surface and use it to push that filling back in. Don’t forget to smash this side with the spatch too. It activates the cheese’s adhesive properties. Take a minute to compose yourself, and then slide it out onto a plate with a big, Second-One’s-Bound-To-Be-Easier grin. No matter what it looks like, it’ll taste best warm, so put it on the cookie sheet, and slide it into a 200˚ oven.

Repeat, repeat, repeat (don’t rinse, just repeat.) When you’ve got a big old stack, get out the syrup, wait, don’t, that’s pancakes…

When you’ve got a big old stack, cut it into wedges with a knife, or more impressively, a pizza cutter! Fan a tortilla-and-a-half’s worth on every diner’s plate, along with the generous blorps of guacamole and sour cream that are the key to winning hostessly accolades.

*Sorry. Jet lag makes me terse. I should be over it by now, but Milo keeps sneaking into my bed at two in the morning, and when I relocated to his recently vacated bottom bunk, so I won’t wake anyone up during my insomniac perusal of the four New Yorkers that piled up in my absence despite a vacation hold order, the little maniac somehow gets wind of it, and tails me there, arriving just as I’m beginning to drift off. It’s taken me nearly two weeks to type this up. But in the meantime, I’ve started writing a novel! I think I may even finish it! But even if I don’t, it’s a helluva lot more fun than teaching the kids how their brand new heelies are supposed to work. There’s probably a tutor for that, right? Oh that’s right, I spent all my money on sour cream.