If you’ve taken time to read a little About Jo, you probably know she isn’t a chef, but she cooks. Well, if that statement is our accepted measuring stick… I’m not a chef. I’m not a sous chef. I’m not even the guy they only trust with the pepper grinder. I try to cook things that won’t make my family ill. Keep reading to see something that somehow came out really well.
My lack of culinary skill is not really my fault. Now that I think about it, it’s easy to see where blame should be placed. Joanna is so incredible at whipping together delicious meals out of anything and everything that happens to be in our pantry, we’re all better off if I play babysitter and stay out of her way. Yes, as I physically type these words, it’s all becoming clearer and clearer. My hot-dog-grillin’, campbell-soup-warming skills have nothing to do with laziness or my sense of entitlement to incredible multi-course feasts magically appearing before me at least twice a day. No Sir! It’s her fault!
Well, it’s time I throw off Joanna’s repressive yoke that’s been holding me down all these years and spread my wings to mature into the beautiful butterfly gourmet I know is inside.
Here’s how I’m going to make it happen: Cast Iron
Can you cook curry in cast iron? Of course you can!
I don’t know what it is, but I really enjoy cooking with cast iron. It all started when I wanted to prepare food while camping. I’ve spent a lot of time in a tent over the past few years and a hot, well-prepared meal is much preferred over a freeze dried packet of something. That led me to play around with dutch ovens. Cast iron was also appealing since all of our utilities at the house are electric. If there’s a bad snow storm or something and the power goes out, goodbye stove, oven, microwave, everything. Having some cast iron pieces meant we could still cook over the fireplace or by using charcoal briquettes outside.
So ladies, if you want to trick………… I mean encourage… your husbands to get into cooking, pick up a cast iron dutch oven and skillet set and start talking up how manly it is to use them. That combo is perfect and a budding camp chef can make just about anything with those two pieces alone. I’ve never had a steak taste better than what I’ve seared myself on that exact cast iron skillet. Maybe we’ll talk about that another day.
The recipe below has a few twists from one found in Cooking In Cast Iron by Mara Reid Rogers, which we bought for $1 at our library’s book sell-off extravaganza recently.
STUFF YOU’LL NEED:
24 oz Pabst Blue Ribbon
1 cup quinoa
0.5 cup chopped almonds (I used Blue Diamond’s Jalapeno Smokehouse flavored)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (ours apparently are from the Dolly Parton of birds)
2 medium onions, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 stalks celery, diced
1.5 tablespoon curry powder
1 large can stewed tomatoes
pinch(es) crushed cayenne pepper powder to your heat level
salt and pepper to taste
handful dried currants (NOT RAISINS!!!)
belly dancer (optional)
STUFF YOU’LL DO:
-I’m not a photographer, but I take poorly composed shots of our motorcycles. So make your wife take much better pics of the necessaries.
-Toast the chopped almonds in the dutch oven over medium heat. Toss for about five minutes nearly continuously, as I discovered those suckers burn quickly. Then set aside.
-Get quinoa cooking in a saucepan. 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water for about 15 minutes.
-Add oil to the warm dutch oven and heat for two minutes.
-Add chicken to the dutch oven and saute until golden brown on both sides. Took me about 10 minutes per side. Then set aside.
-Add onions, peppers, garlic, celery and saute until soft. This took me about 15 minutes.
-Decide there are way too many veggies with much cooking still to come, and put maybe 40% in the fridge for another meal.
-Reduce heat to low and stir in the curry powder, cayenne pepper, and stewed tomatoes. Reintroduce the chicken and cover it with the sauce.
-Cover with dutch oven lid and simmer for about 30 minutes, turning chicken halfway through. Cook until chicken is done with no pink to be found.
-While waiting, fire up Wikipedia and learn what a currant is.
-Do not ask wife how much currants cost.
-Serve on awesome ’60s-vintage plate set your Dad bought you fourteen years ago at a garage sale for $0.50 to take to college, over cooked quinoa and topped with almonds and currants (not RAISINS! OF COURSE there aren’t any RAISINS in the cupboard! BUT WE HAVE CURRANTS!!!!).
The Curry Chicken turned out great with just the right level of spice that stays with you until your fork finds a currant (For everything that is Holy, NOT a RAISIN!!!!!!!!!!!) to splash some sweetness into the mix.
Well, I’m still not a chef, but with enough hard work maybe I can be promoted to veggie chopper in this Midwestern kitchen. Baby steps, I suppose.
Since I pretty much only use cast iron, I plan to write soon about its proper care and maintenance. Hopefully you’ll return to read along as we revive a slightly rusted dutch oven we found in Joanna’s Grandma’s basement she said we could take home. It’s been in their family quite awhile. With just a little TLC, it will be serving our grandchildren and beyond someday.
Question of the Day: What other crazy expensive food items do you think I’ve never heard of that taste exactly like a cheap, ubiquitous fruit snack you find in every first grade kid’s lunch box?