17 June, 2012

Honey Glazed Chicken : A Quick Lunch

It was a typical lazy Sunday afternoon and a leisurely third cup of tea was nearing its conclusion. No pleasure is greater than having a hot chai watching the heavy downpour splatter on your window, while you are sitting warm and snug inside listening to Geeta Dutt crooning ‘Waqt ne Kiya kya haseen sitam’. It was ‘Kagaz Ke Phool’ playing on Doordarshan an immensely more attractive proposition than suffering ‘Agneepath’ on Zee Cinema. The play of lights and shadows in that movie makes it a classic that can be experienced again and again just for what the cameraman Moorthy achieved on celluloid way way back; truly amazing. A small question crept up is how would lunch be managed now that this movie is on, when it’s a must view? Hence it needed to be something that can be rustled up during the many commercial breaks; 3 minute windows between 10 minutes of viewing. That was the challenge. Needless to say, any meal being a serious business in this abode, it needed to be complete and befitting the exacting standards of the wife who is an excellent cook herself. She is on some assignment and this was my baby today.

She went inside to work on her computer with a terse "Why don’t you take care of lunch, am busy today." "What would you want?" I ask looking out into the pouring rain sensing my dry snugness evaporating. “Surprise me” says she and closed the room door. I look back and see Guru Dutt in the frame remove his fedora and wiping his forehead. His expression seemed to say "I made a movie for you to enjoy, now you would want me to make your lunch too?”. He is not going to be a help, thought I so far as inspiration goes. As the commercials flash am in the kitchen, rustling up the shelves and looking through the refrigerator. One good thing is both are always stocked.

Commercial Break 1 ( Whats available?)
From the freezer I get two large boneless breasts of frozen chicken, couple of eggs, fresh curry leaves, ginger paste, garlic paste. I start the assembly and gosh...no vegetable oil. Talk about well stocked! From the shelves I pick a double pack of Maggi Noodles, Chicken taste maker (stock) cubes, soy sauce, a fresh unopened bottle of olive oil (whew ), chilli flakes, rosemary, thyme and oregano, red onions in the basket.  Ok so it had to be noodles, chicken and eggs. But exactly what dish...by then the commercials were off and put the breasts in a microwave bowl to defrost, while I came and sat back in front of the movie.

Commercial Break 2 ( The inspirational idea )
The breasts had thawed and being frozen had partially cooked in the bowl and looking so fat and juicy that it seemed criminal to dice them. They had to remain just like that, whole, juicy and thick. And then comes the inspiration, I could see them lying on a white plate golden brown and served on the side with a plate of noodles delicately seasoned (I opted out of the ready tastemaker which was masala...yikes, because it would have interfered with the overall meal flavour) and served with eggs.  When the objective is clearer with the ingredients ready and in front, then all that remains is the process. That’s not too bad, don’t blame me for thinking like this, am an engineer we are trained to think from the first principles and the creative solution too is looked at from a problem solving approach ;-) That’s in our DNA.

Step 1:
The marinade:
The two breasts of one chicken partially cooked in the microwave for about 2 and a half minutes while defreezing were from a fowl who simply for her cleavage would have been the toast of her coop in her heydays. Somewhere between Medium to Large size.
1 table spoon of ginger paste, 1 tablespoon of garlic paste, 1teaspoon of red chili powder, a dash of rosemary, a dash of thyme and oregano with a pinch of salt was mixed together as a paste. It was rubbed on all sides of the breast evenly and nicely and left to rest for one movie length (about ten minutes). 
In the mean time took one red onion and finely diced slivers and kept them aside. About 15 curry leaves, fresh and a deep green were ripped from the stem. My Mise En Place ( I love throwing some jargon to make this very simple dish look exotic and for those of you who don’t know this, there is always the Larousse Gastronomique or Google, you just don’t get free recipes without having to do something, even if it’s looking up a word )

Step 2: (Commercial Break 3)

Noodles, especially when they come out of a packet have a tendency to cook unevenly. So when one has to cook them Al Dente or just right here is a tip that I use. Boil water in a large sauce pan till it simmers and starts to bubble, drop in a couple of drops of oil till the oil breaks up. Today one packet of Maggi chicken tastemaker was added to this boil along with the stock left over from the defreeze chicken from the microwave bowl plus a few slices of that onion cut for the chicken. Why let go of genuine flavours, I say? While this boiled over put in a tablespoon of soy sauce. The aroma was unbelievable from so simple a boiler. Then added the noodles last and within a minute had them sieved off. The hot boil I kept on the pan to reduce, like a sauce or a soup. The starch from the noodles that gets left over turns it into a terrific soup, should one want it so. The noodles were spread off to cool on a plate. The oil ensures the noodles don’t stick to each other.

Step 3 : ( Commercial Break 4 )

Added two table spoons of olive oil and tossed in the onions once the oil was hot. Added the curry leaves and when they start to spatter and the onions are caramelizing (don’t worry about the onions even if a few char off they just add to the flavour) place the marinated chicken breasts on the pan. Cook it for 2-3 minutes on either side (at this point the food takes precedence over the movie) till the chicken is a golden brown on both sides. Stand them on the edges for a minute in the hot pan if they are thick, mine were, such that the juices seeped in are sealed within.

The glaze; Take four tablespoons of wild honey (we had some we had brought from Konkan, it has a slightly waxy smell but awesome body and smoothness) or any honey and add loads of red chilli flakes and mix it thoroughly.

The noodles unless they have gone real cold (then they can be tossed off on a lightly oiled pan) and served in soup plates. Pour the reduced sauce like a sprinkle on this spread of noodles.  

The Finale :

The flavours are light and delicate. I fried an egg (half fry/bulls eye/ sunny side up/light such that the whites are soft and not crispy) and placed it on the bed of sauced noodles. . Poured the reduced sauce from the noodles into a cup for added flavouring should it be required. The side dish was ready.
The two breasts were on the plate. Arranged the caramelized onions and the curry leaves in a small heap by the side. With a spoon glazed every surface of the hot golden brown chicken with the honey and flakes mixture. It shone with the red of the flakes dancing off throwing spots of light.

I knocked on the door and called the wife. No expression on her face till she had the chicken and then a smile. My Sunday lunch turned out perfect. Simple to turn out and delightfully sumptuous...


Soul Images said...

I agree that it was an awesome lunch ... and love the style in which you served it up .... on the table and on google ... :) :)

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Grazie Senora...the cooking was the most fun, followed by the eating, and the writing a mere recap of the good time had :-)