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Curry Chicken and a Game for the Kitchen

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I love garlic, I love curry, I love chicken, and I love gourmet cooking. But after a 12- or 13-hour day spent in the confines of a San Francisco corporate office, needless to say my energy for cooking gourmet is more than diminished. Here’s an easy yet elegant dish to try. And it’s super friendly on the cook who is trying to beat the kitchen at its own game.

The Beating the Kitchen Game
You can play this every time you cook. The object of the game is — by the time you’ve finished cooking — to have the kitchen as clean or cleaner than it was when you started. By finishing, I don’t mean all the time allotted to washing dishes or clean-up after dinner has been eaten. We all want a spotless kitchen before the food is even served. How you play this game depends on your cooking style. If you can cook and clean up as you go along it’s usually the best way to go. If you’re cooking with lots of different pans and dishes, try to meter the finishing points of the pans at different times, so you can transfer the food from those pans to their appropriate place in the cooking process and then clean them up immediately.

For a harder version of this game, start with a dirty kitchen and a sink full of dishes and try to have everything cleaned up before the meal is served. This game gets harder the faster you can make the recipes, or the more attention you have to pay to your cooking. For instance, you can get much more cleaning done while cooking a pot of rice than making a cream sauce. Try your hand at this game and you’ll find it contagious.

Curry Chicken
You’ll need these ingredients:
As many chicken breasts as there are servings (although I’m sure you could substitute other chicken parts)
Olive oil
Crushed garlic
Curry powder
Aluminum foil

Take a sheet of foil big enough to wrap the chicken breast in and place it on a flat surface. In the middle put a teaspoon of garlic (more or less to taste — I happen to love garlic), a tablespoon of curry (again more or less according to your taste), add enough olive oil to make a paste of the garlic and curry right there on the foil.

Take a chicken breast and dip both sides in the paste, then wrap the breast in the foil. Repeat this process for the rest of the chicken. Place the wrapped chicken in a 300–400 degrees Fahrenheit oven until cooked (about 30–45 minutes). Check occasionally to make sure you don’t overcook the chicken.

When finished, serve with a simple salad and curried rice.

Curried Rice
Take enough rice to serve. To gauge the water to rice ratio I remember the rhyme “Once rice, water twice,” meaning for every cup of rice you cook you should use two cups of water. I like to put a little olive oil in my rice pan (I use a heavy stainless steel sauce pan for rice) and sauté some onions and garlic before adding the uncooked rice, sautéing for a few more minutes. Frying the rice before adding water is a technique I learned in Brasil. Then add the water and stand back, because it will bubble and steam immediately. You’ll still want to keep the heat high until you get to a rolling boil but then follow the traditional rice cooking recipe.

For curried rice, I add curry to taste to the rice just after I’ve added the water. You can also add chopped carrots and peas to add extra color and flavor.

When finished, curried rice is almost a meal in itself. Serve the chicken and rice with a simple salad. Use romaine or leafy green lettuce, which are higher in vitamin content than iceberg lettuce. Add tomato, onion, and cucumber to the lettuce. For dressing, I recommend a light oil and vinegar — olive oil and balsamic vinegar add extra gourmet flavor. You can even top the salad with Parmesan or feta cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Some candles for the table and some red wine for yourself turn the meal into a special occasion.

More about Jacaré

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