that begins with a request for,
“Too many onions, thinly sliced.”
It sounds like someone is making it up as they go along. (Don’t be fooled- someone is…)
How many onions are too many? How thin is ‘thinly’? I know for a fact that my personal ‘thinly’ is slightly thicker than most people want their thin to be, and I have yet to meet the dish that has ‘too many onions’. I am addicted to their weepy sweetness.
But- we march on. We weigh out our onions, we take off their papery wrapping, we slice them *thinly*, we lay them aside and read on.
“Two large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced.”
I love garlic. I love large cloves of garlic, but I prefer them minced or grated and yet sliced is what is required, so they too are undressed, sliced and sent to sit next to the onions. They don’t mind.
“Heat oil in a large pan and saute onions and garlic until soft.”
I add a generous (but not too generous) amount of oil to my heated pan and throw in a fat pat of butter for flavor, then add the onions and garlic. They disperse in the oil and immediately fill the air with their pungent, sulfur-like fragrance. I wonder if the busy sound of their frying is going to echo down the hall into the bedroom where my husband sleeps, utterly ignorant of the culinary adventures that are afoot. I doubt if I could sleep if there were onions cooking, steaming, sizzling, sweating in hot oil along with two large cloves of thinly sliced garlic. I would steal away from dreams and find my way out to see what mesmerizing things were happening on the stove. Thankfully, my husband has better sense and continues to sleep.
“Season to taste.”
To taste. My taste has settled somewhere in the sweltering Middle East, a land laced with spices where intricate dishes are served artfully and eaten effortlessly with soft rounds of flat bread. I’m thinking of the daals and curries and the masalas and the poories and the yogurt drinks refreshingly flavored with salt and mint and honey. I’m thinking cumin and tumeric and cardamom and coriander and nutmeg and ginger and dusty black pepper. The dark spices cast a red glow on the onions, now silky and compliant, melting together with the garlic and oil, murmuring, and what was a mere perfume has become an incense. My little angled kitchen is fragrant and exotic and the plants on the window sill lean in to see what happens next.
“Two potatoes, cubed.”
The humble spuds, anything but fragrant and exotic, are scrubbed and then cubed as directed. Cubed, squares about the size that could comfortably sit on a nickel. I am almost morally opposed to large chunks of anything, especially potatoes. I want them to be soft and surrounded by flavor, so that each little cube can be enjoyed thoroughly, without having the interruption of needing to break it apart in order to get it into your mouth. Potatoes tossed (nicely) into the crockpot.
“Chicken breast, sliced.”
I rescue my chicken breasts from the cool water they have been defrosting in and slice them using my Big Knife. My Big Knife is a fancy-dancy chef’s knife we purchased after Alex and I got married. It stays in the drawer where the Other Knives live, but it and I both know that it is different from the Other Knives. It is my Big Knife, my fancy knife with a ceramic coating that keeps food from sticking to it (do most people have a lot of trouble with food clinging to their Big Knives? It brings a whole new aspect to the word ‘cleave’, doesn’t it?) my knife that is the big brother in a set of knives which exist out there in the kitchen world and are all color coded to prevent cross-contamination (go ahead, make your low noise of approval and awe). Mine is rose colored. How appropriate.
The chicken gets put into the pan with the mellowed onions and garlic and then is cooked with them until it’s done.
I have no yogurt, so I’m using Kefir instead. Kefir has been called “The Champagne of Milk”. It is a thick, cultured product that is surprisingly and delightfully effervescent, not unlike a sparkling version of the intended ingredient. The entire concoction is stirred enthusiastically for a minute or so and then poured into the waiting crockpot.
For hours and hours and hours. Let it cook on high until my husband grows alarmed at the energetic way the steam is unsettling the cover, and then lower the heat for the duration.
Our crockpot stays on the kitchen floor because it is the best place for it. We have very little counter space and no outlets nearby, so when we need the device it comes out of the cupboard and sits on the floor by the one outlet that does exist. Before we rearranged the furniture, it was hidden under the table, which gave an ordinary crockpot meal a sort of secretive, mysterious attitude, but now it’s simply sitting there in the wide open, looking awkward and a little bit exposed. It works though- so we don’t mind.
Now that, my dear readers, is the recipe for what we are having for tomorrow’s dinner. Our yogurt braised chicken will be served on a bed of cooked spinach that has been splashed with a little lemon juice. If my ornery arm can be persuaded into it, I will make soft buttered flatbread for a side.
Not bad for a meal that starts off with too many onions.