Cooking For Others: Big Girls Don’t Cry Over Burnt Veg
EVENT: House guest from the Holy Land
VENUE: Phoebe’s Apartment, Flatiron
PARTY SIZE: 4
MENU: Chicken Thighs with Soy, Honey, and Beer Reduction; Cinnamon Scented Rice; Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower
The responsibility of hosting a house guest for the weekend tends to send me into a fit of planning frenzy and other uncharacteristically overbearing and insane activities. In other words, I become my father.
A few weeks ago my friend Eran, whom I met two summers ago, came to visit from Israel. I took him to a cozy brunch in the East Village and then felt—having exposed him to the classic NYC weekend activity—that some of my mission was complete. Eran, being the chilled-out traveler that he is, had really only one request remaining, and that was to take a short walk through Central Park. So we walked, and the short stroll soon turned into an epic walk from 12th Streeet and Avenue C all the way up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Somewhere between Murray Hill and my midtown office building, we got to talking about food and the blog, and cooking and what Eran, an Israeli Quarter-Life Cook himself, liked to whip up at home. Then somewhere between a much needed break on a park bench and descending the steps to take the subway home, he suggested that perhaps we should forgo our restaurant reservation (actually, I had made 7), and cook his favorite beer, soy, and honey chicken together at my apartment.
So while Eran was collecting the contents of his backpack from his first weekend host, I went out to get the few ingredients not in my pantry (just a few: the sign of a perfect BGSK dish)—chicken thighs, ginger, mushrooms, and cauliflower for a side dish.
Nearly an hour passed. The cauliflower was already in the oven, but I sensed that my other mouths (Caitlyn’s and Jillian’s) were growing hungry and decided to begin making the chicken off of the few vague descriptions Eran had given me that afternoon. I got the cinnamon rice going on the stove, checked on the cauliflower (almost done), browned the chicken, and sautéed onions and mushrooms, all the while drinking a bottle of wine and listening to appetite-damaging tales of cadavers from Jillian, who had just finished her first semester in med school.
Ten minutes later I realized that the cauliflower was still in the oven, that it was most likely unsalvageably burnt, and that, having moved on to make Eran’s beer and honey sauce without any guidance, I might be about to serve the worst meal of my life. The cauliflower was definitely burnt, but I got over that humiliation and my friends’ shock (followed by merciless giggles) that I had actually messed something up so bad. I was about to declare a happy ending anyway, since my version of soy, honey, and beer chicken with cinnamon rice was turning out well, but just in time Eran arrived to tell me that my sauce was too thin and, although delicious, not like his at all.
Ah well, so it goes.
From my small, occasionally inept kitchen, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Chicken Thighs with Soy, Honey, and Beer Reduction
Makes 4 Servings
3 lbs bone-in chicken thighs with the skin on, about 12 thighs (use boneless skinless if you’re fat conscious)
¼ cup dark soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 bottle dark beer (negro modelo)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms (white button or cremini), roughly chopped
In a large non-stick skillet or sauté pan, heat 1 tsp of olive oil over a medium flame (enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan). Brown the chicken thighs in batches, three or four at a time, until the skin is crispy and they have a good color on both sides. Set aside.
Add the onion to the pan, scraping up any drippings from the chicken, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushroom and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the soy sauce and continue to simmer for two minutes. When the mushrooms are tender, add the beer and honey and stir to combine. Reintroduce the chicken to the pan and submerge in the beer mixture. Simmer uncovered until the sauce has reduced slightly and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 10 more minutes.
Cinnamon Scented Rice
Makes 4 Servings
1 cup brown rice
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp olive oil
In a medium dutch oven, sauté the garlic and ginger in one tablespoon of olive oil for two minutes over medium heat. Add the rice, cumin, nutmeg, and the cinnamon stick and stir to incorporate. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, turn the heat back down to low, cover and let cook simmer for twenty – thirty minutes. Check the rice for doneness. Then let sit covered for another ten minutes or so.
TIP: if all the liquid has evaporated but the rice is still noticeably al dente when you check it, add in between two tablespoons and ¼ cup of water or stock to continue the steaming process.
second time’s the charm! cauliflower pictured from later that same week
Makes 4 servings
1 large head of cauliflower, separated into small florets
1 ½ – 2 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp salt
1 tsp cumin
Lemon juice (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a large rimmed baking or cookie sheet, spread out the cauliflower florets. Drizzle evenly the olive oil, salt, and cumin. With clean hands, toss well so each piece is coated.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. After the first ten, redistribute the cauliflower with a spatula so all sides brown evenly. Keep checking on it and mixing it around every 5 minutes or so until completely brown and crispy, not burnt. Try to keep extraneous conversation to a minimum during these last few trying minutes.
Caitlyn, washing down her beer sauce with some wine. No judgement here.