Writing and editing more than 100 recipes for a cookbook that I’m doing is no easy task. In fact, it’s quite a bit more intense than I had ever imagined. The more-than-occasional brain farts and writer’s block are tough, and usually I can deal with those moments by distracting myself with a massive, industrial-sized roll of bubble wrap. It’s uniquely satisfying, covering three out of five senses in less than two seconds.
pop! pip! pop!
Sometimes, when the stress of writing turns into a gnarly tumbleweed, the giant roll of bubble wrap finds its place under the desk, propped between my feet. I unroll a nice, perfect, clean sheet onto my lap, I take a deep breath and let my hands wring the shit out of those air pockets.
I succeed in waking up yet another sense because when you release an entire yard of trapped air, your house ends up smelling like the scent of a plastic factory. I think if a manufacturer came up with a scented bubble wrap, like, let’s say warm chocolate lava cake or buttery banana bread, its sales would skyrocket!
So you see how my mind wanders when confronted with the evils of writer’s congestion. Although some of the ideas I come up with are pretty clever and could really be the next big thing, this silliness does absolutely nothing to contribute to the daunting task of scaling the treacherous mountain of 100 recipes. One. Hundred. Recipes.
I’ve discovered that the easiest and quickest way to jump-start my dead battery is to engage myself in an activity that involves all five of my senses. Yes, bubble wrap is fun and addictive, but hardly tasty. So, naturally, I scurry to the kitchen to find something to play with.
But it can’t just be ANY kind of cooking – it has to be a dish with maximum sizzle, crunch, intoxicating aroma, juiciness and boldness. So I turn to Nigel Slater who wrote one of my favorite cookbooks, “Appetite” (Clarkson Potter, $74). It’s a hefty volume of recipes that you’ll turn to when you need that easy yet creative, throw-together cooking. Edit: holy crap! $74???? I got it free from The Good Cook cookbook club.
Instead of a standard recipe format, Nigel provides you with sensual cues to guide you in finishing the dish. I’ve adapted his Chicken, Garlic and Herbs recipe into Pan-Fried Mango Curry Chicken. The skin is crispy curry, the mango is fresh, luscious and sweet, and the sauce is buttery garlicky.
This is kitchen therapy at its finest.
This is Nigel’s style of recipe writing – instead of a rigid, precise recipe – Nigel prefers give you guidance on what the dish feels, smells, sounds, tastes and looks like. I’ve taken his basic recipe and added mangoes and a curry spice. Enjoy!
Free-range chicken – cut up or 2 chicken pieces per person, skin and bones to remain in place
Curry powder – a big pinch
Freshly ground black pepper
Butter – a thick slice
Garlic cloves, 8 large, sweet cloves
White wine – a large wine glass
Mango – a nice firm, but ripe one, cut up into large chunks
Herbs – a few sprigs of parsley, minced
Place chicken in a large bowl and rub the chicken all over with a drizzle olive oil. Season the chicken with the salt, curry powder and black pepper.
Heat a large skillet or pan (pan can have high sides or be shallow, but it must have a lid) on high heat with enough olive oil to make a small puddle in the bottom, then add the butter. Once the butter starts to froth, add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Keep the heat moderately high heat while they color to a pale and relatively even gold.
In the meantime, smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife so that they flatten but remain fairly intact, and peel off the skin. Throw the garlic cloves into the pan. Turn down the heat to medium-low so that the fat under the chicken skin is gently fizzing. Cover with tight-fitting lid. You’ll cook about 35-40 minutes, turning the chicken over halfway through cooking.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken onto a platter and cover loosely with tin foil to keep warm. Tip the pan slightly and spoon out most of the fat. Turn the heat to high and add the white wine and let it bubble. Use a wooden spatula to scrape and loosen the golden bits and the sweet, soft garlic cloves in the pan. Turn the heat down a bit and add the mango chunks and minced parsley. Let simmer for 1 minute. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning – you may have to add some salt or pepper. Spoon over chicken.
Makes 4 servings
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