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other recent NOURISH articles:
o 5 Ways to Avoid the Lingering Leftover
Use What's in the Fridge: series intro
The Lazy Shopper's Kitchen Essentials
o Grilling 101
When it's Too Hot in the Kitchen

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Use What's in the Fridge  
by Steve Loh 08.14.2000: 
Braised Chicken 
Cabbage |
intro  recipe

Letís see, whatís in the fridge today:
  • Frozen boneless/skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 an onion
  • a box of red wine (same one as before)
  • an opened jar of spaghetti sauce
  • a head of cabbage

I also have an old jar of pickles, but thatíll have to wait for another day.

There are times when I get home, and I just donít feel like cooking. Today is one of those days. At least the fridge is still pretty well stocked Ė no need to resort to drastic measures quite yet. And luckily, the cave-person brain hasnít fully emerged yet [see Whatís in the Fridge series intro]. I still have some minutes before my blood-sugar dips into the Hulk range. What has emerged, however, is a brain that doesnít want any complicated cooking tasks taxing its delicate cells. Therefore, weíre doing the easy thing tonight.

Itís time for a braised dish.

What is braising, you ask? (Go ahead, ask.) In itís simplest form, the chef (that would be you) lightly browns a piece of meat, then throws vegetables on top, adds a little liquid, covers and cooks on low for awhile until it all gets nice and soft and stewy and yummy and the house smells nice (time it right and have your friend who youíve had a crush on drop by). Why brown the meat first, you ask? (Go ahead.) Iím told itís to seal the juices in, but I do it to give it color and a little of that nice flavor (you know, "brown" flavor -- the darker color the food, the better it seems to taste, right?). Braising is easy. Just throw stuff in the pan, cover, and forget about it. The only snag: it takes awhile to do proper braising. Like 45 minutes or even more.

Well, screw proper. Incredible Hulk brain starting to peek through. Hulk not proper. Need food quicker. So we raise the temp and cut down the time. Just use the meat right out of the freezer (no defrosting needed here). If you donít have cabbage, ANY vegetable will do, including frozen vegetables. Thatís the easiest. Frozen meat. Frozen veggies. The only fresh ingredients you then need are onion and garlic. You could even skip those, but sautťed onion and garlic add LOTS to any dish -- they form the base of the flavors. Just about all my recipes start with onion and garlic.

Remember, this recipeís very flexible. You could make a great dish with just the chicken and cabbage, and whatever spices you have in the cupboard (or even sans spices, although it always feels good to sprinkle something into the pan, regardless of actual effect). Donít have spaghetti sauce? Use any kind of tomato product: fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste (reduce the amount), tomato soup, ketchup (reduce amount), or none at all -- I just happen to have spaghetti sauce). Donít have wine? Try chicken broth. Donít have chicken broth? Try beer. Donít have beer? Try water. Donít have water? Then youíve got bigger problems than worrying about this dish.

on to the recipe ...

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