Saturday, February 06, 2016

The reluctant homemaker and the baked chicken

So a new phase began in our lives in the new year. Yes, I do know it’s February, but it feels very new :)
This new phase… it began with my dear Sumitra reluctantly going back to Jharkhand because they had found a good boy for her. We really miss her; she was a true housekeeper and was even found yelling at very irate workmen for slacking off just because “didi aur bhaiya nahin dekh rehe hai.
After she went, we found ourselves the very sweet and efficient Lalita to do the top work, and we got down to the routine of running a house. 
The last time we did this, Zach was tiny – maybe three years old – and we were in the other, smaller, more-manageable house. This time around, Kevin rearranged the kitchen, moved all the little-used utensils to the loft, and cleared the platforms to be always user-ready. We also acquired a hand blender that he loves and uses thrice a day. He found out how to make smooth yoghurt on a trip to Orissa and he makes his own soya milk from scratch.  
Me, I’m a more reluctant homemaker. I’ve gotten used to cooking every day, but it’s certainly not the fun it used to be when I cooked only on weekends, especially with Sumitra’s willing assistance. The worst part, for me, is the non-vegetarian side of this whole shebang. I hate the raw state of any meat – and I’m obsessed with keeping the cutting boards and knives from touching anything else. And obsession with anything, as I’m sure you know, is tiring.
On the positive side, I’ve finally got a hang of how it’s all done. I order most of my produce from Big Basket (moving from Strand has deprived us of the market at our doorstep), I order fish from Harbour Exports in nearby Sassoon Dock, and I spend Saturday mornings  happily plotting meals for the week. Admittedly, I’m a good plotter and planner. And, because my housemates are very accommodating, I can play around with the planning the whole week. By Thursday or Friday, I’m on to what is fashionably called the “Pantry Challenge” – only here, it’s the fridge that I clear out. 
The best part of all this is that I’ve been cooking Mangalorean food. I’ve always worried that I had never learned this, but yay, that’s worked itself out now. More in another post.  
Anyway, Pinterest is my best friend these days – source of both the easy Mangy recipes and a whole gamut of other dishes that break the monotony.
Yesterday, I tried the Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken from Carlsbad Cravings, and it turned out real good. Admittedly, the chicken is first fried and then baked, but the end result is well worth the effort. As with most of Jen’s recipes, the ingredients list is long-ish and we had to acquire ginger powder and onion powder, but, no doubt, Kevin will find other uses for them. 
Anyway, here goes: 

Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken with Pineapple and Bell Peppers
From Carlsbad Cravings
Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken
from Carlsbad Cravings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
3 eggs
½ cup flour
Oil for frying
Pineapple slices from 1 large tin, diced 
1 capsicum, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced carrot

For the cornflour mixture: 
1 1/3 cup cornflour 
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp onion powder

For the sweet and sour sauce:
½ cup pineapple juice 
1 cup red wine vinegar
1½ cups sugar (see note below)
6 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp soya sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp ginger powder

1. Place all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer for up to 20 minutes. This is to soften the onions and blend the flavours; the sauce will not thicken.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Grease a large baking dish, about 9 X 13 inches, and set aside.

4. Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl and set aside.

5. Add the flour to a large freezer bag and set aside.

6. Mix together the ingredients for the cornflour mixture. Set aside.

7. Dip the diced chicken in batches into the whisked egg, remove, allow the excess egg to drip off, and place in the freezer bag with the flour. Repeat this egg-and-flour step till all the diced chicken is in the freezer bag. Toss within the bag till the chicken is evenly coated with the flour.

8. Add the cornflour mixture to the freezer bag and shake till all the chicken is, again, evenly coated.

9. Heat the oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add the chicken in two batches and cook till browned on all sides (about two minutes) but not cooked through.

10. Transfer the fried chicken nuggets to the prepared baking dish.

11. Add the carrots, pineapple, capsicum and red pepper to the cooked sweet and sour sauce and mix until well combined. 

12. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the baking dish and stir gently to combine.

13. Bake, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

14. Serve with rice. 

Note: This is a very sweet mixture, so reduce the sugar accordingly. 

Main photograph:  kazakphoto/123rf

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