Sunday, September 26, 2021

Dinner change

Tonight I made a Stovetop Chicken Casserole (well, that’s what I call it, anyway—though I'm sure it probably already has an actual name). I had some things to use up, and added on from there. I was very happy with it.

This came about because I had a leek I needed to use, and I thought about making chicken and leek pie—but I was too lazy to make the pastry. I also knew I had a box of low-salt chicken stock that was at the “either use it or toss it” stage.

So: First, I chopped a small red onion (I have too many, but they’re also milder than ordinary onions). I also sliced a carrot and some celery, and, of course, the leek. Next, I took a chicken breast out of the freezer. I cooked that while the vegetables softened in another pot. If I’d been more patient, I could’ve cooked the chicken, removed it from the pan, then put the vegetables in. But I was hungry, so, two pans.

When the vegetables were softened, I added the chicken and pan juices, a little freshly ground salt and pepper, a pinch of mixed herbs, stirred it and, once it was heated through, I poured in the chicken stock (one cup). I then added a cup of water and one cup of dried rice (I used long grain, which I have the most of, but any kind would work).

Next, I controversially added a prepared packet of name-brand instant gravy mix (also nearing the end of its days). I did that because I wanted the dish to be rich and hearty (it’s going to a cold night!), but when I mixed up the gravy I had doubts because the herbs smelled quite intense. But, I stuck with my gut instinct and poured it in and stirred everything, and put the lid back on the pot. Once the mix came up to a near boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about ten minutes, then reduced it to a quite low heat for about 5. Then I stirred it, turned off the heat, and left it with the lid on for another 5 minutes.

It was perfect—exactly what I wanted. If I’d planned it all out, I could have skipped the gravy (and it’s salt) and thickened it in an ordinary way, or I could’ve used more chicken stock instead and given it a bit more time simmering. But this was more about using up some odds and ends, and, besides, it was yummy.

This little story is also about change. Over the past two years, I’ve been braver about trying new, unfamiliar recipes, and especially about trusting my instincts/judgement when cooking. I’ve had a few failures along the way, but I learn from those, too. I did a little bit of this sort of cooking experimentation for Nigel, especially in later years, but that’s taken off over the past two years.

Apparently, this is part of the new life I’m building. And that’s a great thing, I think—especially when my experiments work!