So all this going out into the world, and co-mingling and canoodling with the worms and bees and birds and bunnies, it has a flip-side- bone broth, skipped showers, and hermitages on the extreme end of the scale: the need to keep the little people, and the big ones, well-fed. The need to draw in some quiet, make a road map to The Center, that cuts a line as the crow flies from the muddy clogs and dandelion tufts straight to a story on the couch and a couple of deep breaths. My kids manifest Spring Fever by an unnatural attachment to insomnia, the result being all ilk of bad temper throughout the course of the day. Benen lays awake at 11 p.m., announcing "My eyes don't want to sleep. My tummy is awake." and slinks out of bed to feed his vernal metabolism two apples, a half a bag of cashews, and a half pound of brie, the detritus of which he hands me in the morning as I cook him six eggs and a sweet potato. Gemma resists napping with all the force and will of what I am starting to appreciate is a very intense young woman with A Plan, waking up from her naps screaming "No! Sleepy! NO SLEEPY!", angry - no, pissed, and simmering with sobs and screams and face slaps delivered to herself - that her body, yet again, hoodwinked her into some rest. Or she just skips the nap all together and spends the entire afternoon in an epic, rhythmic meltdown that involves doll strollers, shoes three sizes too large for her, rainbow playsilks and many, many tears. She is teaching me and Benen a great deal about patience and compassion and, I grant you, illogical thinking.
And through all of this, I'm in bed at 9, because even when everything else threatens to fall apart, sleep is the knotty twine I rely on to help me hold it together. I save my insomnia for the dead heat of late summer.
Somewhere in the fray of wild rumpus, my cooking mojo threatened to go on strike. I have been saved by my ardor for seasonal vegetables (hello, turnip!), my fetish with eating the (arguably named) weeds in our yard, and the crock pot. I have the jinkiest crockpot this side of the Mississippi, but it still does us the kind service of feeding us through the thin spots of seasonal readjustment. I love to think of my crock pot as a manifestation of my stronger domestic attributes, playing stand-in for me while I fly from nest to nest to tend my frenzy of spring start-ups. The nicest thing about this recipe is that it will go just as nicely on your stovetop or oven, or pressure cooker, as it will the crock pot...perfect for those moments when the brain refuses to obey the moral imperative of meal planning before 4 p.m. No, scratch that, the nicest thing about this recipe is that whenever I make it, my children lick their bowls, and ask for more. I also like that it's a fairly equal-opportunity protein employer - chicken, lamb, rabbit, beef (elk, Bambi, squirrel...you name it). Just adjustments to cooking time need occur. I recently made this for a family welcoming a new baby into their home and realized that the blend of spices - fenugreek, cinnamon, coriander, in a base with garlic and ginger, enriched with beef bones and iron-rich greens, was a calling card for a new mom's needs. So there's that to love, too. But mostly it just makes my house smell good, and fills the bellies of my sleepless brood, and fulfills the requisites of delicious (check), easy (check), fast (check).
Coconut Curry Chicken, Southern-Indian style
(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, and I do mean, adapted, as in, heavily adapted)
Serves 8 (or one 6 year old boy and his 1 year old sister, sheesh)
I've included notes at the end of the recipe to guide in you in making this on the stove, in the oven, or with a pressure cooker. I also include recommended protein sources other than chicken and cooking times. I've done it all ways and while each method has a different outcome, all are equally delicious. This recipe also doubles well: when you double, double all the spices except the salt - salt to taste, starting with the amount recommended.
For the spice mixture:
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
(optional) - 1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
(optional) - 1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
1 1/2-2 1/2 tsp sea salt
Blend all the spices in a bowl and set aside.
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (food processor is fine for this)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped (again, food processor)
1-2 Tbsp fresh garlic, peeled and minced (hello, food processor)
1 seeded green chili, flesh minced (also, yes, the food processor - all of these items can go together and just pulse until you have a uniform, smallish consistency)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
3 lbs. protein - I like skinned chicken thighs (bone in is fine, just add 10 minutes to your cooking time), or a whole chicken or rabbit, skinned and broken down into pieces, or a tough cut of lamb or beef such as neck, chuck, brisket, round. Uniformly sized pieces, larger than you might think - about 2 or 3 inches square - work well.
1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk
2 cups chopped tomatoes or tomato puree
1 bunch (roughly 1 lb) leafy green such as spinach, chard, collards, or turnip greens, cleaned and chopped into ribbons
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Plug in the crockpot and set on high. Melt the coconut oil or ghee in the pot while you prepare the spice mixture and onions, garlic, ginger, chile. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and chile to the oil and stir, and then add the spice mixture, meat, coconut milk and tomato. Stir everything, place the lid, and cook 4 hours on high (for chicken, rabbit or lamb; 6 hours on high for beef) or 6 hours on low (8 for beef). About 45 minutes before serving add the greens, stir in, replace the lid, and allow to soften/wilt. If the stew seems dry to you add some water or coconut milk. Stir in lemon juice and adjust salt before serving. We serve this over a roasted sweet potato, or riced cauliflower, or more wilted greens. Well, and honestly, I just stand at the crockpot and eat it with a fork.
To do this on the stove: heat a dutch oven over medium high heat, melt the fat, saute the onion/garlic/ginger chile over medium heat until soft and translucent, add the spice mixture, coating the onions with it, then add the protein, coconut, and tomato and bring to a low boil, reduce to a simmer and cover partially. Simmer for 25 minutes, add greens, simmer another ten minutes, stir in lemon juice, adjust salt, serve. (Simmer 1-2 hours for beef, lamb, rabbit, checking liquid level frequently to avoid scorching).
To do this in an oven: set the oven to 325 F, follow the instructions for a stove-top start above, and once you've added the protein and liquids, place the greens atop the stew, cover tightly with a piece of parchment paper and lid, place in oven, and revisit it in 1-2 hours (3-4 hours for beef and lamb) to stir in lemon juice, adjust salt, and enjoy.
To do this with the pressure cooker: I recommend the use of a flame tamer to avoid scorching the tomato-based sauce - or just watch your flame carefully and keep it as low as possible while still maintaining pressure. Melt the fat in the pressure cooker, add all the ingredients except the lemon juice in the order given, mix well, lock the lid into place, and once you obtain high pressure, maintain high pressure for 25 minutes for boneless chicken, 35 minutes for bone-in chicken or rabbit,45 minutes for lamb or beef. Allow to return to normal pressure with the quick release method, adjust seasoning (I find this way often needs salt) and serve.
How do you keep your Spring Fever in check?