Friday, December 18, 2015

Cooking Fast Often Means Cooking Small

Early in my kitchen days I figured out that the quickest way to get cooked meat, potatoes and vegetables on the table was to cut them up into small pieces before cooking them.  It takes more than 1 hour to roast a chicken, 20 minutes to poach a boneless chicken breast in water, 8 minutes to grill or broil a skewer of chicken kebabs and 2 minutes to stir-fry 1/2-thick strips of chicken.  If I were truly in a hurry, stir-fry was my cooking method of choice.

Similar timetables hold true for beef, lamb and pork.

A baked potato needs an hour in the oven.  Boiled potatoes, cut in quarters, are ready in about 15 minutes.  If you cut them into 1-inch squares they’ll be soft in less than 10 minutes.  French fries take about 7 minutes--if the pan isn’t overloaded.  Grated potatoes can be stir-fried and ready to eat in 3 minutes. 

Taste and speed are not mutually exclusive.  Many recipes, like the one below, will give you both. 
Photo by Andy Mills
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce – serves 4 (adapted from “Help! My Apartment Has a Dining Room” 
Chicken Satay 
1/4 cup soy sauce 
2 teaspoons chopped garlic 
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds) 
Combine the soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, corn syrup and lemon juice in a medium bowl and stir. 
Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and add to the soy sauce mixture.  Stir to coat the chicken pieces, cover and refrigerate while you make the Peanut Sauce. 
Peanut Sauce 
2/3 cup milk + more if necessary
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small pot and begin heating over medium heat, stirring until the mixture is well combined.  Turn down the heat to low and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce comes to a boil.  It should have the consistency of thick salad dressing.  If it’s too thick, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the consistency you want.  Remove from the heat and set aside until the chicken is ready. 
Place a rack 4 inches from the broiling unit and preheat the broiler. 
Thread the chicken pieces into metal or wooden skewers and place on a cooling rack sitting on a broiling pan.  Broil 3-4 minutes per side.  Watch carefully so the chicken does not overcook.  Test for doneness by cutting a piece in half.  The interior should be white, not pink. 
Transfer the kebabs to plates and serve with the Peanut Sauce.
           For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

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