The Things They Curried

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to make my favorite comfort food, chicken divan, for dinner. However, we made the fatal error of forgetting to take stock of the cupboards before going to the grocery store. Edward insisted that he had the essential flavoring agent – curry powder – at home. This was a fair assumption, as his apartment has accrued dozens and dozens of spice bottles over time. When we got back and realized that the one spice missing from the collection was, in fact, curry powder, we set about making our own blend. We went online and researched the different spices in a typical curry powder, but we left the proportions to our own taste buds. Our end result was a spicy, chili flake-focused, ingredient that gave the otherwise simple casserole a heated kick.

Like Tim O’Brien’s writing style in The Things They Carried, making a list was what truly showed me the complexity of the flavors in curry powder. Instead of chucking in a tablespoon or so of one thing, I was able to break that thing down into turmeric, cumin, and many other elements. It wasn’t until I broke down the main ingredient of chicken divan that I could appreciate all that goes into making the dish truly comforting. (Though now the comfort comes with a fiery dose of chili flakes from time to time.)

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Filling:

4 chicken breasts

4 cups chicken stock (enough to cover the breasts)

3 cups broccoli

1 can of cream of chicken soup

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 tbsp curry powder (DIY: turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, chili flakes, salt, pepper)

Topping:

2 cups breadcrumbs

1 cup cheddar cheese

1 cup parmesan cheese

3 tbsp melted butter

Instruction:

1. Poach chicken breasts in stock (12-15 minutes). When cooked, use two forks to shred meat into bite-sized bits. Steam broccoli.

2. Combine cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, and curry powder. Add chicken and broccoli. Season to taste with salt.

3. Make topping by combining breadcrumbs, shredded cheese, and melted butter. Grease a baking dish with butter and spread filling evenly. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle top with olive oil. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Enjoy chicken divan with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Anna Corona-na

During my first year of college, I found my way into the home of the wonderful Binns family. I worked as a nanny for the two children, a job description which occasionally included the dinnertime shift. Though this was less than five years ago, the culinary bug had not yet bitten; in fact, basic skills such as cooking rice and scrambling eggs were a great struggle. Several times I was asked to buy a rotisserie chicken at the market – and each time this happened, I absolutely panicked. The idea of carving a bird – even one that had been thoroughly cooked and essentially came ready to eat – seemed extremely daunting. Despite shredded thigh meat and massacres of white meat, the children were very forgiving (though one has since become a vegetarian, and perhaps that is no coincidence).

One of the first things we learned at culinary school was how to butcher a chicken from start to finish. From scorching the feathers off with a blow torch to creating a stock out of the remaining carcass, I have become quite familiarized with every inch of the bird.

There are so many chicken dishes in the world that it’s often hard to tell them apart. Like Tolstoy’s extended character network in Anna Karenina, which introduces different characters with same names and same characters with new nicknames, there is a danger to confusing them all . It’s possible, and even probable, to mistake the good from the bad, the spicy from the bland, the trustworthy from the villainous. The kick of Corona – with plenty of heat from the cayenne and zest from the lime – keeps this dish from banality. And with a big ol’ swig of Corona, my chicken saga ends on a much more pleasant note.

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Beer-Battered Chicken Strips

4 chicken breasts, cut into strips

Salt, pepper

2 cups vegetable oil

Batter:

6 oz. beer

1/2 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

4 limes, zest of four and juice of one

1 tsp cayenne

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Dip (dressing):

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 lime (juice of)

1/2 tsp cayenne

Pinch of salt, pepper

Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut chicken breasts into one inch strips.

2. Whisk beer, flour, salt, and pepper in shallow bowl. Combine lime zest, cayenne, and breadcrumbs in second shallow bowl.

3. Heat vegetable oil in a nonstick frying pan. Dredge each chicken strip first in the batter bowl, then in the breadcrumb bowl. Give each strip about two minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to sheet pan and finish cooking in oven (should take no more than 4 or 5 minutes). You can check to make sure the strips are cooked by cutting into the thickest one and making sure there is no pink inside.

4. Mix mayonnaise, lime juice, cayenne, salt and pepper in a dipping bowl. Serve with chicken strips.

Enjoy beer-battered chicken strips with Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!