Today is Food Revolution Day, and our French Fridays with Dorie crew is participating by blogging about a recipe from Around My French Table. The idea behind the Day is that we need to get back to making healthy food at home. So many people who are busy working, with family and other activities struggle to find the time or inclination – or they never really learned how to make meals in the first place – so this is a day to share our love of cooking and sharing what we make with our friends and family.
The rule of this week’s challenge was to make a recipe from the book and blog about it. There are lots of great recipes, and this is a great way to learn to cook, or add some skills. That said, when I think of “what do I think are basic/essential types of recipes for a beginning cook”, these aren’t necessarily the ones I think of. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to choose one that fit my criteria.
Absent the cookbook requirement, there are things I think people should know how to do: a bechamel (white) sauce so you can make “stuff on toast”, or a great mac and cheese, authentic lasagna or canneloni, or even use it for a soup base. Other things would be something like muffins – an essential quick bread – nothing says “I care about you” more than something warm, yummy and homemade. I often bake something to share when I’m not in the best of spirits. Eggs! Or a simple vinaigrette. Any kind of vegetable. Fresh Salsa! I could go on.
In the end, I decided to make curried chicken, peppers and peas en papillote. While it sounds fancy, it’s actually very easy, a well-rounded meal – and quick! When I was contemplating what to make, I reminded myself of the near-daily conversation in my head while driving home: “I’m hungry, I should just stop and get X” “No, I have stuff at home, I just bought a bunch of vegetables” “But I don’t feel like cooking anything right now” “Oh really? It will take about the same time as picking something up anyway, and besides, you don’t want to waste that food!”. This is exactly the kind of thing that fits into that scenario.
These are ingredients that I almost always have on hand. The only thing to do is get some chicken breasts thawed (or pick them up at the store) – otherwise, only a very few ingredients: bell pepper (I like red or yellow), red onion (or any kind, but this is pretty), some frozen peas, plus a little olive oil and for Dorie’s version – curry powder.
This is super-simple. The oven is heated to 400 degrees. The chicken is cut into strips, and the vegetables are prepped. Except for the peas, I wanted everything to be a similar size – mostly so it looks nice, but things cook more evenly that way too.
I recently read that 3-sided peppers are “female” and 4-sided are “male”. The suggestion was to buy the 4-sided because it’s easier to cut them up – maybe, but picking the freshest -looking is really my goal. I started cutting up peppers this way a few years ago – it’s a bit less messy to cut sections off of the stem/core.
All of the ingredients are mixed together in a bowl.
The olive oil is added, and then seasonings. As I mentioned before, Dorie suggests curry powder. And to be honest, I still think it’s my favorite. But I have a lot of different seasoning blends, so sometimes it’s fun to try something new.
This time, I decided to split the recipe in halves – I used the classic curry in one, and a sate seasoning in the other. To that one, I added a little sesame oil as well for a little extra flavor. I’ve tried adding sauces in the past, but it doesn’t work very well – as the chicken and vegetables release their juices too, and it can be a bit too much. All of the seasonings and bit of oil (about 1 t per packet) get mixed together so that the chicken and vegetables are evenly coated. They get a bit more seasoning with salt and pepper as well.
Rather than the traditional parchment paper, I used foil. I’m sure it’s fancier to use the parchment, but since I wasn’t serving this for company – I thought I’d stick with what’s simple. For this recipe, it requires 4 sheets (for 2 chicken breasts, 1 each pepper and onion and about 1 c of frozen peas), about 12″ square. The mixture is divided evenly among them and then the packages are sealed up. Dorie mentions that they can just be gathered together – I think it’s a bit easier to fold them up. But in any event, leave some space for the ingredients to steam in the oven. The packets get put onto a baking sheet before putting them in the oven.
At this point, it’s possible to put these into the refrigerator for a few hours – just add a couple of minutes to the overall time. The packets are baked for a bit over 20 minutes, and then they are ready to serve. Almost exactly the amount of time to make a bit of rice in my rice cooker!! Once the time is up, check to make sure that the chicken is cooked through. The packets can be served at the table, or plated in the kitchen.
Of course, this dish can be switched up – change the chicken out for fish, use all vegetables, add fresh herbs or other seasonings, change the vegetables to whatever you have on hand – and if you’re willing to take some more time, you could even add potatoes or other root vegetables (which reminds me of the “hobo dinners” we’d have while camping as kids). It really depends on what you have on hand, and what suits your mood.
It’s my hope that this year’s Food Revolution Day will inspire people to cook a bit more, to spend time in the kitchen and at the table together – and to occasionally ignore that thought that tells us to just pick something up or go out. Happy cooking!
“Food Revolution Day is a chance for people all over the world to come together and stand up for good food and essential cooking skills. It’s a chance for people to come together in homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day is a global day of action to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone.