As the semester winds down, the intensity of school only accelerates. For a normal human being, this would result in simplified cooking, or picking up sandwiches. Not the Psycho Cooker. This week, a massive neuroscience exam was my most significant burden; I now know the difference between the medial and lateral geniculate bodies of the thalamus, and some of their subsystems. Please, curb your rampant jealousy; I can sense it from here. I promise, it wasn’t quite as much fun as it sounds. In the midst of studying, I decided that making a stir-fry was mandatory for both my physical and mental health. Besides, I had half of a Napa cabbage that I couldn’t bear to waste. Thus, my reward for memorizing thalamic nuclei was cooking, even if the pan didn’t start sizzling until 10 o’clock at night. I’m sure my neighbors were thrilled to have the smell of curry wafting through their apartments as they got ready for bed.
Curried Chicken and Napa Cabbage Stir-fry (adapted from Marc Bittman’s recipe)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon garlic, minced, divided
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated, divided
Handful of chopped scallions
About 3 cups shredded Napa cabbage (about a pound)
6 button mushrooms, sliced (about ¼ pound)
½ cup frozen peas, thawed (just let them sit out during cooking)
½ pound chicken breast, chopped in about ½ inch cubes
about a tablespoon curry powder (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Hefty drizzle of Sriracha* (only if you want it spicy; I probably used a couple teaspoons)
Toss chicken with curry powder (if using) and set aside.
Next prep the rest of the ingredients so the stir-fry can be prepared smoothly (this is called “mise en place*”).
Heat half of the oil over high heat for 3-4 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-high and add half of garlic and ginger. Give the pan a quick shake to distribute, and immediately add the mushrooms, scallions, and cabbage. Allow to cook for 5-8 minutes, until cabbage and mushrooms have softened. Remove vegetables from pan.
Add the rest of oil, garlic, and ginger to pan. Allow to cook for a few seconds, and add the chicken. Allow to cook for 5-8 minutes, or until cooked through. Then add the peas, cabbage mixture, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Toss to combine. If the mixture looks dry, add about a ¼ cup of water. Eat as is, or over white or brown rice.
Comments: This. Was. Fantastic. The delirium of the eons spent at the library probably augmented this, but I’m pretty sure I would enjoy it any night of the week. Next time, I might double the cabbage and mushrooms; they were that tasty. Tofu would have been sublime in this (curried, seared tofu: what could be bad?), but I did enjoy the heartiness of the chicken. If you’re not a fan of curry, leave it out. The ginger, garlic, and soy will bestow enough flavor. However, I LOVED the curry. This is only the second time I’ve actually cooked with it, and I find that it makes food intensely fragrant, but not overpowering on the flavor front. When it hits the pan, it’s like getting an olfactory hug. In fact, I may start carrying around a vile of curry powder and take whiff when I am stressed. Perhaps it exists in an eau de toilette.
Being a cheerleader for carbohydrates, I served this over white rice. Brown rice would have been my first choice, but it needs about hour to cook at this altitude and I didn’t have that kind of time. However, once I had my first bite, I realized that this dish would have been utterly perfect without any rice at all. This is a bold statement as there are few low-carb dishes that I find palatable. The best thing about this dish is that you could apply the technique to other quick-cooking vegetables and proteins, and switch up the flavors to make an infinite array of healthful and delicious stir-fry options. There will definitely be more to come in the psycho-kitchen.
*See glossary for definitions