Ny Mag recently ran an article that asked three chefs to give recipes for better brown-bag lunches. As a dedicated lunch-bringer/cafeteria conversation-avoider I was interested to see what they would come up with.
First up was Floyd Cardoz of Tabla, a restaurant on Madison and 24th I've never eaten at, but now that I look at their tasting menu ($59 for three courses, awesome! Have I lived in NYC too long when that sounds cheap?) I would like to. Anyway, he offered up a curryish chicken stew that he recommended as good over rice or in sandwiches.
Second up was Ryan Skeen of Irving Mill with a chicken sandwich with horseradish mayo and tomato relish. Now. I love tomato relish, but am not huge on mayo so already this option is looking meh. Add into it the fact that you essentially have to make two things all you get out of it is a sandwich, well forget it.
Option three is from Ilene Rosen at City Bakery. Basically, a tin of smoked oysters (ew?) some stale bread and home-made slaw. Well I'm prejudiced against bakeries anyway for their crimes against desserts, and also this lunch looks lame.
So, Floyd, you are the winner. Let's see how it turned out:
Spiced Chicken Stew
Floyd Cardoz, Tabla
“This warms up well in the microwave with some rice, or makes a great filling for a sandwich or wrap. This recipe makes six servings—enough to get you through the week.”
4 tablespoons canola oil (I used vegetable oil.)
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs curry leaves (I don't know what these are, so I added curry powder)
6 shallots sliced (I never really know how much "one" shallot is...so I think I only ended up using two bulbs of one shallot)
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
Chiles, with seeds, quartered (I used both jalapenos and some dried ones I always have hanging around)
1 teaspoon turmeric (I think the point of this spice is just to make everything in your kitchen yellow)
4 tablespoons semolina (uh...all purpose flour....seemed to work ok)
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless chicken, cubed (leg meat is preferable) (cubing chicken is really annoying, chickens are not square)
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup baby turnips (I couldn't find any turnip, let along baby ones, so I left this out)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups chicken stock
Juice of 2 limes (Limes are hard to juice if you don't have a juice and are a wuss like me)
10 ounce can coconut milk
Salt the chicken and let it stand for 1 hour. In a pot, heat the canola oil and add the cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves; stir until the spices are fragrant (this seemed to not happen, even though all my spices were new. Maybe I have a cold I don't know about). Strain out the spices and tie them in a sachet. (I guess this is cheese cloth? That's what I used.) Pour the canola oil back into the pot, then add the mustard seeds and bay leaves. Add the curry leaves (or not), shallots, ginger, chiles (sic), and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the spice sachet and semolina (flour); cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add chicken, vegetables, and stock, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the lime juice and season. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 more minutes (I ended up simmering it a lot longer than this, maybe 15 minutes, before the veggies were actually cooked).
(And, oh, hey, when I am supposed to take out the spice satchel? And those bay leaves? Can't people choke on those? Nothing to say? Recipe over? All right.)
Rough Cost: $4.12 (yeah right! where are you shopping, Floyd? Wisconsin? The chicken alone was 3.25, then all the spices--which, since I just moved, I had to buy all of, then coconut milk, and veggies...sheesh. More like $15.)
Verdict: Ok, all bitching and veering from the recipe aside, this turned out really well. I've been eating it all week for lunch over rice, turning all my tupperware yellow, and really enjoying it. It's pretty quick to assemble if you subtract all the time I spent being grossed out while "cubing" chicken thighs. I want to try it in a toasted pita, but I think I'm too lazy to to go the store tonight and get one before I happily eat the final serving of this for lunch tomorrow. Oh, also, his estimate of six servings was surprisingly accurate!
Points taken off for lack of spiciness (maybe it was those missing curry leaves and shallots?) and some annoying things with the recipe, such as choking on bay leaves.
My lunch. I know it looks kind of unappetizing, but blame my phone's camera. You can see how yellow the tupperware is, though!