Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When you're too busy to eat, eat.

Here's what happens: 

I'm coding, and am deep into the "zone". One moment it's 11am, and the next it's 7pm.

I'm practicing piano, or working on a new music project. One moment it's 11am, and the next - 7pm.

Here's what used to happen when I finally took a break: 

I'd rummage around the kitchen looking for something to make for dinner and finally settle on a delivery-menu & just order something in.

Here's what happens now, when I finally take a break: 

I take the pot of some home-cooked delicious food out of the fridge, put it on the stove, heat it up, and have a healthy meal.

Staying healthy is a proactive process.

Look, fellow software devs, we've heard it before: you have to stay healthy, and it not only means getting the ever-expanding butt out of the chair and getting some exercise; it also means eating wisely, featuring home-made and healthy food.

Not a cook? Don't have time for it? Who cares? You are, you do, and you should -- all of those burritos, sushiritos, pizzas, chicken & waffles, and craft-IPAs will catch up to you - and sooner than you think.

This is delicious. 

This is easy, and freaking delicious.  It's one of my favorite, go-to one-pot-meals that lasts a few days and is a great re-heater. I prepare it on a Sunday so it is ready at a go during the week.

Trust me on this. Follow along. Most of the time you'll spend on this will be doing other things: the cooking happens while you're not paying attention to it.

2 packages of chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) 6 to 8 pieces.
2 cups of good, dry red wine (Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 sprig parsley
4 to 6 shallots, peeled
2 T olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 Cup dry farro

In a good dutch oven or braising pot, heat up the olive oil over a medium to high heat. Add a little salt and pepper to each of the chicken thighs. Once the oil starts shimmering, put in the chicken thighs, skin-side-down. Brown the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes. How do you know when the chicken is browned? The skin side will be.. wait for it... browned. Literally. They will go from chicken-skin-colored to various shades of cooked-over-heat-brown. If you're getting some spatter from the pot while they're browing, put the lid on.

Flip the chicken over and toss in the shallots, and let them cook a little in the oil and chicken fat for about a minute. Then toss in the thyme, bay leaf, and parsley sprig and the 2 cups of red wine.  The chicken should just be peeking above the surface of the wine (also known now as "braising liquid"), and if it isn't, add more wine.  Once the wine starts to boil, toss in the farro, stir it into the braise, and lower the heat so that the pot is simmering, and not wildly boiling.  Put on the lid and set a timer for 45 minutes.

Check the simmer after 10 or 15 minutes - you want a slow cook, not a roiling, steaming boil. Once it's simmering at a nice gentle-to-moderate pace, you can leave the heat alone until completion.

After about the 30 minute mark, check on the farro. It should be distributed reasonably evenly, and you may need to stir the pot a bit. After the 45 minute mark, check again. The farro should be al dente, slightly firm to the bite.  If it needs more time, give it more time.  This recipe is difficult to overcook, but by the 60 minute mark it should be done, and the farro al dente.

When it's done, it's done! Leave the lid on, take it off of the hot burner, and let it sit. Once it's cool enough for the fridge (room temperature will do), put it in the fridge.  Reheat during the week as needed. 

All of the ingredients can be found at a good supermarket. If you really can't find farro, you can order it online. 

Don't have a dutch oven or a braising pot? I'm a big fan of Staub. On a trip to Paris, I noticed that every good restaurant I'd visited used this brand. This is a buy-once-use-forever purchase. 

This is just good, home-cooked comfort food. You know what went into it, you can control the salt and fat content (just dump out the fat after you've browned the chicken if you want to cut back), adjust the amount of thyme or other herbs, and so on.  Want more veggies in there? Add some carrots, parsnips, small potatoes at the beginning.  Don't care for farro? Leave it out and serve over pasta you cook on-demand. Options; you have them.

The combination of chicken (protein and fats), farro (whole-grain fiber & carbs) and some veggies means you're eating well. If you're like me, you won't need much at one meal - this stuff is filling!

And yeah, it does require that you get up and away from the computer (or piano or guitar or DJ rig) and get to the store for stuffs, but you had to do that anyway, right? A little bit of time one day a week means an easy-to-reheat homemade one-pot meal you don't have to think about when you're otherwise busy creating things.

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