I am coming to you today from our second bedroom, which is halfheartedly decorated as an office at the moment. It contains a leather couch that no one ever sits on, unless a grown-up timeout is necessary, and a succulent that is slowly dying from lack of sunlight.
The floor slopes down and so as I type my rolling chair is gradually creeping its wheels away from the desk, as gravity does its work. I do not really need this added obstacle. It has been a few months since I last sat here. The further I get from writing, the harder it is to come back to.
Some may feel this way about going to the gym or playing guitar. These are actions that generally feel fine once you get going, though there are infinity excuses for avoiding them. But most Christmas presents have been purchased and the entire house is freshly dusted, so I am out of procrastination devices at the moment.
Since it is December, I can’t help but think about the year ahead. There is no magical reset that happens come January, but I would like to do a couple things differently.
I want to listen to less politics and more music. I have found that hearing people I agree with rehash the daily grind of scandal and domestic horror does not help me feel less scared. It makes me want to move to Canada. So I might as well listen to a little Stevie Nicks and make a plan to visit the Grand Canyon before it is too late.
Too much time has already been wasted, devoted to the worst that could happen. There once was space for levity and I want it back. After the election in 2016, writing about food seemed frivolous. I somehow forgot that cooking is a way to connect.
For instance, deep-frying anything (chicken, perhaps) communicates that the cook is slightly insane. But dodging hot oil like it is liquid shrapnel says you, dear eater, are worth it. It also forces residency in the present for at least an hour or two, which can be as meditative as a yoga class without the talk about rinsing your kidneys.
I also recommend using hands instead of kitchen tools when it is safe to do so, despite the added mess and, perhaps, a little because of it. Dressing a salad in this manner can be calming and it typically feels even better to eat vegetables after preparing them as such.
A little intensity in the kitchen does not hurt either. This time of year pounding a pomegranate for its seeds is violently therapeutic, even as pink juice splatters the kitchen cabinets like a crime scene. What this says is up for interpretation, but there is room for all of it.
So it seems I hope to cook with more intention and by any means necessary.
The recipe today is simple and sturdy – no deep-frying required. The chicken blisters and browns, cooking up reliably tender time after time. I reduced the soy sauce and the honey, because I am acutely aware of my aging body, and the chicken does not suffer a bit from it. The reduction allows for it to make more frequent appearances at dinner.
Try pairing the recipe with a fast salad of sliced cucumber and carrot strips. I usually prepare a lemon vinaigrette with two times as much oil to acid. Add mint and sesame seeds if you have them, but do not make a thing of it if you are without. Any grain would make a fine accompaniment to all this, but white rice is particularly quick and comforting. Do not skip the starch: you will want it to sop up the extra sauce. This is the best part, so enjoy it.
I wish you more joy than dread for the year ahead of us. If you are at all like me, my best advice is to try and stay in the kitchen while you cook. With any luck I will be there too, making chicken and listening to Gold Dust Woman.
Adapted from Rachel Khoo courtesty of Food52
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced)
3 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 dried Thai chili, minced
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 bone-in chicken thighs
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
Set the oven to 400 degrees. In a baking dish, whisk together the first 7 ingredients. Add the chicken and toss it in the sauce until fully coated.
Bake for 45 minutes (or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees). The skin should be bronzed and crisped.
To make this into a meal, prepare a salad and make some rice while the chicken cooks. I prefer plain basmati made with 1 cup grain to 1¼ cups water. Bring the rice to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit 5 minutes before removing the lid.
My recipe for a simple vinaigrette is the juice of one lemon, about ½ to ⅔ cups olive oil, 2 teaspoons of both honey and Dijon mustard, plus a few pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.