Today was not a good day. Not the worst day ever... no, that was July 27, 2008. Thus far. Knock on wood. But today definitely will live in infamy, if not in my memory, at least on my insurance premium paperwork. I was on my way to work, feeling a little blah, looking forward to getting through the week and on with life when, BAM! the van in front of me slammed on its brakes. I immediately followed suit and slammed on mine, but in rush hour traffic I didn't have enough stopping distance to come to a complete stop before the front of my car met with the back end of it. A fire truck, police car, tow truck and rental car later I was thoroughly shaken up but not hurt, feeling shaky and exhausted and hungry. Driving like a 90-year-old woman, I pulled into the comfort food mecca closest to the auto body shop and rental car place: Panera Bread. It was only ten-something in the morning, but I was craving only one thing. Soup, panini and warmth.
"Can I order lunch?" I asked hopefully, ignoring the more-appropriate pastries and egg sandwiches beckoning from the breakfast menu.
I was in luck. Soup was on early today, and they were willing to oblige my crazy ass. Much more accomodating than McDonald's, those Panera peeps.
"I'll have a Frontega Chicken panini and black bean soup," I said, replacing my normal healthy, diet-friendly Mediterranean Veggie with the warm and gooey grilled favorite.
"We're actually out of black bean soup," she apologized. "Is there another one you'd like?"
"Umm, that's the only one I ever order. What would you say is good?"
"You can't go wrong with Broccoli Cheddar," she said. Well, actually you can. Terribly. Stanley Tucci's Devil Wears Prada line to tiny Anne Hathaway comes to mind... "you know the main ingredient in corn chowder is cellulite."
"Sure. What the hell." I willf eat my feelings.
And I did, next to the fireplace and a group of young, preppy moms taking their screaming babies out for coffee. The joys of Lake Oswego/Tualatin at daytime.
When I came home, I really didn't feel like doing much. At all. So, I didn't. I watched an extremely old episode of Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill that looked like it had been filmed in his cousin's loft kitchen with a hand-held Flip camera, and endured half an episode of Guy Fieri making a horrible canneoli bean and bacon mess. Amidst watching Nigella Lawson goop up cake as only the British can, I fell asleep with Max the kitty overseeing operations.
By the time I woke up, I wasn't sure I was going to want to make dinner. Ugh, there's crap in the freezer, I thought, popping some Ibuiprofin and another Diet Coke.
But, there's chicken thighs in the fridge! Innocent chicken thighs! Don't waste them!!
FINE, world. I'll get my ass up. I still hate you, though.
The unsuspecting chicken thighs were thawing for a new Martha Stewart Food magazine recipe I found in my clip file (which is starting to get a little out of control): Chipotle Chicken & Rice. The prep was refreshingly simple, and a saving grace on a day when I really didn't want to be there anyway. It didn't go without following suit with the rest of the day, however; as I was turning the browning chicken in my Le Creuset, a bead of scalding oil shot up and hit me square in the eye. Through my glasses. If only the universe would send me the memos when I'm not supposed to get out of bed that day.
Sitting down to a real, homemade dinner that was new and, for Matt, tortilla-friendly, helped us relax. Much more than a thoughtlessly microwaved burrito in front of the TV ever could have. Hasty food, hasty meals, it destroys the whole communication dynamic. We were able to laugh a little, smile, sigh, and realize that, in reality, life wasn't that bad. We still had the fat cats, and food, and a roof, and this wasn't going to take that away from us. Better luck next time, world!
Anyway, I've got to share this recipe. It's going to be a new favorite. I should really get a new "favorite" file, so that these gems can rise out of the giant abyss of possibilities.
Chipotle Chicken and Rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced large
1 cup long-grain rice
Pepper jack cheese or jalapeno gouda, shredded, for topping, if you want to add some more delicious calories
Diced green onions and/or cilantro for topping
In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken on both sides with 1 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Working in batches, brown chicken on both sides, about 6 minutes total; transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot (if necessary, add a bit of water to release brown bits).
Add garlic, cumin, and chiles; cook until garlic is soft and fragrant, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1 tsp salt and cook until tomatoes begin to break down and release their juices, 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water and return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook 25 minutes.
Remove several pieces of chicken and stir in rice, making sure it is completely submerged in liquid. Replace chicken, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes more. Serve with cheese and green onion toppings, and stick some in a tortilla if you want.