Does it have to do with so-called Senior Moments? I’m not sure I subscribe to that.
Maybe these cooking lapses happen occasionally to people who have all the responsibility for daily meals. Any chef I’ve asked says that when he’s home, his wife cooks dinner – or that he eats out after work, or gratefully puts his feet under his mother-in-law’s table.
Which cheered me up some. Here I am, along with the culinary big shots, suffering from Food Thinking Overload.
So I let someone else do the thinking for me. Strolling over to the kitchen cabinet where my cookbooks live, I pulled out Claudia Rodin’s encyclopedic Book of Jewish Food. Leafing through the pages, I considered chicken with quinces and chicken with dates. Then this tempting, easy-looking recipe caught my eye: Sofrito.
As a Latin American, I identify sofrito as a mix of chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes, sometimes with bell peppers, all seasoned with cumin and ground coriander and fried in olive oil. It’s a flavor base for beans and many other dishes. But here the word is applied to a method that falls between frying and stewing. According to Ms. Rodin, “…cooking slowly in a mixture of oil and very little water….results in a taste and feel quite different from those of a stew.”
The seasonings, a pungent/sharp mixture, were subtly and characteristically Sephardic. In fact, my mouth began to water, just standing there reading the recipe. So I made it, and here it is, just as good as I imagined. And easy, easy, easy.
Adapted from Claudia Rodin’s Book of Jewish Food
3-4 servings. Can be doubled or tripled.
2 halves of chicken breast
1 chicken thigh
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 crushed garlic cloves
Saffron, a good pinch
1/2 teaspoon grated galingale root or ginger
salt and white pepper
1 cup water
Put the water and all the seasonings in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
Add the chicken pieces.
Cover the pot and cook the chicken in the water mixture over the lowest heat. Turn it over once in a while to cook evenly.
When the chicken is tender – between 1 and 1-1/2 hours, remove it from the pot to a platter. Taste the sauce in the pot for seasoning and adjust if needed. Raise the heat and reduce the sauce until it’s thickened to your liking.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with roasted baby potatoes and greens. Or do the traditional thing and serve your sofrito with plain white rice.
Note: to double the recipe, cook one chicken, quartered. Double seasonings but add only 1/2 cup more water.