Recipe: “Mood Stabilizers”
So, yesterday morning, we went and bought a mower (holy shit get excited a mower, *poop noise*), and then the wife came upstairs to paint the office (which is ranked “Apple 4” on this chart right over here), and while she was painting, I figured, okay, let’s do a bang-up no-holds-barred Indian dinner.
I already knew I was going to make a cashew-cream chicken curry. I already knew that I was going to make mango lassis (which turned into mango-guava lassis, but whatever). I already suspected that basmati rice was on the agenda. I mean, duh.
But then I had this little kernel, this crazy seedling of an idea that grew into a tree of awesomeness.
And I thought, you know what I enjoy at restaurants? Lettuce wraps. Give me a leaf from a head of green leaf lettuce, put some delicious crap in there, and I will eat it like some kind of madman taco — the crunch, the crispness, that slightly bitter tang of the lettuce. Yeah. Yes. I wanted that.
So I went to the Fresh Market, then stopped off at a local dry goods store.
And this is what I came up with:
The Part Where You Mise En Place This Bitch
In case you’re mule-kicked and forgot already, you’re going to need some leaves from a head of green leaf lettuce. Let’s call it four to six such leaves.
Put those little bitches on a serving tray. One after the other. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Line them up like they’re being punished for something.
Then, you’re going to need one cup of cooked chicken. Since chicken does not cook itself — well, nuclear chickens probably cook themselves, since they’re like microwaves with feathers and beaks, and one day we shall be forced to battle an army of said nuclear chickens out in the bomb-blasted wasteland of post-war America — you will need to either a) cook the fucking chicken your owngoddamnself or b) buy a chicken that some motherfucker has already cooked. Like, say, a roaster.
Here’s the kicker, though: you then want to add one cup of cooked chicken skin. I know, some people are grossed out by the skin for some mysterious reason, but some people are also Communists and kid-touchers, so I can’t be held accountable for people’s disturbed tastes. All I know is that chicken skin is fatty deliciousness. Except, nobody wants to eat a strip of chicken skin like it’s a swatch of greasy wallpaper ripped right off the wall. Pshhh. So, you take the cooked skin and put it with the cooked chicken.
Then you dice the unholy shit out of it.
Seriously. Get a big knife. Pretend you’re chopping cilantro or something. Choppity-chop. Punish it. Remind the chicken that you are its dread master and that it is dead and you are alive, que sera sera.
Set that aside.
Now: get yourself four or five shallots. Shallots are awesome. They’re like little onions. But they’re also like big garlic. They’re the best of both worlds, like hermaphrodites and sporks. You want to cut the shallots into little goddamn rings: a handful of little sphinctery o-rings that as you chop will bring sweet clarifying tears to your horrible human eyes. When you’re done, those can go in a separate bowl.
It’s time for the Brazil nuts. Wuzza? Yeah. You heard me. Brazil nuts. Monkey toes. Or, if they’re still in their shell, velociraptor claws. I didn’t really measure how many I used, but I used an approximate half-cup of these crazy nuts, which if you’ve never eaten have a kind of… fatty umami bitter bite? They’re not full-on bitter like walnuts, but the taste is rich and oily. Anyway — stick these nutty fuckers in a mortar and pestle, then make with the crush crush crush until they’re all pulverized. They don’t need to be a snortable dust or anything: just broken apart into push-pin sized bits.
We’ll pause here for a second and answer the question: “Why Brazil Nuts?” The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. *checks documents* No, no, wait, that’s not right. The answer, my friends, is in all the sweet fucking selenium — Brazil nuts have an almost incomprehensible amount of selenium, a helluva lot more than any other food. Six Brazil nuts have 780% of your daily suggested selenium intake. Selenium is good for all kinds of stuff: in particular, it’s a free radical that runs through your body, karate-kicking cancer in its carcinogenic face. But, some also suggest that selenium has powerful mood stabilizing abilities.
Hence, Brazil nuts. Hence, these are called “Mood Stabilizers.”
Now, back to the goddamn chicken.
Into the two cups of chicken I want you to add the following:
A teaspoon of sugar.
A pinch or two of salt.
A pinch of cinnamon (I used Saigon cinnamon, which is not true cinnamon, but rather, Cassia.)
A teaspoon of minced garlic.
A pinch of ground cardamom.
Mixity-mix mix mix-a-mix.
The Part Where You Cook This Shit
First, we want to attend to these shallots.
In particular, we want to crisp them up. Very simple: oil in a pan, shallot sphincters in there when it gets hot, let them get carmelized on each side, maybe toss in a pinch of salt to help draw out the moisture. What are we talking? Probably 5, 10 minutes. Something like that.
Set those crispy bastards aside.
Time to cook the chicken. The chicken is already cooked, mind you, but what you want here is to get it a little oily, and further to make some of the spices aromatic. Oh! And you also want that chicken skin to crisp up a touch. For a textural thing. Put it in a hot skillet for a couple minutes — keep it moving, don’t let it stick to the pan if you can.
Then, when you’re ready —
Are you ready?
I said, are you ready?
It’s time for the Hot Mango Chutney.
You can make this at home, but I won’t lie: this time, I did not. I used Patak’s, but making your own isn’t all that difficult — I just plain didn’t have the time yesterday.
How much do you need? I used two tablespoons of the aforementioned chutney. (“Chutney” always sounds like the proper name of a fat English schoolboy. “Little Lord Chutney,” they’d call him. Nickname, “Piggy.” Whenever he tries to talk, you mock him even though he has the conch, and then you drop a boulder on his big dumb head. And then you collect the brains and call it “Hot Mango Chutney.”)
Anyway. Plop Piggy’s Brains the mango chutney into the chicken, mix it, heat it, then toss in the crusha-crusha-crushed Brazil nuts, heat through again. When you’re done —
Spread it out amongst those lovely lettuce leaves you set out earlier.
Rough guess, two or three tablespoons per leaf. I dunno. Shut up and eyeball it.
Top them with some of your part-greasy part-crispy shallots.
Then, eat them like tacos.
They’ll stabilize your mood not merely because they offer a Herculean buttload of selenium (hey, by the way, don’t overdose on selenium, please?), but also because these things are just fun to eat. They’re sweet, sour, salty. They’re soft in the middle, but have lots of crisp and crunch, too. You eat them with your hands, and foods you eat with your hands are — *checks math* — 145% more fun to eat than non-handy foods.
So, there you go.
For your brain and mouth and mood.
Eat, motherfuckers. Eat.