September comes in strong with a bunch of new activities. I have begun my grad school prep by enrolling in an 11 week intensive GMAT test prep program that takes about 6 hours of my prime weekend cooking hours. Other than that, I have grown my team at work from 4 to 5 as well as began week 1 of September with a 3 day work trip Bangalore, allowing me 4 glorious hours with my laptop and no internet— the only way I can possibly ever finish these blogs (the cheap black coffee with half a milk powder creamer might be helping too). Okay, I lied. As I wrote this, I got this urge to look at my mails and prep for meetings in the city. I also drafted a bunch of mails that are armed and ready to shoot the moment I have even a tiny semblance of a phone network.
Months have been flying and I do think a lot of this has to do with the work I am doing. Sometimes I do think the impact of my work on the larger scheme of things is very little but then again, I don’t know how I would make that impact any bigger than I already am casting. With all that I am doing, I realised that the earliest that I can take time off from my daily life would be December. I study all through November and (hopefully) take the test in December. I did this math because of yet another Smarter Living article in the New York Times that talked about what to do when you feel uninspired at work. It had very boilerplate things that everyone seems to think of: Make tiny milestones in your day-to-day operations which might give that little jolt of motivation; create relationships with coworkers which can help give a sense of purpose; or lastly, take time off from work. The last one was the trigger to the projected holiday math. To be honest, I don’t feel unmotivated at all but some times just staying away from something even for a little while makes you both yearn for that thing and allows you to see the work with a new lens. I did this in 2018 when I was contemplating quitting my last agency in search for new work. I took a 7 day trip with my college bestie, Morgan to Greece. The time off helped me in understanding where I stand, what I want from life, and also plan out things for the near future. It convinced me to begin looking for opportunities once I complete a year and here I am!
That being said, I feel like cooking is like a time off for me. A little sojourn from phones, mails, and just an existence from our connected world. I love the time spent at these tiny sojourns (even though people around me may not be too happy about my absence). There are days that I get a whole day but mostly these are usually half a weekend. This Honey Soy Glazed Chicken Pho made with a juniper berry vegetarian broth was a product of a long weekend of cooking. In fact, it was part of a larger set of recipes that included a vegetarian pho and the chicken were also things I achieved during a weekend filled with food. I hope you do try this recipe and your thoughts and pictures with me!
Glimpses from the week
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Action shots are by far the most difficult thing to shoot with food (especially when you have no equipment and two hands) which is also why you don’t really see too many on my blog. I found some that worked really well like these strawberry oatmeal pancakes being doused with maple syrup, and I really wanted to share these with you this week. This and more shots to come all week ☀️
Serves: 2 300 ml bowls
For the Honey Glazed Chicken
500 grams chicken thighs boneless or breast
2 tablespoons veggie oil
2 teaspoons ginger minced
1 tablespoon garlic minced
4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you are using salted butter, then use only 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon table salt
For the Pho Stock
450 ml of water
Stalks of 10 mushrooms
1 stalk of lemongrass
10 mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 medium-sized bok choy, coarsely chopped
2 large red onions
1 full head of garlic sliced in half
3 inches of ginger
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of veggie oil
200 grams of flat rice noodles
Spices (choose what you like the best)
15-30 dried juniper berries
2 black cardamoms
3-4 star anise
a pinch of fennel seeds
For the Chicken
On a bake sheet lined with aluminium foil, place your chicken. Sprinkle salt on both sides of the chicken and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This is a quick air brine. It takes out the moisture from the skin and makes the chicken crispy while leaving the interior moist
Preheat an over to 200 celsius. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and honey and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat then whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the chicken from the freezer. Add half the glaze and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and toss the chicken to coat. Arrange in an even layer, skin side up, and roast until browned, 10 minutes.
Brush the chicken all over with 2 tablespoons of the remaining glaze. Roast until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Slice and serve over the pho.
For the broth
On an open flame, place onions and ginger and roast the tops of the veggies to get an even char all across
In a saucepan filled with water, place on medium-high heat. Add veggies and wrap the spices in a little cheesecloth baggie. Bring to a boil, about 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to low, add brown sugar and fish sauce and let boil for another 30 minutes.
Pull out the spice pouch and strain the broth into a bowl
In a saucepan on medium heat, add oil and begin toasting your spices: juniper seeds, fennel, cloves, and whole pepper. Add mushrooms cook down for 2 minutes and then add bok choy and let it wilt. Once wilted, add broth. Heat and serve.
Serve in a bowl with a bed of flat rice noodles and top with spicy sambal, peanuts, and a wedge of lemon.