Well, hello. Remember me? The one who said she was back and ready to blog, oh, about two weeks ago? My mistake. I feel like I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the last few weeks. Since returning from Sun Valley and Telluride, I’ve been to a couple of other places. Fun has been central to my summer activities but in between, I’ve had to play catch-up at work and household duties. I have received notes of concern and countless “we miss you” comments here, on Facebook and Twitter–how lucky am I that my absence has actually been noted? I am beyond flattered–it’s so nice to be missed! All is well and I don’t plan to go anywhere in terms of the blog. Another trip is coming up very soon and maybe I’ll be able post during that time but best not to make promises, right?
I haven’t used my kitchen much so my cooking pipeline has gotten quite long. I’m excited to try out recipes out of two cookbooks that I will be reviewing but truth be told, lately I’ve served far more store-bought rotisserie chicken than anyone should be allowed to do. I’ve also served simple soups and salads during our brief stints at home but I’ve simply had no time for all-day productions. The silver lining to all the madness is that I’ve lost the blogger weight that has snuck up on me over the last year, yay! Now it’s time to get baking again.
This past Sunday marked the first normal day I’ve had in weeks. I put away the suitcase (if for just a week), cleaned my house, accepted defeat against the doe and her two fawn who have staked a claim on my tomato plants, and I actually cooked a decent meal. I have been meaning to try a recipe from a 2003 issue of Food & Wine. Apricots and almonds in a thick, rich sauce? I couldn’t imagine a more fitting dish to rouse my senses out of the last few weeks’ cooking rut.
Ground almonds and dried apricots along with a spicy curry paste are a winning combination here. The dish has exotic flair, the almonds adding richness to the sauce. I was doubtful that the rehydrated apricots being added during the last few minutes of cooking would actually add substance to the dish but I was happy to be proven wrong. As the sauce simmered, I mashed the apricots into the sauce to for a bit of sweetness and fruitiness to offset the spiciness of the cayenne pepper and the curry. I served this with a simple arugula salad dressed in lemon and olive oil and roasted fingerling potatoes but I couldn’t resist having a taste with rice. It was a winner both ways.
Chicken-Almond Curry with Apricots
- 1/3 cup whole almonds
- 12 dried apricots (3 ounces)
- Boiling water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Four 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
- 2 scallions, sliced on the diagonal
- In a mini food processor (I used a spice grinder), grind the almonds to a powder. In a small heatproof bowl, soak the apricots in boiling water until plump, 20 minutes; drain.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate.
- Add the ginger, garlic, onion and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the ground almonds and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken breasts to the skillet and add the apricots (I mashed with the back of a large spoon for additional flavor). Simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter. Boil the sauce over moderate heat until thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken, scatter the scallions on top and serve.