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Hello, everyone. It’s been a while. So long, in fact, that people are volunteering to write things for this blog just because they’re so sick of not seeing any new content. Below is a blog entry graciously written by my accident-prone brother Lars. He and his wife just got an amazing accident-dog, who needs to be walked for three hours a day to keep him from making trouble in the house. Since I have no good photos of the food Lars wrote about, I would like to present Lars and Amy’s dog Teddy, who was not allowed in the kitchen while we were cooking:

My name is Lars, and I have a bad habit of getting myself into all sorts of painful situations.  Amazingly, up until very recently, I have never broken a bone in my body.

I have fallen down the stairs (just learning to walk), used paint thinner as a mouthwash (learned to walk – found garage), been hit in the head with a golf club (elementary school), gotten smacked with a skateboard to the nose (don’t ask how – junior high) and the list goes on.  Hell, I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck.

For a time, I seemed to avoid my accidents. Went to Montreal for university, no accidents*. Got married, bought a home, a car, and some cats. No accidents.  Then, after years of pain-free living, I cut off the tip of my left index finger and barely escaped with all the rest of the fingers on that hand while working with a piece of hardwood flooring for my home (and since I technically sawed through the finger, I maintain that does not count as a “broken” bone). Eventually it healed up, I stayed away from table-saws for awhile, promised my wife I would NEVER do it again, and fell back into regular life.  That was a year and a half ago. The only real change was my ability to pretend to stick my finger really deep into my nose without actually sticking my finger in my nose.   Yippee.

Hanne and Carlo have been excessively busy lately, so when I called them up in early April to plan an evening of cooking and eating, Hanne suggested making a few large scale meals that we could freeze in small portions for easy convenience food while she is stuck working 18 hour days.  Great idea!

The next day I broke my promise to my wife, and got my hand caught up in a gear on a machine at work, and found myself once again in the emergency room for severe damage to my left hand.  For the first time I broke a bone, in the tip of my middle finger.  I also lost a chunk of the ring finger.  My wife is not impressed.

The best part about food is that it tastes good even if your hand is mangled. So we decided to go forward with our mega meal project.  I am not going to claim any credit for deciding what was going to be made, as painkillers can make the brain a little fuzzy.  It was settled we would make split pea soup, cook-from-frozen chicken pot pie, and freezer cookies.  You can’t get better homey food than that!

Although I helped grill up some burgers for sustenance while Hanne, Carlo, and my wife, Amy, worked, I also won’t take credit for any of the cooking, except maybe calming Hanne’s nerves while she was dealing with the pastry for the pie – she has a silly habit of getting very worked up and worried about the food she is making, convincing herself that it will not turn out (I think it’s actually a complex plan to make the food taste even better when it comes out perfect every time).  True to our tradition, we ended up cooking past midnight, and Hanne and Carlo had to finish everything up early the next morning.  We ended up leaving with more than 40 servings of food.

The pies were engineered to be baked from frozen**, and they came out better than I ever imagined.  Hanne threw a bunch of smoked paprika into the pastry, which added a wonderful undertone to the melt-in-your-mouth crust.  I have never eaten a better chicken pot pie.  Delicious!

For the soup, we knew it would be improper to make split pea soup without using a whole ham bone.  We bought a ham that was way too big but ended up with plenty of leftover meat that we saved for sandwiches and such.  Talk about leftovers! The best part about split pea soup is how little of it you need to feel completely full and satisfied.

If any of you happen to find yourselves short 2.5 fingers and want some easy, delicious food, here is my prescription for the best ever cook from frozen food chicken pot pie and split pea soup:

-Find other people who love to cook

-Convince them to make food for you

-Reheat delicious food when hungry

*the big sister in me would like to note that while in Montreal Lars did develop a mysteriously swollen and painful big toe (weird, right) that no doctor could figure out or fix. That wasn’t an accident, really, but I just want to underline the fact that this stuff follows him around.

**the secret to these pot pies was the filling, which was a bit soupier than you’d make it if you were baking it straight away. The extra moisture allowed for the longer cooking time necessary. If you’re trying this at home, please note that the pastry wasn’t cooked in advance either. Total cooking time was about 1.5 hours from frozen at 400 degrees. We kept the pies covered with foil for the first half of the cooking time and then uncovered them to brown the pastry on top.

Look, a well-stocked freezer! Pot pies on the left, chicken stock on the right. You can't see the pea soup, but that's okay because the picture's ugly anyway.

A good lunch gives a bored desk jobber something to look forward to. And nuking the office with a spice packed chicken curry? It warms my cantankerous heart. This one raised such a stink that it cleared the dead aired office, making the rest of the staff hungry and heading for the basement cafeteria.

Here’s Vij Family’s Chicken Curry from Vij’s Indian Cuisine. This one got so much attention coming out of the work microwave that I messaged Hanne at home and told her to quick take a picture before she finished her leftovers. Like most Indian recipes, it’s ingredient and step intensive. But it’s well worth the effort. Serves 4-6 or 2 dinners + 2 next day lunches.

1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups chopped onions
3-inch stick of cinnamon
3 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp garam masala (def. worth making your own from scratch)
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in
1 cup sour cream, stirred
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Have all the above set up, ready to go (your mise-en-place). If you’re a quick knife, it may not be necessary, but at least get your spices measured out in a cup (same cup, they all go in at the same time). If you have a large deep-bottomed pan, use it–the surface area will help cook your chicken faster. If not, a small pot will also work.

First you’ll prepare the masala:

  • Heat the oil on medium.
  • Add the onions and the cinnamon stick and sauté until the onions turn golden (5-8 minutes).
  • Add garlic and cook for another 4 minutes.
  • Add ginger, tomatoes and your spice mix (salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne). Cook for 5 minutes or until the oil separates.

Now in with the chicken:

  • Skin the chicken thighs and rinse them (you can do this while the masala cooks).
  • Add chicken to the masala, turning and coating the pieces well.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken starts to brown.
  • Stir in the sour cream and water and increase the heat to medium-high.
  • Wait for a boil, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked, being sure to stir the pot a few times.

And now the hard part. When your chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Fish out the cinnamon and let your food cool for 30 minutes or more. Yes, you’re hungry, but be patient. While we waited, Hanne made some jasmine rice to go with the dish.

Next, the annoying part. You need to remove the chicken from the pot and its meat from its bones before adding the meat back into the masala. I nearly skipped this step, but I stuck with the recipe. It’s either going to get messy now or messy while eating. Your call.

Before serving, heat it all up again on medium heat until it starts to simmer. Cut the heat, stir in cilantro, serve, pack leftovers for lunch, tease your coworkers.