From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.
Thinking fast on your feet is one of those skills no one ever tells you you’ll need as a mom. I often feel like there should have been a prerequisite before choosing to have kids, a mini boot camp that presented you with harrowing situations and tight time limits for figuring out the solution. Where were those life skills taught?
More often than not, when I reach the 5 o’clock hour I’m in a mad rush to throw something together before whatever activities the evening holds. I have four kids emptying their backpacks on my dining room table as I stare into the refrigerator, and as I’m stress-searching the contents of crisper drawer and the inner door, one of them is bound to ask for homework help. Why didn’t I remember to take the meat out of the freezer?
It is in these parenting moments where I feel utterly defeated by life that I find the greatest opportunities to defeat it instead. This meal is one of those that lends itself to last-minute meals. I try to keep ingredients for it on hand, ready at a moment’s notice, along with a Greek seasoning blend and taco seasoning and cans of beans in the pantry (which isn’t really a “pantry” as much as basement shelves and a cupboard in the garage at my house). They’re the things I turn to when everything is falling apart, when I’ve dropped every ball there was to juggle. The thing they have in common: quick cooking times.
Cutting the chicken thin helps it cook faster. If you only have chicken in the freezer, thaw it partially and then cut it. It’s wonderfully easy to slice thinly when there’s still a bit of frozen resistance. The vegetables are interchangeable, for the most part. Use what you have on hand. Zucchini and mushrooms can be great in this curry, too.
Let’s talk rice. I’m not going to judge the type of rice you use here, whether you’re a boil-in-the-bag home, a minute-rice family, you rely on those microwaveable pouches and trays, you are a diehard stovetop rice cooker, or you – like me – are devoted to your rice cooker. For me, I find that the best way to cut down on rice cooking time is simply to make exactly the amount you need. My rice cooker takes far longer to cook six cups of rice (I like leftovers) than it does to cook two. Similarly, if you are making it on the stove, bringing several cups of water to a boil is going to take more time than if you only make what you’ll be eating.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into thin slices
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 daikon, julienned (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
- 4 green onions, diced
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
- 4 cups cooked rice
- In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the chicken and cook until white on all sides. Stir in the curry paste. Add the red bell peppers and the daikon and saute for 3 minutes.
- Stir in the brown sugar, fish sauce, and coconut milk. Bring just to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Sprinkle green onions and cilantro over the top just before serving. Serve over rice.