Today, please welcome our guest, Sandra Parshall.
Sandra’s first Rachel Goddard mystery, The Heat of the Moon, won the Agatha Award for Best First novel. It was followed by Disturbing the Dead, which Library Journal called "edge-of-the-seat suspense" in a starred review, and, this year, Broken Places, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. Sandy serves as Chapter Liaison on the national board of Sisters in Crime. She lives in the Washington, DC, area, with her journalist husband and their two cats and likes to spend her non-writing time taking photographs.
Take it away, Sandra!
Turkish Chicken (or not)
by Sandra Parshall
I’m one of those irritating people who are nearly impossible to feed. Don’t invite me to dinner at a steakhouse. I can promise the menu won’t have a single entrée that I’ll eat. Same goes for seafood restaurants. I’ll sit there nibbling on bread and protesting that I’m fine, really, I’m not hungry at all, and you’ll either feel guilty because I’m not eating or severely annoyed because I’m not eating. And I’ll be kicking myself for crossing the threshold of a place where I knew I wouldn’t find anything to eat.
Sometimes I try to brazen it out. One bitterly cold night in Baltimore, I roamed the streets with Donna Andrews, Ellen Crosby, and Tom and Kathy Harig, looking for a restaurant everyone could agree on. When we came to the Japanese place, everyone else was willing and I was
freezing, so I said okay and we went in. I felt sure I could find something on the menu without meat or fish. No such luck. I ended up with something the waitress described as vegetable soup to which the cook would add a choice of fish or meat for most diners. Great, I thought; I love vegetable soup. However, I soon learned that “vegetable soup” does not mean the same thing to the Japanese that it means to an American from the deep south. What I got appeared to be, and tasted like, a big bowl of hot, extremely salty soy sauce with some chopped broccoli in it. I swallowed a tiny amount, put the lid back on the bowl, and told myself I would eat later, at home.
So what will I eat? Pasta, for one thing. If a restaurant has pasta without meat, I’ll go. At home I eat a lot of cottage cheese (protein), yogurt (more protein), and peanut butter (loaded with protein). Food simply doesn’t mean much to me (unless chocolate is involved), and I can happily eat the same boring thing day after day as long as I’m getting enough protein.
I cook meat and fish for my husband, though, and there are a few dishes that we can eat together – the presence of meat in his serving being the only difference.
This is a favorite that I adapted from a recipe for Turkish Guinea Fowl. I’m not likely to find guinea fowl at the local supermarket, so I use chicken breast instead. The chicken is cooked separately, and you can add it to the dish to make an entrée for meat-eaters. You can leave the chicken out and make this as a side dish for a meat entrée or as a main dish for vegetarians. If you’re eating it without meat, it’s just as good cold as hot.
SANDY’S TURKISH CHICKEN (OR NOT)
For the chicken:
1 chicken breast for each person
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 small onions
]1 bay leaf
For the rice:
3-4 tablespoons butter/margarine
1 small onion
1 small clove garlic
1 cup rice
3 cups chicken stock or water
¼ cup raisins, dark or golden
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, marjoram, and basil
(reduce amount by half if herbs are dried)
I tablespoon parsley
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Brown the chicken in oil. Place in large saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 sliced onion, parsley, bay leaf, salt. Cook on medium heat until tender, about 1 hour. Strain and reserve stock for rice. Cut chicken into large chunks.
Heat 3-4 tablespoons butter or margarine in large sauce pan, add chopped onions and garlic and saute until golden. Add rice and cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock or water and bring to a boil. Add raisins, all but one tablespoon of almonds, cinnamon, and herbs and stir to mix well. Add chicken chunks, if using. Cook on low heat on stovetop for 20-30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed; stir once or twice to prevent raisins from sticking to bottom of pan. Ingredients may also be transferred to an ovenproof serving dish and cooked in a 325 degree oven until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle reserved almonds on top.