Self-Proclaimed Head Chef of the Apocalypse

by Maile on October 5, 2011

My sister-in-law recently laughed at me when I told her that I sometimes lay awake at night thinking of all the trash I’ve contributed and will contribute to landfills across the globe. So I try to do my part at alleviating this guilt by recycling everything under the sun and using recyclable plastic trash bags. It’s not much, but it’s something. And this need for “no waste” isn’t reserved to trash cans and recycling bins.

I absolutely abhor wasting food.

I’m not sure what way you lean on the issue of leftovers, but we, in our family, depend on them for probably 50% of a week’s meals. Leftovers just mesh well with my overwhelming need to live waste free. More than once I’ve stared at the darkened ceiling of my bedroom at 3:30am (fyi, sleeping doesn’t always come easy to me) mentally reviewing what food I have in the refrigerator and pondering how I can use it all up. Strange? Absolutely. But I’m telling you right now that if our country is truly on the verge of financial ruin, there is no other cook you would want in your kitchen (or around your campfire, if it comes to that) when that moment arrives. Waste not, want not.

Okay, so there are plenty of downsides to my little obsession (i.e. insomnia), but when you commit yourself to using up every last bite of leftovers, you start to get creative, and sometimes (but not always), you strike gold.

Here’s the scenario: Early last week I cooked one of our lady friends (aka, a chicken) in the crock pot just to have some meat around for the week. By the end of the week, I’d used that harvest of poultry to make chicken salad, cold chicken sandwiches, and chicken noodle soup, and still I had leftovers. Worry began to set in, and hence, the following conversation:

Waste Not: “You have to use up that chicken before it goes bad.”
Me: “I know. I know. Just let me think for a second.”
Waste Not: “You have one day, tops, before that starts to go bad.”
Me: “Would you just keep quiet for a second. Okay, so I have chicken, diced tomatoes…“
Waste Not: “The fate of that chicken lies in your hands and yours alone. You know the kids have had their fill of chicken, and Shawn can’t be depended on. What are you going to do? You’re running out of time.”
Me: “Honestly, just shut up, I’m getting there! I’ve got chicken, diced tomatoes, coconut milk … That’s it. A Curry in a Hurry!”
Waste Not: “I guess congratulations are in order, though I could have done without the ‘shut up’ part.”

So maybe it didn’t actually take place exactly like that, but close enough. And, truly, the curry that was born out of that imaginary conversation was spectacular. I’m usually one of those types who really loves to slave over a curry for several hours, toasting and grinding all the spices, making my own pastes. It boosts my self-esteem. But this recipe is quick, easy, and gives the same fantabulous results.

Mai’s Curry in a Hurry

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ c. onion, chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tsp. hot curry powder
¼ tsp. ground red pepper
1, 14.5 oz. can petite-diced tomatoes, drained
1, 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 tbsp. red curry paste (you can usually find this in the Asian section of your supermarket)
1 tbsp. honey
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 c. leftover chopped chicken
Hot rice
Green onions to garnish

In a large pan, sauté ginger, garlic, and onion in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add cumin, curry powder, and ground red pepper and sauté for an additional minute. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, and curry paste. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add honey, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes then add chicken. Cook long enough to warm chicken. Serve over rice and top with green onions.

Until next week, my friends…but in the mean time, please tell me that there is at least one other person out there that suffers from this need to use every. single. last. ounce. of. every. single. thing. you. own. Do any of you have this same obsession?

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