Our house is about to lose one of its biggest appetites. And as the days dwindle, I find myself wondering just how on earth we are going to cope with the quantity of food still in our freezer. It is just a bottom-mount in our kitchen refrigerator, but the volume it holds is daunting. I have been on a mission to drastically reduce its contents. The thing is bottomless.

My bedtime reading of late has been a re-read of The Best of Fine Cooking ‘s Fresh & Quick 2010 Magazine. Every night I pick it up from my night table and go through it like it just arrived today. A bit of a Groundhog Day experience. You would think by now I would have it memorized.

Last night my eyes fixated on Vietnamese-Style Caramel-Braised Chicken. I liked its dessert-like name. I liked that it seemed dead easy. This was going to be a dinner that would help me unload that freezer. I found inspiration.

Today I discovered 2 lbs of frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It was a package of a reasonable size and I felt that focusing on the bigger packages in the freezer would eventually show greater progress for PROJECT EMPTY. Remembering the Fine Cooking inspiration recipe from the night before, out it came.

I chose to serve it with steamed jasmine rice and mixed greens with an Asian style dressing.

VIETNAMESE-STYLE CARAMEL-BRAISED CHICKEN
Adapted from a recipe by Adam Ried of The Best of Fine Cooking’s Fresh & Quick 2010
Servings: 4

1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a measuring cup combine the fish sauce and 1/4 cup water. Set aside.

Put the sugar into a skillet (preferably not a dark one like non-stick or cast iron) with 3 tablespoons of water. Heat over medium to medium low heat, swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a slow boil, swirling pan occasionally, until the sugar has a deep amber color. This may take 5 minutes or more. Let the colour tell you when you are done. Don’t use a spoon or whisk; it just sticks to it.

Remove pan from the heat and carefully add the fish sauce mixture. Swirl pan to combine. Return pan to medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper and black pepper. Cook until the onions are soft. This just takes a few minutes.

Add the chick to the pan in a single layer. Reduce the heat. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through. About 8 minutes. When you know the chicken is cooked through, sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

SALAD GREENS AND PEACHES WITH LIME-PEANUT THAI DRESSING

mixed greens
peaches

Dressing:
vegetable oil
lime juice
sesame oil
soy sauce
chili paste
ginger
garlic
pepper
peanut butter
sugar

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