EFFICENCY IS not my specialty. I'm a procrastinator in everything I do -- a natural trait for a journalist, my editor claims. but since i moved with my husband to Baltimore 2 1/2 years ago and began the life of a commuter, I've had to change my ways. I've had to get organized.
John's cooking repertoire is limited to a can of Campbell's Chunky soup and a salami-and-cheese sandwich. And TV dinners are certainly nothing to look forward to at the end of a nine- or 10-hour day. If we are going to eat before the 11 o'clock news, I have to have a dinner that can be cooked tout de suite.
My favorite fast entree is hot chicken with walnuts. Add to this a few cups of rice, some oranges and your choice of tea and you've got a meal that takes a half hour to prepare with lots of time to eat and chat before the 11 o'clock news rolls around. And if you're late eaters as we are, it's a light meal that won't feel like lead all night long.
HOT CHICKEN AND WALNUTS (2 servings) 3 or 4 boned chicken breasts 1 cup rice Salt 1 tablespoon butter 3 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons cornstarch 2 tablespoons dry red wine Pinch sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 2 cups your favorite vegetables (green peppers, zucchini, broccoli, whatever is in season) 5 scallions 2 tablespoons peanut oil 1 cup chopped walnuts
In the morning, take boned chicken breasts from the freezer. Let them defrost in the refrigerator while you're at work.
Arrive home by 8 p.m.
Put 2 cups of water on to boil for the rice, adding a little salt and butter. While the water is coming to a boil, take out the thawed chicken breasts. Chop the breasts into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Mix soy sauce with cornstarch. Add to this wine, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depending on your taste). Set aside.
Chop into bite-sized pieces your favorite vegetables. Chop scallions into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
Back to the rice: stir 1 cup of rice into the boiling water, turn the flame down to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
Add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil to a wok or deep frying pan. Turn heat to medium (never to high since the oil burns easily). Stir-fry green vegetables and scallions for 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from pan. Stir-fry chopped walnuts until golden, about 1 minute. Remove from pan. If necessary add another tablespoon of oil. Add half the chicken. Stir-fry 3 minutes until translucent. Remove and stir-fry rest of chicken.
When second batch is also translucent, return first batch of chicken to wok. Stir soy sauce mixture so that ingredients are well-combined. Push the chicken to the sides of the pan, and add the soy sauce mixture. Blend chicken with sauce and cook for 2 minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Add vegetables and walnuts. Stir-fry 1 more minute until all is heated through.
Pour over rice. You're done and it's just 8:30.
Note: Sliced oranges and hot spicy tea make a nice finale to both the meal and evening.