From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...All challenges have undercurrents and stories to be told. This past week has been spent exploring government programs and how towns and cities respond to hunger in their communities. SNAP has been the major focus of the week, but the importance of food banks and pantries has also been explored. No discussion of hunger in the United States, however, would be complete without an examination of soup kitchens, the place the hungry go when food stores have been exhausted and there is nothing left to eat. The kitchens are operated by community and church groups and most serve specific segments of the population. There are, for example, separate facilities for young adults, families and the elderly. Some claim the space of defunct restaurants while others set up shop in store front facilities. You'll find most of the young who frequent the kitchens are homeless, either by accident or design, while the elderly, who at first glance, look decidedly middle class, are there because they have no other choices. And the families? Well, they will break your heart. Nobody likes to talk about poverty, but poverty figures released by the Census Bureau indicate that one in three Americans are classified as poor or just one or two paychecks away from poverty. A job loss or illness could push them over the line. Most of those at tables in the family kitchens never dreamed their families would visit, much less depend on, soup kitchens for sustenance. They are angry and apologetic and their embarrassment is palpable. The face of poverty has decidedly changed as engineers and accountants have joined the ranks of the unemployed. It takes a surprising degrees of cleverness to navigate the programs that provide meals for the needy. There are questions of time and place and the need to master the rules and regulations that are required to gain a spot in the line. There are no means test applied once you find the kitchen, but getting there on time is a concern when only a fixed number of meals can be served. While the staff is courteous and tries to make folks comfortable, the dining rooms are unusually quiet and people leave as soon as they have finished eating. The thing is, no one wants to be on the dole, much less be seen on it, but economics and the needs of their families have given them no choice.
Today's meals were very simple to make. Dinner was especially enjoyable. I pan grilled and then braised inexpensive chicken thighs in a homemade barbecue sauce. I used the microwave to "bake" companion potatoes that I topped with caramelized onions, taking the place of sour cream which was too expensive to include in my SNAP provisions forthe week.
Menu for SNAP Challenge Day Six
Leftover Scalloped Ham and Potatoes
Leftover Rice Cakes
Small Chopped Salad with Boiled Dressing
* Pan Grilled Barbecue Chicken
* Microwaved Potatoes with Caramelized Onion Topping
Pan Grilled Barbecue Chicken
4 bone-in chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons maple-flavored syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Asian-style hot chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1) Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add chicken and brown both sides.
2) While chicken browns, add water, catsup, maple syrup, vinegar, garlic, chili sauce, mustard, ginger, chili powder and cumin in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour over chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees F.
3) Remove chicken to a platter and keep warm. Rapidly boil sauce until it is reduced and begins to thicken. Alternatively, mix cornstarch and water until smooth and stir into cooking juices and cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Bring to a boil; return chicken to pan to heat through and glaze with sauce. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.
Baked Potatoes with Caramelized Onion Topping
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
2 (6 to 8-ounce) russet potatoes
1) Heat oil in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add onions, salt and sugar and cook until caramelized.
2) Scrub potatoes. Use a fork to puncture top, bottom and both side. Wrap in damp paper toweling. Place on a plate and microwave on HIGH power for 4 minutes. Turn potatoes over top to bottom. Continue to microwave for 4 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Split open and top with caramelized onions. Serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.
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