Quinoa Comfort Food

I could never have imagined that Quinoa would become a comfort food, but I could be hallucinating since I'm eating so many fewer calories than before and am a little light headed (just kidding).  This recipe has delicious flavor, like something your grandmother would make, if maybe she hung out at Woodstock. *Note: you will need a deep saucepan for this recipe

Shopping List: 1 large red pepper (1 1/2 cups, finely diced) 2 cups onion, finely diced, any color 2 large garlic cloves, pressed 1 tsp red pepper flakes 2 tsp olive oil flat leaf parsley, to taste, chopped finely 2 skinless chicken breasts bone in  (or whatever parts you favor) 1 cup or so chicken stock/broth 1 cup quinoa salt & pepper to taste

What & How to do it:

Cook the quinoa first, then set it aside to cool down.  I spread it out on a flat plat so all the little granules cool.  Cooking quinoa is like cooking most grains, the ratio of water to grain is 2:1.  Boil 2 cups of water with pinch of salt, throw in the rinsed quinoa, get another boil going, turn it down to low and basically let it steam.  When you see the air holes appear it is usually very ready.  It can take around 20 minutes, but check the back of the package you buy for specific instructions.

While the quinoa is doing its own thing, get started on dicing the onions and red pepper.

Pour 2 tsp olive oil into your pan, heating it on med-low. Press the garlic into it, and then add the red pepper flakes, but don't let anything burn or it will become bitter.  (I actually used 1 tsp of oil the first time I tried this and less onion and it was just as good.)

Add in the onions and let them cook for a good 10 minutes or so. They will release their juices and once they become really creamy looking, you'll know that the onion flavors are fully developed . This is probably a good time to admit that this is not a fast dish.  What really gave this the grandmother flavor was that I let the flavors develop....I'll explain that as I go along.

Next, add in the diced red pepper, parsley, salt & pepper and also let it cook for a while. You will want to get into a similar stir pattern to making risotto, where you add broth a little at a time, enough to cover everything, stir well, then let the broth reduce.  Add some more broth, reduce and add more, reduce and add more, etc...  The more you "reduce and add broth," the richer and more "developed" the flavors will be in the end.  The reduction concentrates the flavors.  It is possible that you will need more than 1 cup of broth, maybe even 2 (!) when all is said and done.

After about 40 minutes, it is time to add in the raw chicken (you can season it with salt & pepper too). Throughout the cooking process, you will want to flip the breasts at least once, and cover the whole pot with a lid. I cook the chicken until the internal temperature is 150°-ish, and the juices run clear. The chicken will release more broth into the existing liquid, so let this broth cook down a little, but not entirely. When the chicken is ready to pull out of the pan, you will be adding the cooked quinoa into the liquid to soak up the chicken flavored broth, so you don't want an excessive amount of liquid when you are adding the grain; you are looking for enough liquidity to toss the quinoa in to flavor it, but not to swim in.

Now, it's time to plate up!  The chicken has had a few minutes to rest while the quinoa soaked up the delicious liquid, so everything is going to be juicy and tender.  I hope you love this experiment as much as we did.  Let me know if you taste your grandmothers cooking in every bite, the way I was reminded of mine.

Jane