I've started to identify with AARP. Not because there's even a remote possibility that I will ever be able to retire, but because I'm turning 46 this week, and it feels old. Forty-six isn't 50, I suppose, but it is something. I don't think I can even pretend to be young anymore. Usually I make a pretty big deal about my birthday — having multiple celebrations with different sets of friends, sending out memos at work, that sort of thing. This year I'm keeping it low-key — dinner with my family at Coppa on my birthday eve and lunch at Tico with my work friends on the actual day. Thinking about my birthday evening has caused me some angst. For a moment (okay, several moments), I considered asking out someone I know I shouldn't spend time with, but I'm trying to stay strong. So I bought a ticket to the massmouth story slam semifinals at the Coolidge Corner Theater instead. Which I plan to go to by myself. Alone. Did I say alone? I'll let you know how that works out for me.
The other day I was on the treadmill at the gym when an AARP commercial came on my TV screen. It was a great commercial — people of varying older ages, declaring what they want to be when they grow up. I, for one, definitely appreciated the idea that even when most of your life is behind you, maybe all of your choices aren't. After all, the Colonel didn't fry a piece of chicken until he was 40, and Marion Cunningham didn't revise the Fannie Farmer Cookbook until she was in her 50's. Why not me? When I grow up, I want to be a food writer, so my birthday gift to myself is to write as much as I can. Every week if possible. Not just when the spirit moves me, or (unfortunately for you) I have something of particular interest to share. We'll see how long it lasts, but now it's in print (or "on screen," as it were), so you can hold me to it.
Food writing, by definition, requires writing about food, so enough rambling and on to a recipe. This week the best thing I made (aside from the Schmitter) was Stir-Fried Chicken with Creamed Corn.
I threw a cup of diced eggplant in as well because I had one in my fridge. When you first look at the list of ingredients, you may say, "Food writing, my ass. Like I'm really going to make anything that calls for a can of creamed corn!" I thought the same thing (even S said, "um, Mom, can't you make the creamed corn from scratch?"), but since trusty food writers and cooks Amanda Hesser and Mark Bittman both said the canned bit was essential, I followed the directions. And I wasn't sorry. I even went to Stop and Shop! They don't seem to have cans of corn at Whole Foods. The last time I bought a can of anything other than tomatoes or black beans was before I was old enough to shop. It felt nostalgic. Like going back to an easier time. A time before pork belly, vacuum-packed lobster poached in butter, and burrata. A time of Swanson's, Jello, and canned peas. A time when I was six, and not 46. A time when AARP was just a rude noise you made at the dinner table after a particularly big bite of Velveeta. Was it a better time? Looking at that list, I'm going with a no. But, even then, I loved to cook and eat. Too bad I didn't know the job of a food writer existed, so I pursued other dreams. Here's hoping 46 isn't too late.
Stir-Fried Chicken with Creamed Corn (and Eggplant)
adapted from The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century, edited by Amanda Hesser
1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 c peeled eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 T soy sauce
1 t Asian sesame oil
1 T rice wine
2 T peanut or canola oil
1 T minced garlic
1 small chile, seeded and minced (I used serrano with seeds)
1 can of creamed corn (or what I found, "cream style sweet corn." huh.)
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
chopped cilantro for garnish
1. Mix the chicken and eggplant with the soy sauce, sesame oil, and wine in a small bowl. Put the peanut oil into a deep skillet or wok, preferably non-stick, and turn the heat to high.
2. Drain the chicken/eggplant mixture. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and eggplant to the skillet and cook undisturbed until the bottom of the chicken browns, about 2 minutes. Stir once or twice and cook for 2 minutes more.
3. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile and stir; 15 seconds later, add the creamed corn and corn kernels. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 3 - 4 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve over white rice.