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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Apple Ginger Chicken & Curried Rice

Living in a university town, you get used to the ebb and flow of population. You brace yourself for the influx of bright-eyed students in September. You get used to standing in line for your burrito at Chipotle. You drive your car cautiously to avoid running over the absentminded undergrads. And you wait for this time of year. You revel in this time of year.

Having lived in university towns for the past eight years I have gotten used to all of the intricacies of the situation. It was most prevalent when I lived in Madison. Being a graduate student is totally different from being an undergrad, especially those in the hard sciences. You live and breathe your degree. There are no spring breaks or summer vacations, it’s five years of working and you don’t want to wait in line to get your lunch.

Madison, Wisconsin has a population of two hundred thousand people. The University of Wisconsin has a student enrollment of forty thousand. The population of Madison jumps by 15-20% every September when the students move into their dorms and off-campus apartments. Now, I’m sure that when I was an undergrad I was really smart. I looked both ways before crossing the street. I didn’t ask crazy questions during o chem recitation. I didn’t wear Uggs and sweatpants to school (this is true, Uggs look like potatoes and sweatpants are for bedtime). And I’m sure that you all were/are wonderful undergrads as well.

When you are a grad student, beaten down by your classes and research, the energy and enthusiasm of an undergrad is wearing. You stand there, looking at your class, thinking “how many more classes until I’m finished?” Luckily I taught organic chemistry lab, so I’m pretty sure everyone sitting there was thinking the exact same thing.

Then, at last, that day rolls around. The last day of exams, followed by graduation and then… Move out day! And they’re gone! The graduate students can finally go outside and enjoy lunch once again. Free from the danger of falling in stride with a group of bubbly undergrads on their way to play Frisbee at noon on Tuesday. No more standing on the bus, waiting in line at Hawks or worrying about taking out a group of girls standing in the middle of the street. The terrace grill opens and those brats smell like freedom! Well, at least for those twenty minutes before you have to head back to the lab.

Oh, and if you live in Wisconsin and have to cross University Avenue… Please do not hit the crosswalk button. It won’t make the light change faster. It’s only for the blind people, hence the sign that says “Press button for audible walk.” Thanks!

Apple-Ginger Chicken
Adapted from Grill it!

When the undergrads leave, it means it's summertime!  So knock the dust off of your grill and head outside!  An outdoor grill isn't necessary though, I made this entire meal on my stovetop. 

½ cup apple jelly
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp chopped thyme
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb chicken breast

Combine jelly, soy sauce, thyme and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking continuously. Cook until reduced by a third and thick. Set to the side and allow to cool slightly.

Heat your grill or grill pan to medium-high. Toss chicken breasts in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 4 minutes on one side and flip, grill for 2 more minutes. Using a pastry brush, brush on apple jelly mixture. Grill for 2 minutes and flip once more. Brush on more apple jelly, lay it on thick!

Remove chicken from the grill (pan) and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Curried Rice

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp olive oil
1 tsp orange rind
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp chives
½ red pepper, chopped

Combine rice, water, orange juice, soy sauce and olive oil in a medium stockpot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 25 minutes. Add curry powder and orange rind and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Fluff rice with a fork and add sesame seeds, chives and red pepper. Yum!
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