Sri Lankan Curried Roast Lamb

Traditionally, we don’t do a lot of roasting in Sri Lanka — too hot, I suspect! But here in Chicago, as it gets cooler out, roasting is a nice, easy option; it takes time, but very little effort. And if you prepare a spicy curry sauce separately, this method lets you adjust spice levels easily to the taste of your guests (or kids). The lamb itself is flavorful but not spicy; the potatoes ditto. The sauce adds a nice kick of heat for those who enjoy it!

Lamb:
3-4 lb. boneless lamb leg or shoulder
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 t. garlic powder
2 tsp. roasted curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. vinegar

Potatoes:
dozen cloves garlic (unpeeled)
3 onions, coarsely chopped
3 lbs. new potatoes, in roughly 2 inch cubes
1-2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
2 t. mustard seeds
2 t. cumin seeds
2 T vegetable oil

Curry sauce (optional):
2 T butter
1 t. red chili powder
2 T ketchup
1 t. salt
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. water

1. Mix spices for lamb together. Pierce the lamb all over with a fork or skewer and marinate in spices and vinegar for 2-4 hours. (I find this easiest to do in a plastic bag, turning periodically.)

2. Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix garlic cloves, onions and potatoes in a large roasting pan with the vegetable oil; rest lamb on top, fat side up.

3. Roast 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast until internal temperature reaches 135-145 degrees (for medium-rare or medium meat), about another 60-90 minutes.

 

4. Remove meat to a carving board and let rest 10 minutes, then slice and serve with the potatoes and onions.

5. While resting, if you’d like, you can make a curry sauce. Put roasting pan on stovetop burner, add butter, chili powder, ketchup, salt, coconut milk, and water. Stir and bring to a boil, then keep stirring and cook down until it makes a nice sauce, about 5 minutes. Pour into a gravy boat or measuring cup with spout and ladle over meat and potatoes. Enjoy!

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Curry-Poached (or Grilled) Chicken Sandwich, Two Ways

The nice thing about poaching chicken on the weekend is that you can then make really quick weeknight meals. Throw a little garlic naan in the toaster oven (I just used some frozen pre-made naan), and then you can top it with all kinds of things. In this case, I did one open-face sandwich with store-bought guacamole and mango salsa (yum), and one toasted sandwich with homemade seeni sambol (also yum). Add in a little salad or some roasted veggies, and you have yourself a very nice meal.

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Curry-Poached Chicken Soup

(20-30 minutes, serves 4)

I’ve been poaching chicken breast lately, and I was curious how it would work with Sri Lankan flavors. This turned out quite tasty served as a soup (very reminiscent of rasam), with a little cooked millet and some chopped bell pepper to fill out the dish. Would make again!

(I tried serving it on a plate with the millet, but even with a little broth poured over the millet, I thought the end result was a bit dry; wouldn’t recommend. The chicken would be nice in a sandwich with seeni sambol, though!)

1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 T dark-roasted curry powder
2 t. salt
2 T lime juice
1/2 c. tomato juice (from a can)
1/2 c. wine
3 c. water
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

NOTE: If serving with rice or millet, start that going first; it’ll be ready in 15-25 minutes, along with the chicken, making this as easy and healthy weeknight meal.

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot; slowly bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10-12 minutes (until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in the thickest part of the meat).

3. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let cool a little, slice, and serve with the broth it cooked in. A little sliced bell pepper or scallion is a lovely grace note to the dish; you could also stir in some peas or corn.

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Deadline

Okay, my brain is melting, so I have requested one more day of extension on my deadline (that was originally supposed to be Saturday). I kind of HATE missing deadlines, it makes me super-frustrated, but I am also trying to not rush my damn writing anymore, which has, in retrospect, been a problem for years and years, at least since I finished the Ph.D. program.
 
On time is important, but good is better than being perfectly on time. And I made good progress today, and I think I will be able to hand in this draft tomorrow, if all goes well; nobody on the project is harassing me about my tardiness, this is all me and my stupid brain, so it will be okay.
 
After I hand it in, we are probably going to have another week or two of working together on the draft, making everything mesh, though I’m not sure if that will be immediately or will kick in a little later. At some point it will be out of my hands. Which means that one way or another, soon I’ll need to figure out what writing project I’m working on next. Options:
 
a) go back to SF novella, do another (final?) draft — the bones of plot are all right now, I think, thank god, but I need to work on the prose (make beautiful and subtle), the density of characterization, and the persistence of the themes
 
b) go back to SF novel, try to push through to end of the first draft (at around 50K now, if I’m remembering right)
 
c) change gears entirely and lay out the bones of the domestic resistance nonfiction book — running for office posts + cooking + gardening + trying to keep ourselves reasonably together in this political environment
 
Totally not sure which to do next. Feel free to opine, though mostly I am hoping it will magically come clear to me while I sleep.
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Curry and Politics

Plan for today: eat too much breakfast. Okay, that wasn’t in the plan, but was predictable, even inevitable, given how well last night’s pork curry came out, and I even had rice cooked already, so, you know, that’s how it goes.

New plan: Go change into exercise clothes, take laptop down to treadmill, finish coffee and an episode of Grey’s, then switch to writing for an hour. Set treadmill down to 2.0, a comfortable walking / writing speed. I used to do this a lot last year, but have gotten out of the habit, but if I’m going to be writing more (and sitting more), I need to do more of this again. Not all writing can happen in the magic shed. (No, I don’t want to move my treadmill to the shed. The shed would be appalled.)

At 10:45, run Kavi to her soccer game. If I’m feeling like I need a break, watch the game and chat with parents, otherwise, sit in car and write some more. Deadlines are unforgiving (although I have already written my editor and requested an extension to tomorrow, sigh).

Game should be done by 12:30, bring her home, have a modest lunch to hopefully balance out the massive breakfast. I hear salads are nice. Write for another hour.

2 p.m. – take a break, go to VOICE political meeting, see what they’re about. They’re looking for candidates to endorse in the next election, and while I’m not running in the next round, I’d like to see who’s involved with this group and what they stand for; that hasn’t been clear to me yet.

rest of day: write write write

(There is nowhere in the schedule for dealing with the sink of dirty dishes, but look at me, blithely ignoring that. Hush, voice-of-domestic-requirements. You must be subordinated to writing today.)

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Math math

Developmental stuff and teaching kids in larger classes where you just don’t have a lot of time or resources for differentiation is so interesting and also so frustrating.

At age almost-9 and 3rd grade, Anand has 2 pages of math homework most nights. (Insert standard rant about how elementary school homework studies show that assigning homework at this age is more likely counterproductive than useful, and wondering what pressures are on teachers that so many of them persist in assigning homework anyway, etc.)

Last year, we mostly didn’t have him do homework because his teacher didn’t care if it was done or not. The year before, we had a teacher who cared a lot, and would make Anand skip recess to do it, despite our protests to the teacher / principal, and so we regretfully made Anand do homework at least some of the time, and it was often an hour-long misery fest for everyone involved.

But this year, everything’s different. The homework is super easy for him; Anand can do all the actual multiplication in his head in a few seconds. But it turns out that if he isn’t resisting, or crying, or goofing off to extremes, or otherwise trying to find ways to be less incredibly bored by it, Anand can actually power through a page of it in 2-5 minutes. (Mostly depending on whether they make him draw the arrays or not. Drawing takes time.) It’s a useful life skill to be able to power through super boring stuff.

So mostly, we sit down with Anand, have him do it, he’s done in 5-10 minutes, and it doesn’t feel like torture, so he’s not super-resistant to doing it again the next day (though we do get a few big sighs). And it’s not torture for us either, which is not an insignificant blessing; our days are long and hard enough, thanks.

And yes, it’s still probably a waste of all of our time (see rant in first paragraph above), and we do have to periodically have conversations with Anand about why they make him do so much repetitive math, in-school and out, and we are really hoping that at some point this year he tests into a faster-moving math that is teaching him things he doesn’t already know. Anand has decided that he’s actually going to try on the test next time, because maybe it will be less boring if that happens.

But if not, I think we can survive this.

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Lauren Underwood for Congress

Last political post for the day, I promise, but here’s another campaign I’m super-excited about. Lauren Underwood is a nurse who worked in the Obama administration as Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, now running for Congress in the IL 14th district (which includes parts of Naperville, along with a host of other towns) against a Republican incumbent.

I was tremendously impressed by her. Smart, to-the-point, with strong answers to audience questions — this was at a local meeting of Indivisible. Love Lauren’s positions, and think she’d be an incredible advocate for progressive vision in Congress. Please consider supporting her campaign with cash, phone banking, door-knocking, etc. and so on — whatever works best for you! Link to campaign in comments!

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Kara Eastman for Congress

Have you been to a campaign meet-and-greet? I never had before 2016, but they turn out to be:

a) fun
b) a great way to meet and get a sense of candidates
c) a good way to get to know your politically-minded neighbors
d) a great place to grouse about current politics
e) a chance to meet other local politicians (State Senator Daniel Biss, State Senator Don Harmon, and incoming Cook County tax assessor Fritz Kaegi were there), and
f) a good use of your Democratic dollars.

Fundraisers range wildly in how much they ask for. Some might be nothing up front — give if you’re impressed by the candidate and feel so moved. Some have set ticket prices, usually in a range. This one started at $25, which isn’t too bad for a couple hours of wine and delicious appetizers (I contributed six bottles of wine, Sri Lankan ribbon sandwiches, and passionfruit cakelets and marshmallows; other local co-hosts contributed the rest of the food and wine).

This particular fundraiser was hosted by my friend Carollina Song, in her gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright home, for Kara Eastman. (Carollina gave tours of the house as part of the event — wow!)

Kara has local connections, which is why she was fundraising here, but she’s running for Congress in Nebraska, where, as Daniel Biss pointed out in his intro, our dollars go a LOT further in terms of the cost of a media buy. If you’re only able to donate to one race, you might consider this one as one where you can really make a difference.

I knew nothing about Kara going in, but she spoke very well, and I loved her policy positions. She’s competitive in that race, so please do consider donating. Link in the comments!

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