Now that the sun is setting at, oh, 5 pm, super-quick dishes are of even greater import. I lose a lot of cooking motivation while sitting in traffic in the dark, and knowing I can crank something out in the time it would otherwise take to check my email keeps me from considering one of the myriad bad decisions post-work life has to offer. (*cough* fishing Domino’s circular out of the recycling *cough*.)
As listed below it makes 2 servings, but could probably be stretched to 3 or 4 with the optional rice.
1 lb. boneless, skinless thicken thighs, coarsely ground or chopped (best to not use the flash-frozen bagged kind here, as they’re usually injected with a salt solution, which could overwhelm the other flavors): $1.76
1/2 tsp hot Asian chile powder (I used Korean gochugaru; you could subtitute red pepper flakes or a dash of cayenne in a pinch): 2 cents
4 tsp fish sauce: 4 cents
5 tsp. fresh lime juice (from about 1 large lime), possibly more to taste: 33 cents
2 T chopped cilantro: 5 cents
2 T chopped green onions: 5 cents
10 mint leaves (garden): $0
2 T toasted rice powder (you can find this at most Asian grocery stores; DON’T LEAVE IT OUT. If you can’t find it, Google instructions on how you can make your own): 15 cents
1/2 cucumber, sliced, chopped, or cut into spears: 20 cents
Lettuce leaves for serving (I used about 1/2 head of red-leaf lettuce, but sturdier lettuce, like butter lettuce, would be ideal): 70 cents
Optional: Cooked sticky or glutinous rice. This is not the same as short-grain sushi rice; look at an Asian grocery store for something labeled “Thai sweet rice” or “glutinous rice.” This will make it a much more substantial meal and possibly even stretch 1 lb. of chicken to 3 servings.
TOTAL: $3.30/2 = $1.65/serving
Coarsely grind the chicken in a food processor, or mince. Heat a 10- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add 2 T of water and then the chicken, stirring until cooked through. (It shouldn’t take more than about 3 minutes.)
Transfer to a bowl and let cool. When it’s still just slightly warm, add the chile powder, fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, mint leaves, and toasted rice powder, stir gently.
Adjust seasonings—it should be spicy, tangy, and salty.
Serve family-style on a plate with lettuce leaves, cucumbers, any leftover herbs if you have them.