March 30, 2009 § 6 Comments
One of my top requested meals by my husband, my mother, my friend Ann, everyone, this high fat, high butter, high deliciousness creamy white chili has become a battered, torn and stained sheet in my recipe box. How many times have i sat down with my little tin recipe box, determined to get it IN ORDER and THIS TIME I MEAN IT. I make a move to transfer all my recipes onto a database on the computer or put them in a word document and print them out for index cards, or laminate them in a three ring binder. But I never do it. Is it laziness (yes, definitely, probably like 75% laziness) But it’s also nostalgia. I have recipes in there that my mother hand copied onto 3×5 cards when I went away to college, or when I got married. They not only have the recipe, but helpful hints on the back: “Aunt Helen’s Lasagna – this would be good with a big green salad!, Love Mom” I have recipes torn from magazines that no longer exist, recipes written on notepads from old jobs. My favorite, however, are the recipes I have written in my grandmother’s slanted, narrow script on the big, 4×6 index cards. She always had a stack of them in a little seventies style desk caddy that sat next to her phone, made of smoky colored plastic, it was a series of tubes short and tall to hold pencils/pens/scissors/reading glasses and a section for notepads from Scot Forge (a ubiquitous place of employment in our family) and 4×6 notecards that she used for recipes and knitting patterns. Sure it takes me twenty minutes everytime I want to find the recipe for mushroom pastry turnovers from Better Homes and Gardens, but I wouldn’t have my recipes any other way.
Back to the chili. I got this recipe out of a magazine (Cooking Light? Bon Appetit? Gourmet? I don’t remember) about ten years ago and I’m surprised at how little I’ve deviated from it. First and foremost, the original recipe called for the supreme idiocy of soaking dry beans over night and doing that whole shebang. If you’re going to make a soup, where the beans are simmered in a surrounding bath of flavors, I don’t see the need to use non-canned beans, but if you want to torture yourself, go crazy. But if you don’t soak the beans, this only takes about forty minutes TOTAL!
Here’s what you need:
- Between a pound and pound and a half of boneless, skinless chicken breast, poached until almost done and then sliced and diced into tinyness
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1/4 flour
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups light cream
- the spices: cumin (ground or seed), chili powder, salt, black pepper
- 1 14 oz can Great Northern Beans drained and rinsed
- 2 4 oz cans mild diced green chilis
- 1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 big ol’ pot and a spoon
Melt the stick of butter over medium low heat in the pot and add the onions, sweating them down to a goldeny softness. I usually add a little salt and pepper at this point, just to begin the layering. After about three to five minutes of low heat add the flour. We’re makin a roux here folks. Don’t be afraid.
After you add that flour, you need to get your whisk on, whisking the onions and butter and flour until it becomes a golden paste. It will be thick and bubbly and almost look like a cream sauce. At this point add your chicken broth and light cream. Whisk it constantly, but not frantically. Just to keep it mixing, to get the roux evenly distributed. It will thicken up fairly quick.
There she is. My camera, for some reason, was feeling somber. I wasn’t using a flash, and the room was so bright I thought these would be the sunniest pictures in town, but they look like stills from a silent movie. I usually let this simmer over super low heat for a few minutes while I get the other stuff ready, because frankly, we’re almost done and I always like to give flavors a chance to meet, mingle, get comfy, calm down and blend. So maybe make your NICE GREEN SALAD now, or set the table.
Anyway, next add the cumin, chili pepper, pepper, salt and dash or 10 of tabasco. Stir it in and let it simmer.
Now add your chopped chicken, green chilis and great northern beans. Stir and let it simmer, particularly if your chicken was still a little pink in the middle and needs to cook through. The reason I’m letting things bubble and simmer now is because when you add your cheese and sour cream, you don’t want to let it reach boiling point ever again. NOT EVER!
At this point I’d adjust my seasonings (For me it usually means adding a touch more tabasco and cumin). When you’re satisfied, add the shredded cheese and sour cream, stirring to melt it and distribute it throughout the soup. Let it simmer, but not bubble, for another five minutes.
And then you’ve done it. You’ve made Jessica’s White Chicken Chili. Enjoy and be proud of all you accomplished.
March 17, 2009 § 1 Comment
The thing about this recipe is the title goes perfectly with the ol’ “Cabbage Rolls and Coffee” polka from the Shmenge Brothers on SCTV. So don’t be surprised if you start singing every time you make it.
Right now, I hear many among you saying you hate brussels sprouts. Indeed, like spinach, beets and lima beans, they are in the comedy category of “bad/funny vegetables”, but I submit that it’s simply because no one bothers to dude them up and present them in a tasty fashion. All vegetables, even delicious delicious broccoli turns into unrecognizable mush when you just empty a freezer bag into simmering water for twenty minutes. Brussels sprouts are delicious, tender little bundles of fun and when you add a hot dressing of bacon, onions and sage…you’re in business.
Although it seems to me this is an Autumn dish (I’ve brought it to thanksgiving dinner even) I think it would also rock the socks off of Easter dinner, or any other spring dinner party. This recipe would serve four folks with some leftovers (but the leftovers are kind of mushy and not so great).
1 – 1 1/2 pounds of fresh brussels sprouts, cleaned off with a damp towel, trimmed of some outer leaves and cut in half
5 strips of bacon chopped (raw)
1 tsp dried sage or a fistful of sage leaves rolled and cut into ribbons (chiffonade) (you always need MORE if you’re using fresh)
“knob of butter” as they say in the business.
large saute pan, paper towels, bowl
Put halved brussels sprouts in a bowl with a touch of water, cover with a paper towel and steam in microwave for a minute or two. Or steam it for a minute or two in a pan over medium heat. They’ll green up but still be firm. Cover them and set them aside.
Now, fry that bacon up in the pan over medium high heat until crispy. Editor’s Tip: You know, I learned my lesson about bacon only a year ago. I used to crank that mother to eleven, poppin’ the bacon in and inevitably either setting off the smoke alarm, burning the bacon or ending up with a pan full of black drippings and fat, unusable and stinky. Slower frying over medium high heat is the answer. It smells better and leaves you with a kitchen in better condition. Anyway. Set those bacon bits on the folded paper towel. Get rid of (but my god don’t throw out) about half of the bacon fat, return the remainder to the medium heat and add the ‘knob’ of butter. If you’re like me a ‘knob’ equals about three tablespoons. If you’re sensible, it equals about 1 tbsp.
Toss and saute the brussels for about three minutos, then add sage, salt and pepper to taste and the bacon. Toss them all around and you’re ready to kick it, BRUSSELS STYLE.
February 6, 2009 § 2 Comments
Meredith, frequent commenter and analyzer of dreams, turned…actually I’m not sure, so let’s say… 85 over the weekend and we celebrated her birthday at the homestead with a glorious feast and an evening of crafting, that could only be described as ‘nerve wracking’.
As some folks know, my weakness, or maybe my strength, is CAKE. I love cake, I want to marry cake and have cake’s babies. I want this so much that i want to dedicate my life to the scientific study of how cakes and people can reproduce a successful offspring. Comedian Jim Gaffigan (one of our family’s favorites) has a Cake Hunk (hunk is what we call a stretch of jokes on one subject) that makes me howl every time. He says that every time you’re offered cake, you act like you’ve never had it before. Oh what is this, cake? Ok I’ll try it. Not me. When I hear that someone in the office, town, world is haing a birthday/baby/wedding/promotion, my first question is ‘are we getting a cake?’. Because while I am ashamed of my very nearly immeasurable girth, I will stand proud and steadfast in my love for cake. Even as a child, when most children are hellbent for candy or icecream, cheapy, grocery store, sicky sweet frosted cake was my snack of choice. We used to have cakes at church for the arrival of a new baby, or an engagement, or milestone birthday, and it would be cut (I’ll have a flower piece m’lady), slipped onto plates and set out on a table for “Coffee n Conversation” time after the service. My strategy was simple here. I took my appointed piece of cake, then I would look out into the crowd, vaguely direct my gaze to where someone I knew was standing, and I would pretend to listen to a request. Then, loudly, I’d say “OH SURE, I’LL GET ONE FOR YOU!” and behold, I’ve got two pieces of cake.
I did this at church.
But we’re getting off track. The point is that I wanted to make a good, unhealthy, ridiculous cake for Meredith’s birthday, knowing that, as the hostess, the majority of the leftovers would rest on my counter for…well, AT LEAST fifteen minutes after she left. So I poked around online, did a browse of Smitten Kitchen and Epicurious, which always inspires me to cook, and finally I found a great recipe in my favorite, now defunct magazine Cottage Living. That’s right kids, good ol’ fashioned Caramel Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. It was, in a word, caramelectalous. I could eat the sugary, grainy, thick and sweet caramel filling by itself, out of a bowl, all day long.
But you can’t just have cake for dinner can you? Well yes, I’ve done it, but I feel like Saturdays call for big kitchen endeavors, so I made Meredith a Turkey Feast, the king of the roast dinners. Seven pound turkey breast, mashed potatoes, whole wheat stuffing with apples and onions, niblet corn, turkey gravy and my fave side dish: Brussels Sprouts n Bacon, mm mm good (sung to the tune of Cabbage Rolls and Coffee from SCTV)
We were just plain STUFFED after dinner. So we set out to do some Sculpey work. I had plans to make a little clay ski lodge/A-frame house that I could put in a little diorama, but it didn’t work out, so I made a two tiered, decorated birthday cake out of pink and lavender and white sculpey, complete with little tiny candles. Meredith made a breathtaking replica of Rayman’s Raving Rabbit that should be in some sort of Wii museum. Then I did a little embroidery and paper stuff for Valentine’s day (a special gift for grandmaaaaas!).
I really wanted to celebrate to the hilt because Meredith is one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. Funny, brilliant, proudly nerdy, strong, brave, beautiful and an ooold soul in a shiny new body. It was by luck that we met, and we’ve seen each other through some rough seas…but in the end, we’re just a couple of goofies who like doing crafts and eating cake, and in terms of friendship, I’ve never really sought out much more.