Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rainy Day Chili

When I was very young we lived in Philadelphia, shopped at a co-op and mostly home made minimally processed foods. After my dad graduated college we moved to an apple orchard outside of Allentown and started growing a portion of our own food in addition to making our own bread, yogurt, etc.

I am really off the topic of chili here but there is a fun story about me as a 4 year old refusing to eat kale that my mom made. Kale is super curly and bumpy so you have to wash it really carefully to get all of the dirt off. My mom had carefully rinsed each leaf but when she served the cooked kale to 4 year old me I insisted there were bugs on it. My mother insisted it was pepper and assumed I just didn't want to eat the kale. My father chimed in: "Actually Irene, these are aphids." I didn't have to eat kale that night.

So what does a child raised to eat minimally processed natural foods do? Rebels a little. Stops reading labels. Stops being horrified by unpronounceable food additives.

Then she has a family of her own and reads "Omnivore's Dilemma" and news stories about pink slime in ground beef and starts to think carefully about the kinds of meat and dairy products I buy for my family.

So what does this have to do with chili? Nothing except that Whole Foods grinds their own chicken and turkey from locally sourced poultry and it only costs an arm. (instead of an arm and a leg, ha!)

The only pre-planning I did for this weekends chili as buying ground turkey. I had the rest of the ingredients on hand.

To make I used:

1 lb dry red kidney beans (soaked overnight but you can use 2 or 3 cans of canned beans with the liquid drained and discarded)
1 lb ground turkey thighs (or other ground meat is fine)
1 package chicken sausage (I used chicken andouille sausage from trader joe's)
1 large onion chopped
2 large garlic cloves chopped
1 shallot chopped (optional, I was using up what I had)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 can of fire roasted green chilies (also optional, I had these in the cabinet so I used them. You could also chop one fresh jalapeno pepper or skip it all together)
2-3 chipotle peppers (or the whole can if you like super spicy) from a can of chipotles in adobo (This is a great ingredient with lots of spice and flavor. Other things can be substituted but I would not substitute this.)
1 large can of whole tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt to taste (I started with 1 tablespoon and adjusted from there)

Sour Cream

  1. If you are using dry beans soak according to package instructions. I do this the night before.
  2. For optimal results, start your chili by around 11 am if you plan to have it for dinner that evening. The longer it cooks the better it gets.
  3. Chop onion, garlic and shallot and saute in olive oil over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of cumin.
  4. Add ground turkey to onions and chop with a spatula so that the turkey is in uniform pieces.
  5. Add whatever chilies you are using along with the broth, tomatoes and bay leaves.
  6. Chop sausage into bite size pieces and add to chili.
  7. Reduce heat to your stove top's lowest setting and simmer partially covered for 4-5 hours stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom of the pan is not burning. 
  8. As the tomatoes cook you should be able to mash them with the back of a spoon so they blend into the chili.
  9. After 5 hours the chili will have thickened and reduced by about 30-40%. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. You may need a pinch or so.
  10. I like to add about a tablespoon of brown sugar to soften the acidity of the tomatoes. It is not enough to make the chili sweet.
Once the chili is cooked set it over a very low burner to keep it just warm until you are ready to serve. I have a setting called "keep warm" that works perfectly. You could also put it in a slow cooker on it's lowest setting if you don't like to leave your stove on.

Serve the chili in bowls with sour cream, cheddar and cilantro as a garnish. Add beer and you have a perfect meal for an impromptu gathering of friends on a rainy afternoon. This batch served 6 adults with leftovers. 

Corn muffins make a lovely accompaniment even if you burn them a little. Good thing I have such wonderful friends who find nice things to say about burnt corn muffins ("the tops are super crispy and caramelized.")

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pow-Pow-Power Greens

Whole Foods has a new product called "Power Greens" and they are awesome!!

Power greens are a combination of baby spinach, baby chard and baby kale.

I sauteed them with a little butter and salt and served them with garlic and rosemary roasted chicken thighs and fingerling potatoes in a lemon and pepper broth.

Maybe someday I will start taking pictures with my camera instead of my blackberry so they don't turn out so blurry.

This is the version of the same dinner that I made for N. He doesn't like the texture of cooked greens but will happily eat them raw. He even declared kale his favorite but I suspect that was part of his diabolical plot to earn dessert.

To recap, buy power greens. They are good, they are good for you and your kids will eat them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Made up as I go Grilled Cheese

Everything tastes good melted between two pieces of buttered and toasted bread. By everything I mean:

  1. Stinky French Brie with Rosemary Ham and Balsamic and Port Cherries
  2. Aged Gouda, Sharp Cheddar, Cilantro and Beer and BBQ Shallots
  3. Plain Sharp Cheddar

To make the Balsamic and Port Cherries I poured about 1/2 bag of frozen pitted cherries into a small sauce pan. To that I added maybe 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (I didn't measure so really I have no clue) and another tablespoon of Noval Black (a cross between and Ruby and a Tawny Port I had at Spraga).  I cooked the cherries over medium heat until the liquid reduced to a syrupy consistency.

To make Beer and BBQ Shallots I sliced one really large (freakishly large really) shallot into rings approximately 1/8" thick. I cooked the shallots in a small sauce pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, 1/2 bottle of beer and 3 tablespoons of BBQ sauce over medium low heat until they almost melted into an oniony, bbq-ey paste.

The above things are made better by good friends who hang out in the kitchen with you while cook and more exciting by the herd of three boys running laps through the kitchen.