Sunday, May 4, 2008

All is right with the world again...

It ate me alive the moment I hit the "publish post" button on the bottom of the blogger page. How could I write about McDonald's as my first post on food??? I thought about all the things I make and all my awesome kitchen gadgets that deserve top billing on this site, and I felt as though I let them down. My kitchen cried a little on Friday, folks.

So we had a little make-up session today. We spent a lot of quality time
together and I think, I hope, all is right with the world again. Both of my le creuset dutch ovens (they're the best) made stovetop appearances, since I made not one, but two dinners - one for tonight, one for the rest of the week - and I want to share both recipes with you.

First, for tonight: shepherd's pie, or cottage pie (since it was made with beef, not lamb), or really just beef stew with mashed potatoes on top. Whatever you want to call it, it was tasty, and it was partly made up, partly based on recipes I found in my cookbook collection. It was a perfect meal for a cold and stormy night! Foiled by our thinking about tonight's dinner yesterday when it was ugly out and incapable of changing our minds once they were made up, Alex and I enjoyed this instead on a temperate and lovely night.


1.5 lbs beef stew meat
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, cut into medium sized chunks

2 small-medium garlic cloves
1.5 tbsp tomato paste
1.5 tbsp flour
0.5 c red wine
1 c chicken broth
1 bay leaf

1 tsp fresh thyme
1 c sliced carrots (2 decent sized, or 3 puny ones if the carrot fairy brings you bad luck, like she did for me)
0.5 c sliced mushrooms (I used dried porcini, but white buttons or whatever strikes your fancy would work
well, or you could skip this)
1c peas (I used frozen)



1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil to a dutch oven (or other similarly large, ovenproof vessel with a cover) over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the beef pieces.
3. Add half of the beef to the dutch oven and let sit on one side until browned, about 4 minutes. Turn beef pieces and cook for another 4 minutes and set on a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining beef, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.
4. Add onions to pan used to brown the beef. Cook until softened, 4-5 minutes. While onions cook, cut beef into bite-sized pieces. Once onions have softened, add garlic, cook for 30 seconds more. Add tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute. Then add flour and cook for 2 minutes until well absorbed into the onion mixture.
5. Add red wine, using wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits from the pan until thickened into a paste. Stir in chicken stock until flour mixture has dissolved and contents of pan start to simmer.
6. Add bay leaf and thyme and return beef to dutch oven, cover and place in oven for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, remove from oven, stir and add carrots and mushrooms. Return to oven for 90 minutes.
7. While stew finishes in oven, make your favorite mashed potato recipe, enough to serve 4. (This is where the instructions get a little lame, I realize, but I have two recipes to type!)
8. Remove stew from oven, discard bay leaf, add peas and cook on the stove top, uncovered for 10 minutes to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Place some stew into an oven-proof bowl, top with mashed potatoes and place in oven under broiler for a few minutes until browned slightly.
10. Serve and enjoy (see example at right).

Serves 4.

Then I made one of our favorite weeknight dinners: chicken chili. The recipe comes from one of my favorite magazines: Cooks Illustrated. I read this magazine from cover to cover as soon as it arrives - it's my cooking bible.

From the January & February 2007 issue of COOK'S ILLUSTRATED
3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat and skin
1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 medium jalapeno chiles
3 medium poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces

3 medium anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
(KATHLEEN NOTE: I use instead 1 jalapeno, 1 poblano, 1 anaheim, 1 green bell pepper and 1 red bell pepper and it's still pretty spicy.)

2 medium onions, cut into large pieces
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press

1 tbsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp ground coriander
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
(KATHLEEN NOTE: I use 3 cans to make a thicker chili)

3 c low-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp juice from 2-3 limes
0.25 c minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large dutch
oven (KATHLEEN NOTE: I have a 9 quart mega-large dutch oven which fits this recipe quite nicely, I would use something that holds at least 6 quarts here) over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.
2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos (KATHLEEN NOTE: make that 1 jalapeno); mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, anaheim chiles (KATHLEEN NOTE: bell peppers) and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve one second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to bowl. Repeat with remaining peppers and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash processor blade or workbowl).
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from dutch oven (or add additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeno, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans (KATHLEEN NOTE: I use 2 cups of beans) and 1 cup chicken broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups of broth and chicken breasts to dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
6. Mince remaining jalapeno, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds and set aside. (KATHLEEN NOTE: Since I only use 1 jalapeno in my version, I skip this step) When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions and remaining minced jalapenos (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. (KATHLEEN NOTE: I just add the chicken and save lime juice and cilantro for right before eating. I skip the scallions and extra jalapeno.) Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

I know reading this recipe makes me come off like a bean-loving, spice hating wuss, but the first time we made this (as directed) it was mega-spicy and a little watery. While I usually follow Cook's recipes to the letter, this one I played with and I think the result is hearty and thick (without using any dairy!) and just the right amount of spicy and flavorful.

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