Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hot Stuff! Chili revisited

When I lived in Nashville, a deli in my office's building made a red chicken chili that I loved. I knew I'd never make it taste exactly the same as John's, so I took my basic chili recipe and made a few modifications. This is what I came up with:

1.75 pounds of chicken tenders cut up
2T olive oil for browning chicken
2 cans kidney beans (I used Goya)
2 large cans Muir Glen diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 Jamaican hot pepper, fine dice
2 small yellow onions chopped
1 jalapeno, fine dice
2 heaping T of chile powder
1 heaping T of cumin
1 T ground cinnamon 
1 T cayenne
2 bottles Harp

WTF? I hear some of you say. Cinnamon? Yes. Cinnamon has a good amount of savory applications. Look for a Mexican spicy fish and a Greek Cinnamon chicken in coming weeks.  There's also Cincinnati chili, which, when I tasted it, had strong flavors of cinnamon and chocolate. I loved the canned stuff, I can imagine what a good home-made batch would taste like.

Besides, I ran out of cumin.

I made this in a Dutch oven, because my crockpot only holds about a pound of meat and beans. First, I sauteed the chicken in some olive oil until I no longer saw any pink parts, then added my beans, veggies and spices. I cooked it on low for about four hours, covered, stirring around every 30 minutes. For the last hour, I took the lid off, letting some of liquid evaporate.

I served this to a very skeptical sweetie. He'd never had a chicken chili before, and had strong doubts when I mentioned the cinnamon. After three bites, his attitude was "shut up and let me eat." I consider that a success.

One note, I found this recipe to be much more compatible with cheese than sour cream. I used Sargento's low-fat four-cheese Mexican blend.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Variations on a mollusk

I find quite a few recipes on the Food Network. This time, I found two, took elements from each and came up with something I'm calling Linguine Oreganata with clams.

It's a little hard to quantify my white clam sauce. It involves clams, clam juice, lemon juice, garlic, white wine and a load of fresh parsley.  It's a refreshing dish, more for spring and summer than fall, and I thought I'd try finding a red clam sauce recipe. Best one I've ever had came from Christiano's restaurant in Syosset, Long Island. If you're a Billy Joel fan, this is allegedly the Italian Restaurant his song "Scenes From" was written about.

I found this one by Robin Miller and thought it worth a try, though I was planning to  substitute either wine or beer along with the clam juice for the chicken broth. I wanted to taste the clams, not chicken. Unfortunately the people who deliver my groceries had other ideas and didn't include the thyme or basil.

I'd heard of a dish called clams oreganata, and I wondered if it might translate to a pasta dish. I found Giada DiLaurentis, who despite looking like she'd break if you hugged her too hard, seems to have a good eye, tongue and nose for Italian food (never trust a skinny cook!). I pulled some ideas from her recipe, skipping the mint, and came up with this, which generously served 2:

3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T minced shallot
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
1 T lemon juice
1 6.5 oz can minced clams (Snow's is what I get in New England)
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1 T dried parsley
bread crumbs
linguine (I used fresh from Buittoni)

Put water on for the pasta to boil

heat the butter and the olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the garlic and shallot, stirring occasionally until they are translucent and just starting to turn brown.
Stir in the clams, the juice from the clams, the wine and the lemon juice until well-blended
Cook pasta until just tender, drain.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley
Add oregano and cook for two minutes more.

Toss the clam/tomato mixture with the pasta. The pasta will absorb most of the liquid. Put onto plates, top with bread crumbs. Serve with white wine.

I was really pleased with the results. The flavors were subtle, but I could taste each individual note while I was enjoying it. Ken said I could use more clams next time. If I do that, I'll probably up the oregano and white wine as well. If you try it and have improvements, let me know!

How do you like your clams?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stir Crazy III Stovetop mac and cheese

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll recall earlier this year I made a couple posts with variations of mac and cheese. You can find the latest here.

I think I have the cheddar formula down this time, but let's start with the basics for anyone who's just joined us

3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 cups whole milk
3 cups cheese
1 pound your favorite pasta

For this batch, I used a cup and a half of smoked gouda and a cup and a half of the sharpest cheddar I could get my hands on. Success! We had the smokiness from the gouda, and the nice sharpness from the cheddar and no graininess at all.

Regarding pasta, I'm not going to tell you one noodle or another. For a cheesy dish, I like rotini or small shells, something that will grip the sauce and bring it to my mouth. If you're feeding kids, you might go with the traditional elbows, there's no wrong answer here.

Since I've made this, I've tried a few different "upscale" mac and cheeses at a few different restaurants. Boston Market is nice and creamy, but I think they use processed cheese food (sounds like something cheese eats, doesn't it? You can thank my friend Barbara for that one) as opposed to cheese. A restaurant chain in the south called J. Alexander's makes a nice one using gruyere, and I think that will be a project sometime in November.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Death threats? Let's hear them!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Special Guest Post: Beki D's Pho

When a lot of people think of Vietnamese food, they think Pho (unless you're one of my HealthStream friends, then you're likely to think bun. Mmm. Bun bowls . . but I digress). I've tasted some delightful pho from various locations, but never considered making it myself until my dear friend Beki posted this elsewhere:

Quick and easy Pho
soup broth choose whatever will compliment your choice of meat (I used 2 cans of chicken stock)
rice stick noodles (aka rice vermicelli, pho noodles)
meat You can use any type of meat I used chicken
1 star anise
thin sliced young ginger
(a medium to smallish nub) Make sure its “new” ginger as its not fibrous and is much easier to slice I use a microplane grater that does thin slices.
thin sliced shallot (I used 2)
thin sliced garlic (I used the rest of the garlic we had, maybe 3 small sections I could have used more)

bean sprouts
fresh cilantro
fresh basil
minced green onion
thin sliced carrot or julienned carrot
snow peas
water chestnuts
baby corn
plum sauce
siracha sauce (HOT stuff)
fish sauce

The original recipe didn’t really give amounts, so I think the porportions will work well. Even the kids ate it.

What I did:
I took 2 cans of broth and about 4 cups of water and tossed them in the pot. I turned up the heat to get the broth to boil. While waiting for the broth to boil, I sliced thin some ginger, some shallot, and garlic. I tossed that in along with the star anise. Once the broth was up to a boil, I tossed in the meat and let it cook.
While I was waiting for the broth to come up, I put on the kettle to boil. I put the rice sticks in a bowl and then added the hot water to let the noodles steep. I drained them once the broth was ready. Fish out the star anise. The steeping of the rice noodles took about 15 or so minutes.
Once those bits are ready, Get a bowl and put in whatever garnishes you want to have. Put in some noodles and ladle the broth and make sure you get some meat. You might want to steam the pea pods a bit if you don't like them crunchy.
You can add any accompaniments you want, a lot of this is suggestions.
I haven't made this yet, but it's on the list now that it's getting cold and soup sounds more and more tantalizing. It's also coming up on chili season. I have a chicken chili in mind for later this month, with long hot peppers and not a small amount of garlic.

What do you cook in the fall? Le't's hear it!