Monday, October 22, 2012

More Chilies! Open-faced chicken chili sandwiches

We are getting some really beautiful produce from our farm share this fall. I was originally feeling overwhelmed, honestly, by the number of peppers, but I am now feeling inspired. Tonight I needed to get dinner together quickly, and chilies played a central part. Chile peppers are cholesterol free, low in sodium and calories, rich in Vitamins A and C, and a good source of folic acid, potassium and Vitamin E. They are also delicious. And although they have a reputation for being hot, the ones we've gotten this week are mild and flavorful. This recipe also uses some of the green tomatoes we received. I recently realized how good they are grilled, and the texture and flavor pay a key part in the following recipe.
I use a chicken breast in this, because it's what I had in the house. But this would also be good with pork chops, fish fillets (really, really good, although I would leave off the cheese), hamburger patties, veggie burgers, or, really, nearly any protein you like with bread.

I lost a little of the cheese to the pan I covered it with - but look at those chilies!
This meal is very simple, but you're going to have several elements going at once. You'll want to pre-heat a frying pan on the stove top. And you're also going to want either a stove-top grill (which is what I used) or a broiler pan in the oven. You could also do this on the oven on a cookie sheet. It's EASY,

Green Chili Chicken Melts
One green tomato (Optional)
One half mild white or yellow onion, sliced
4 mild green chilies, medium sized, sliced into rings
4 chicken breasts
4 slices of bread
4 slices of cheese (provolone or Monterrey jack would be good....)
4 TBSP mayo
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil

Okay - we're going to have a few elements going at once here. But the whole process is about 15 minutes once you have the veggies sliced.
Drizzle olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Once it's warm (sizzles if you drip a little water) add the peppers and onions, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, over medium low heat,  as you complete the next steps. Just keep an eye. You want them to soften, and take on a little color, but you don't want them to brown or get too burned or crispy. Just give 'em a stir every minute or two.
Rub a little olive oil on the chicken, and sprinkle with salt a pepper. Place on the grill pan, or the broiler pan.
Drizzle both sides of tomatoes with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the tomato slices to the pan.  Broil or grill  for 2 - 3 minutes, and flip the tomatoes ONLY. Broil  or grill another 2 - 3 minutes and remove the tomatoes. (Look at 'em. They should be lightly browned and soft. If not, give them a few more minutes.
After 5 - 7 minutes cooking time, the chicken will be ready to flip, and the tomatoes will be done. Flip the chicken, and use a spatula to remove the tomatoes to a plate or cutting board for assembly.
While the chicken and tomatoes are cooking, mix together the mayo, mustard and Worcestershire together in a small bowl, and set aside.
Remember to give the chilies a stir during this time - every few minutes - over low heat.
When the tomatoes are done, add the slices of bread to the pan. The bread will also need just 2 - 3 minutes per side. If you're using a grill you'll get some nice grill marks, and if you're broiling, you'll get a light brown toast. You just want to warm the bread, and give it a very light toasting.
The chicken and bread should be done about the same time. But don't stress if they aren't. Remove the toast, and set aside. The chicken should cook for 5 - 7 minutes per side. When it's thouroughly cooked, top each piece with 1/4 the chili and onion mixture, and top that with cheese. If you're using a grill, you'l want to cover the chicken to help the cheese melt. (Honestly? I flip the pan I just used upside down and cover the chicken with that, to help melt the cheese. The residual heat from the pan helps it along and the depth of the pan gives it some room.)
While the cheese melts, spread a tablespoon of the mayo mixture on each slide of bread, and top with the grilled tomatoes.
Add the chicken breast.
Eat wtih a knife and fork OR top with a second piece of toasted bread. (Adjust recipe to 8 pieces in that case, and make sure and grill all 8!)
Does it sound complicated? It's really not. You're just cooking a chicken breast and topping it with some sauteed chili peppers and cheese. That's it. Fast and easy. Really!
And yum!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cabrito Chili with Cornbread Topping

It's finally cooling off here in Austin. Well, some days. And some days are not. We had a little cold spell a week or so ago, and I decided to make chili. Chili, it turns out, was a fairly elegant solution to the question, "What does one do when one receives goat stew meat in ones meat share?" Goat chili, cooked low and slow, is delicious. But this recipe would work with any stew meat, really.
One of my favorite chili recipes is from Alton Brown, and involves using a jar of salsa. As much as I enjoy this recipe, I decided to play with it and see if I could adapt it to use up some of the beautiful peppers we've been getting in our farm share. And the final kick? I also had a hankering for a cornbread topping. I cooked the chili in a dutch over, made a batch of cornbread and layered it on top, and baked it in the over. Soooo good!
This isn't a soupy chili - this is meant to be more like a casserole - a ramped up version of something you might find at a potluck. The chili is very thick, and the peppers give a lot of texture and flavor to the stew.
The basic idea here is making a pepper heavy salsa out of fresh vegetables.

For the pepper "salsa":
1 cup diced fresh peppers  (About 3 - 4 medium/large peppers and a few small, too. These can be Anaheim, lipstick, green, red, or whatever you have on hand. Mild peppers will make a mild chili. Hot peppers will make a hot and spicy chili. Mix and match! Use several mild to give you the volume you need, then add a few small, hot ones for some spice!)
1 onion
2 - 3 cloves of garlic
1 can stewed tomatoes, or 2 - 3 fresh tomatoes
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until finely ground to a salsa-like texture.

For the chili:
2 - 3 TBSP Canola Oil or Olive Oil
1/2 cup cornmeal
3  TBSP Chili Powder (or to taste)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
(All of the seasoning can be adjusted to taste)
2 lb stew meat (goat, beef, bison, pork, whatever! I often combine 2 or 3)
1 bottle beer (try and use something dark and flavorful, but not too complex. Something you'd drink with a burger....)
2 - 3 cups beef broth, or any broth on hand

Heat the oil in a dutch oven. Add the stew meat in batches, evenly browning the meat. (Add just enough meat per batch to cover the bottom of the pan, and get it just a bit brown on each side. Remove the meat as it browns and process the rest in batches.)
When all the meat is browned, remove it all from the dutch over, and add the pepper mixture, and the bottle of beer, and "deglaze" the pan - scrape the tasty bits of brown meat and flavor from the bottom. Add the cornmeal, the salsa you made, the spices, and the meat. Add enough broth to cover all the meat, plus an inch or two. Place the lid on the dutch oven and place the dish in a 325 degree oven for 3 - 4 hours. The slow even heat will cook the goat (or any meat you use) to a nice, tender braise.
When the chili is done, or close to done, mix up your favorite cornbread recipe. (You don't need to take the chili out of the oven for this, but don't forget to reset the oven temp to match your cornbread recipe!)
Remove the chili from the oven and spread the cornbread batter evenly over the top. If you want, add a layer of grated cheddar to the top! Bake according to the cornbread recipe - no lid.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit!

Doesn't everyone display their beans?
I love a good pot of beans. I always, always have. I grew up in Phoenix in a single parent household, with a plant based diet. One of the staples of our diet growing up was a good pot of beans, and to this day. I love 'em. There are so many wonderful varieties of beans out there. I have to admit, I have a little bit of a bean buying addiction. Our local co-op sells so many types, and I can't help buy buy ones I've never tried before. I also love going back to old favorites, and some of the ancient Native American varieties. I'm sure it seems super-whack, but I get excited about a good bowl of beans.
The great thing about beans is they're a wonderful way to provide a no or low-meat meal to your family without cooking for hours. Satisfying and warm, a pot of beans can be prepared with a minimal amount of work, and they're a great source of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. And honestly? After the excesses of the holidays, I'm happy to eat something so healthy and satisfying.
I was hesitant to post about beans at first. To me, they seem so basic. Honestly? Refried beans were my first solid food. I've been making pots of beans since I was old enough to reach the stove. And then a friend (or two!) reminded me that part of the point of this blog is to share the things I love to eat with other families who are striving to eat non-processed food without cooking for hours.And of course, beans are the perfect slow-cooker food. And really? That's kind of the whole point. It's so important to me to find healthy food that I can feed my family while balancing the demands of a full-time job and the responsibilities of home life.

And so, my recipe for beans. Please note, there is all kinds of room for improvisation in this recipe. I'll write down the basics for you, and then give you a few notes about where you can make changes.

Beans are not particularly photogenic. But hey!
You can see the vintage cake plate I got for Christmas!

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

1 lb pinto beans

1 small onion (or 1/2 large onion), finely diced
1 - 2 small carrots (or 1 large carrot) finely diced
1 - 2 small peppers, or 1 large bell pepper, diced. (I love to use the little mild or spicy peppers I get in my farm share. Jalapenos are great too, as are Anaheim or Serrano, depending on how hot you like it.) (Optional)
1 can diced tomatoes
3 - 6 cloves garlic, finely diced (more or less depending on your family's taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 chipolte in adobo sauce, finely diced (optional)
1 - 3 tsp salt, or more, to taste (Do NOT add until after the beans are cooked)
1 Tbsp vinegar, or more, to taste (Do NOT add until after the beans are cooked)

The night before you plan to eat the beans -
Rinse beans in a colander or strainer, and place in the insert of your slow-cooker. Cover beans with water and nearly fill the pot. Cover with lid, and leave to soak overnight at room temperature.
Dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and place in a small container to store in the fridge overnight. I also like to add the other seasonings to the diced veggies at this point, so it's all ready to dump in the slow-cooker in the morning. So, add the cumin, pepper, oregano and chipolte, and store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning -

Drain and rinse the soaked beans, and return to slow cooker. Add the diced veggies and seasoning from the fridge, and add the can of diced tomatoes (juice and all). Cover with water plus 2 - 3 inches of water above the "bean line". (Some of the water will evaporate, and some will be soaked up by the beans. You want to make sure there's enough to keep the beans covered while you're out earning a living.)

Set the slow cooker to low for 6 - 10 hours (the longer they cook, the softer they'll be. I like 'em anywhere from al dente, to falling apart. For most people, 8 hours will be perfect. Alternately, you can cook them on high for 5 - 6 hours.

After the beans cook -

Add the salt to taste, and a tablespoon or two of vinegar. (I like to add a good vinegary hot pepper sauce, honestly, but I like it spicy!)

Garnish the beans with your choice of sour cream, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, diced raw onions, diced scallions, salsa and/or hot pepper sauce.
I LOVE homemade cornbread with a pot of beans, but corn chips, tortillas and rice are all good, too.

As you work with this recipe, you might want to try it with various beans. Black beans. Kidney beans. 7 bean mix. Adzuki beans. The choices are endless.....

You can also play with the seasoning. Want chili beans? Add a tablespoon of chili powder. Plan on making an Italian bean soup? Use white beans, and leave out the cumin and hot peppers. Add a bay leaf.  Like your beans smokey? Add some smoked paprika, or chipolte powder. And there's always the ol' pork fat option. A little bacon or a smoked pork knuckle would go a long way in a pot of beans.... I usually do mine without any meat, but I also tend to think if you have a family member who feels they *need* meat in their supper, using just a little as seasoning is better for your bodies and the planet than loading up your plate.

Enjoy those beans! Toot Toot!