Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tapas night

While on vacation in Vegas (yes Vegas) Susan and I stumbled upon a fantastic, inexpensive, happenin' tapas joint not far from The Strip. Called Firefly. Well...we didn't really "stumble" upon it....there was a bit of research on Yelp involved. People were raving, and it was a tough reservation to get, and did I mention it was inexpensive?

Now...seeing as how this was WEEKS ago, and can't really remember all the things we had, but the one thing that stood out was dates wrapped in bacon, stuffed with goat cheese in a red wine reduction. Yummmm. And, I thought, "I can make that!"

So, a few Friday nights ago I decided to do tapas night at home, starting with a variation on the Firefly theme. Dates wrapped in proscuitto (actually "speck", which seems to be a smoked proscuitto). Pan fried in my cast iron skillet. That's it. No cheese. No red wine reduction. But it was fabulous. Sweet dates wrapped in the salty umami of the speck. Just the right starter to get me going for the rest of the evening.

Next up -- pan roasted parsnips and carrots. Now...I'm head over heels for roasted veggies in the winter. All sorts -- carrots, parsnips, turnips, brocolli, cauliflower, sweet potato, pototo, sqaush, onions, cabbage...whatever. Usually with rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper (though that big jar of herbs de Provence has been getting the call from the bench lately). It just needs to be tough enough to stand up to 45 minutes to an hour in the oven and roasted to a carmelized crunchy sweet hearty filling treat. Well....I didn't want to wait 45 minutes, and I wanted to keep it simple. So I simply sliced the carrots and parsnips (just white carrots, eh?), tossed in olive oil and the herbs, and skillet roasted them. Perfect. Like al dente roasted veggies. They had a bit more crunch, but not much, and the parsnips still had a little of their bitter edge to them, but not much -- the sweetness really came through.

And then the beets. I love beets, because you get at least two meals out of them -- one for the greens and one for the bulbs. And I'd just read about making a raw beet and carrot salad on Chocoloate and Zuccini, and was inspired. I followed her recipe pretty much verbatim, so I won't repeat it here, but the keys are cider vinegar and spicy mustard, and not overdoing it on anything. And those green flecks are cilantro, which worked well.

The last one was a little inspiration from wishing for something sweet. A few days before I had had the brainwave that if you take dried fruit and soak it in water overnight, you get reconstituted dried fruit. Now, for some of you, this may seem obvious, but for me, it took awhile to come around. I'd had fruit compote before, but I'm pretty sure that was cooked. This is simple -- just apricots, prunes and water. And after a few days, the water gets all syrupy. And I had a little sour cream in the fridge, leftover from something, so I added that as a garnish, and was very happy indeed.

What I liked most about the meal (aside from the food) was the pacing of the meal. One little bit of bites at a time, let it settle, move on to the next course in the kitchen and enjoy. And then think up the next course. An entire evening of entertainment!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Bowl -- Emily's Chicken Chili

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It was a small, intimate, Super Bowl gathering, and chili seemed appropriate. Emily had served this when I visited Minnesota a bunch of years ago, and I came home with the recipe, and that recipe's been in my binder all that time, and hadn't made it ot prime time even once. Super bowl is the right occasion.

This did require some attention over the couple of hours it took to make, but not too much. The problem with the Super Bowl, of course, is whether to get up and stir/add things during the game itself or the commercials. I opted for the game....if anything good happens they always have the replays. And the game (usually) is in longer chunks. That worked out well!

The chicken makes this chili a little lighter than a usual chili, but the flavor was great. The pimenton added a nice smoky taste -- I'd have used the Chimayo chili powder that Susan and I brought back from New Mexico, but I think it's all at her place. And the replacement of the green peppers with cabbage was based on a food aversion. I don't expect that cabbage is very traditional Mexican, but the texture and heft of cabbage isn't that different from green pepper. The taste may be a little stronger, but with all the flavor in the chili, it pretty much blends into the background.

Emily's Chicken Chili

3 T Butter, divided
2 C chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, large
1 jalapeno pepper, large, seeded and chopped
2 TBSP Chili powder (more to taste) I added a TBSP of pimenton...mmmmmm
4 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
2 C condensed chicken broth (I used some chicken broth base with water)
1 28 oz can tomatoes, not drained -- I used fire roasted, diced
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained -- I used black beans
1.5 C green pepper, chopped. I used red cabbage.
3 C chicken meat, chopped
1 oz unsweetened chocolate (Bakers), chopped
salt and tabasco sauce, to taste
corn tortillas
cheese (Monterrey Jack, or something similar), grated
sour cream

Melt 1.5 T of the butter in dutch oven.
Saute onion and garlic until onions are translucent -- 10 min or so
Stir in jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, broth, tomatoes
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat, simmer, covered, one hour, stirring occasionally
Add beans, simmer uncovered 30 minutes. Stir frequently.
Meanwhile, in frying pan, melt 1.5 TBSP butter and saute green peppers (cabbage!) until tender, about 5 min.
Add peppers chicken, chocolate, salt, tabasco.
Continue cooking until chicken is done -- 10 minutes or so.

To serve, line a big soup bowl with tortilla, add chili, garnish with sour cream, cheese, cilantro. I cut the tortillas into bite size pieces.