Classic Chicken Chili

Posted by on Wednesday Jan 28th, 2015

In the fall, I went on a tour of Lambeau Field. I was in Green Bay for work, and after a late-night fried cheese curd snack and the next morning’s tour of a demi-glace production facility, one introduction led to another and we wound up in the care of the executive sous chef of the stadium, who was leading us on a behind-the-scenes-culinary tour. He showed us the prep kitchens and the serving kitchens, the beautiful new dining rooms, and the catering facilities where cheesehead couples get married.

Now you’ll hear a lot of sports atheists like me proclaiming that we’re only into the Super Bowl for the food (if we’re into football at all). But as I learned that day, the football stadiums, with their teams of cooks, specialty stands, and exclusive club room buffets–they’re really in it for the food too.

On the day we visited, most of the kitchens were quiet: there were 11 days until the Bears arrived for the next home game. In the lobby, the sausage stands’ menus broadcast this year’s Sunday specialty–the 22-inch cheese-topped kielbasa called the Horse Collar–but there were none flaming on the turned-off grills. Nearby, the fill-your-own-beer-mug kiosks were totally tapped out. Still, the in-stadium smokers were running, delivery trucks were backing into loading docks, and a tiny batch of chili simmered–just a couple of gallons for an upcoming meeting at one of the clubs.

I say tiny because normally, the Lambeau chefs go through 200 gallons of chili in one game day.

Anyway, enough about the Packers. Even this non-fan knows they don’t get to play this weekend. So, for your home team–especially if it’s a crew looking to watch the game over a relatively light meal–today’s chicken chili actually does brew a small batch. The recipe takes inspiration from the classic beans-tomato-chili powder combo we grew up with as Yankees, but swaps out the beef for a smaller portion of shredded chicken thighs. There are also a few more vegetables hidden in each bowl than normal.

Want more chili? Here’s Chicken Chili with Barley, Chili Con Carne, Brisket Chili, and Black Bean-Sweet Potato Chili.

Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just lemons, lemons, and more lemons.  Want even more gf desserts? Check out Natalie’s Baked Apples

To paraphrase the French philosopher Albert Camus, “in the depths of winter, I learned there was an invincible summer at the grocery store.” Well, that “summer” turns out to be lemons, deliciously in season in the frozen winter months, somehow a harbinger of all things spring.

This lemony dessert blends the comforting, wintry nature of a home-cooked pudding with the ethereal sunshine of lemon, topped with vanilla whipped cream and a cheerful candied lemon slice.

Moroccan Beet Salad

Posted by on Wednesday Jan 21st, 2015

If you missed Monday’s post, here’s the summary: I used to hate beets and now kind of like them. Prodding yourself to enjoy foods you didn’t think you wanted to ingest, out of culinary FOMA, seems to be worthwhile.

Two tricks I learned during my conversion are in play in this second winner: use acid to season beets and add crunch to mitigate their gummy softness. Plus, this divine little salad gets better the longer you forget about it in the back of the fridge. Tons of parsley brightens the salad, which is better for the addition of marinated shallots and very toasted almonds. I throw in just a pinch of dried coriander which has a mysterious, North African effect.

I think I said everything I ever wanted to about beets in the earlier post except this: if you’re still feeling so-so about them but are aching to improve your feelings towards the ringed root, try making salad with half beets and half roasted carrots (or even a quarter beets and the rest roasted carrots! or roasted sweet potatoes!).

Hello, Beets.

Posted by on Monday Jan 19th, 2015

Is it worth forcing yourself to try new foods?

If you’re a food-loving, not-very-picky grown-up who yet retains some vestigial culinary aversions, your powers of adulthood dictate that you never have to put olives on your pizza, raw onions on your sandwich, or milk in the glass next to your chocolate chip cookie. Once you’ve shed the serious vegetable hate or pasta-with-butter obsession you might have harbored as a child, I think you’re merely reasserting your independence by saying no to the dishes and ingredients you abhor. It’s one of the prime benefits of cooking for yourself. You eat what you love and avoid what wrinkles your nose or turns your stomach. All the nose-wrinkling in the world, however, won’t save you from culinary FOMA, which is what happened to me when every food person I admired claimed beets were great but I strongly disagreed.

Though I abandoned my Cheerios-only diet a long, long time ago, until a few years ago, I could still provide you with a full list of foods I didn’t like: mushrooms, beef chili and hamburgers, cheesecake, yogurt, and olives, among others. Those jumped into my likes column in the last five years. (I still won’t seek out ‘shrooms, liking cheesecake was hardly laborious, and it turned out yogurt just had to be full fat to be worth eating.)

The dislike inventory was condensing, but at the top of the list a longtime foe refused to budge. Yet, despite their jellied texture, muddy flavor, and hand-dying prep work, today I’m moving that entry over to the other column. Hello, beets.

Among the beet admirers in my world is the guy whose farm I buy from via my CSA. When this year’s autumn onslaught came in, I finally decided not to put my bunch in the trade-in box. Instead, I mounted a campaign to let beets seduce me. Here’s what I learned from the crusade.

Kitchen Stuff: Parchment Paper

Posted by on Friday Jan 16th, 2015

In a small kitchen, you don’t need a lot of equipment to cook great food. Still, you do need some pots, pans, utensils, and dishes–obviously. In the BGSK book, you’ll find a bare bones list of necessary tools, but I’ve long wanted to bring you a similar resource on the web.

So we’re going one by one, stocking up our virtual pantries and maybe our real ones too. You can see the whole “set” here.

Though I’m always eager to create less waste in the kitchen, there are a few one-time-use products that I make an exception for. One of those is parchment paper. Here’s why: when I bake cookies or cakes, a sheet of parchment paper means the goodies have no chance of clinging to the pan. I don’t sacrifice my batter or my time to a confection that’s half destroyed by some old pan I used for baking. That’s how parchment paper can save stress and make you a better baker.

That’s just how it starts though. Now, when I roasted vegetables and even some meats, I give my pan a parchment lining too. That’s because fat and flavor tends to stick to the pan here as much as in sweets baking. With parchment, you get to scrape all the goodness right into your dish–plus, you save oodles of time on scrubbing off hard-to-release grime. And that kind of savings keeps you coming back to the kitchen, because when cooking and cleaning aren’t frustrating, they’re fun.

Last, I use parchment and some kitchen twine to wrap up quickbreads, brownies, and other edible gifts.

All that in a roll of paper!

Here are a few ways you’ll use your parchment:

I’ll do anything for vegetables, but I won’t do that.

That’s how I feel when I see veggies that have been completely drowned in cream or béchamel. I like cream and béchamel, but I don’t like drowning. So though gratins and casseroles always sound good in theory, when I go to make them, I never fail to change my mind. I’ll save my half and half for the morning’s coffee, thanks.

Here is the main argument for why I am probably wrong.

Melting a little bit of cheese on top of a veggie meal feels quite restrained, by contrast.

In this dish, which plays off my love for crunchy bread accoutrements and reusing stale slices, you roast broccoli florets until they are delicious, then make them more delicious still by sprinkling nutty, aged Roth Grand Cru on top. As the cheese (which comes from Wisconsin and tastes like it’s imported from the Alps) oozes into the florets, it simultaneously fastens butter-crisped bread crumbs to the vegetables, in another gratin-like move.

Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just fruit, yogurt, and honey.  Want even more low-impact desserts? Check out Natalie’s Baked Apples

It’s time for some sunshine. This citrus and honey-infused recipe is a light and bright mix of flavors, like sunshine on a platter.

The pomegranates give a nice pop of crunch and bright red color. (Don’t be intimidated by a pomegranate, just score around the middle, pop it open, and break the sections apart a little. Then turn each half over into the palm of your hand and hit the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon over a bowl. The seeds will fall into your hand and into the bowl. That’s all there is to it!) Citrus, pomegranates, and honey have so many delicious vitamins and healing properties to help you fight off cold season and keep your healthy New Year’s resolutions. Plus, this is delicious with crispy bits of caramelized sugar right on top.

This dish, while sweet enough to be dessert (obviously!), is also a worth addition to any brunch table. You might then use up extra citrus rind in candied grapefruit, and the extra juice for cocktails. The French technique of “supremeing” the fruit makes beautiful slices without the pesky membrane. Once you get the hang of the technique, you might find yourself making these fancy citrus slices for everyday eating, too. Finally, the sauce is a perfectly creamy balance to the citrus, while the honey flavor adds sweetness.