Creamy Mushroom Risotto

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The key to making risotto is patience. Lots of patience. I had never made it before I made this recipe. I’ve watched several Food Network stars make it. Paula Dean, Giada De Laurentiis, Tyler Flourence - the list goes on. And it looks a whole lot easier on the tube. They conveniently edit out the 30 minutes of stirring and pouring that it takes to make a batch. I personally think that someone else did the stirring for them during the taping - by the time I was done, I was half bent over the stove and board out of my mind waiting for the rice to soften just to the point of al dente! Had I not given up beer for Lent then I’m sure I would have downed a six pack with one hand as I stirred with the other. I didn’t see all that labor on any of the TV shows while risotto was being made. Come to think of it, I never see them doing any dishes either!

In all seriousness, I really did enjoy making this. The starch from the rice is slowly absorbed into the chicken stock and forms a creamy gravy. The process takes longer than I thought it would but the end result was a tasty dish that I’m going to try again. It’s cool to see it come together.

I think this could be a real knockout dish for those times when you want to impress someone. I want to try it with a protein like chicken or maybe roasted red peppers. The potential for a great dish is limitless. I think that a great dessert could be made from this also, it’s just a matter of finding the right balances.

When I originally started to make this dish I had to postpone the shoot because I realized that I needed a short grain rice to make a good risotto. The shorter grains are starchier and work better to make the creamy gravy that really makes the dish. I settled on arborio rice, which worked fine in the end.

I made this on Friday and thought I was doing the right thing for Lent - no meat on Fridays. It wasn’t until I had eaten a bowl that I realized that I used chicken broth in the recipe! Technically I didn’t make a meat dish, but at least one chicken had to die for me to have this yummy supper. Once again I was foiled, it really is tougher than one would think to give up meat on Fridays for lent - especially when you’re a carnivore like myself.

Eat well, cook often ...


Serves 6; 50 minutes
1/2 lb Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 C Onion, diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced
5 C Chicken broth (simmering)
1 1/2 C Arborio rice 2 tsp Fresh thyme

Cook mushrooms; heat broth
In a sauté pan over medium heat sauté mushroom and onion in a little olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until mushrooms release water and onions are soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside, wipe pan clean. In a pot or sauce pan, bring broth to a simmer over medium heat.

Toast rice, add stock, finish
Add a little more oil to empty sauté pan then add rice, stir to coat and let rice toast 2 to 3 minutes. Add a cup of broth to rice, stir constantly until broth is absorbed. Repeat until broth is gone, stirring continuously, 30 to 35 minutes. Once rice is cooked and creamy add thyme, reserved mushrooms and vegetables and heat through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Then serve.

Homemade Mexican Hot Sauce

Printable version
This recipe starts with onion, garlic and four jalapenos. The peppers are kept whole with ribs and seeds for that extra fire that they provide. I simply chopped each jalapeno into five or six slices and tossed it in the pot. Once the base has cooked a few minutes and starts to soften up I add the tomatoes and chiles.

I had never worked with the Pasilla de Oaxaca chile, it’s smoked and ads a meaty bacon or ham-type of flavor. I think it would be ideal for vegetarians to use to simulate a bacon flavor in soup - As long as they can stands the heat.

After the chiles have toasted and the tomatoes start to surrender some of their liquid I add the chicken broth. It's all brought to a simmer and let go for at least a half an hour – or until it has reduced some.

Before transferring it to a blender, I took it off the heat for a while just to let it cool – I think it is a bit easier to work with when it’s not as hot. The mix is blended for a minute or two, just long enough so that everything is liquefied into a smooth and silky sauce. That's all it takes - now it's time to slather it on your favorite type of taco!

I actually made much more than what I thought I would be making for this batch - about 2 quarts - which is enough for about six thousand tacos. All I needed was enough for 12. I ended up giving a couple of bottles away.

I decided to make this hot sauce to get rid of some dried chiles I had left in the pantry. About a year ago Greg Patterson form the online spice store sent me a number dried chili samples to try. I had used most of them but had a few left so I decided to use them for a taco sauce. I am going get more of the Pasilla de Oaxaca chile in the future. It has a smoky flavor like a chipotle but it also has a meaty quality to it as well. As I mention in the introduction, it would be a good chili for vegetarians to use.

I thought that four jalapenos would really add some fire to this sauce but to my surprise, it was rather mild for my taste. But then again, my mild is another man’s hellfire - as most of my relatives would say.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 2 Quarts; 1 hour
1 1/2 C Red onion, chopped
4 Jalapeño, chopped
5 cloves Garlic, whole
3 C Tomatoes, chopped
1 oz Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles, dried, seeded
2 oz Ancho chiles, dried, seeded
3 C Chicken broth

Cook vegetables
In a soup pot over medium heat sauté onion and jalapeno in a little olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic cook until fragrant, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add chiles, broth; simmer, blend

Add tomatoes and chiles, cook until tomatoes release some of their juice, 5 to 6 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally. Add chicken broth bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until tomatoes break down and liquid reduces by a third. Remove from heat let mixture cool for an hour then blend until smooth.

Simple Meatball Subs

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This is the perfect snack for a party. It makes 16 to 20 meatball subs and takes only minutes to get ready and two hours to warm in a slow cooker. Which allows time to prep for the party or have a few drinks to take off the edge before guests arrive.

I originally made this for a meeting at St. John Bosco Catholic Church that I attended last summer. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but a few months passed and another guy in the group made it to share at a similar gathering I attended. Once that happened, I figured it was worth creating a post for the recipe here.

It really is simple, it requires opening a couple bags, a jar and turning the crock pot on - if that’s to much then you probably have worse things to worry about than feeding others. I don’t generally promote stuff from the freezer isle without serious modification, but I have to admit the frozen Italian-style meatballs from Walmart are really tasty. They don’t compare to homemade, but they could give Subway a run for their money and I think that is why I liked these simple sandwiches so much.

When I was 19 years-old I went for freshmen orientation at Ball State University. I had been accepted to the school but had never set foot on campus. I went to tour the campus and sign up for classes. During my lunch break they let us roam the village - a little spot near campus for college kids to get food, go for drinks and get everyday supplies.

It’s a booming spot when school is in session. I decided to eat at the only familiar restaurant I recognized - Subway. I went there rather than the Flying Tomato - a pizza joint down the street. (which burned down a couple years later) I ordered a 6-inch meatball sub and, like every other meatball sub I have ordered from subway, it fell apart. This one in particular made a mess of my shirt, so everyone else at orientation knew what I had eaten for lunch just by looking at me clothes.

I don’t know why, but other than a few of the buildings I saw, that sandwich is what I remember most about that day. Ball State would change the course of my life and my first real memory is a messy sandwich for lunch. I should probably count my blessings though, because it could probably be much worse.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 16 to 20 subs; 2 hours
2 bags Meatballs (32 oz each)
1 jar Marinara (24 oz)
16 to 20 Hot dog buns
3 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat meatballs and sauce, assemble, serve

In a crock pot on high, cook meatballs and marinara until heated through, about 2 hours. On a hot dog bun, place a few meatballs, sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Grilled Mushroom and Swiss Cheese

Printable version
In my house growing up, my Mom always referred to a grilled cheese sandwich as “cheese toasty.” It wasn’t until I was 23 years-old and living in New York City that I realized the rest of the world had a different name for them.

I was in the cafeteria at my first job when I ordered a cheese toasty and the cook had no idea what I was talking about. I described it and he realized I wanted a grilled cheese. I got my sandwich and a Mountain Dew. I went to the checkout lady and said, “just a cheese toasty and a pop.” On the East coast “pop” is “soda.” The young lady at the registered laughed at my hysterically. Then  she said, “You mean a soda and grilled cheese?” I agreed.     From that day forward, every time I went to the cafeteria and the young lady was working, she would say upon seeing me, “Hey Pops want a cheese toasty!” Then bust out in laughter.

For this recipe, I make a gourmet cheese toasty with mushrooms and swiss cheese,
a decadent reminder of my Midwestern roots.

The first couple of years living in New York were a huge learning experience for me. They would have been a learning experience anywhere in the world because I was learning how to be an adult in the real world, which is a change from being an adult on a college campus. New York was the ultimate test. I made it through and ended up spending 12 and a half years of my life there.

I still love the city and its energy and hope to spend more time there in the future. What they say is really true, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” Because anywhere else seems to be easier, or slower paced – in America that is.

New York is one thing, I’m not sure if I have what it takes to make it in Kandahar, Afghanistan or Islamabad, Pakistan - If the local Taliban were to discover a Star Wars collection like mine they may throw me in prison for false idol worship.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 2 sandwiches; 15 minutes
2 Tbs Mayonnaise (spread thin on bread)
4 slices Bread
4 slices Swiss cheese
2 oz Mushrooms, cooked

Assemble sandwiches

Spread mayonnaise on bread. (side that will contact hot surface) On bottom slice stack swiss cheese, mushrooms, another slice of cheese and top piece of bread. Repeat.

Toast, serve
Place sandwiches on griddle over medium high heat and toast until bread is golden brown and cheese has melted, turning once. Remove from heat and serve.

Spanish Rice with Chorizo

Printable version
This dish features a pound of fresh chorizo, a pork sausage with heavy seasoning. Chorizo has two different forms - Mexican and Spanish. Both are loaded with spices native to their regions and it comes raw and cured.

For this recipe, I use a raw Spanish version of chorizo that needs cooked. It's joined by red pepper and onion and the three form the base of the recipe. Once the that gets going garlic, smoked paprika, oregano and long grained rice is tossed in. The rice is toasted and allowed to soak up a little flavor before the chicken broth is added.

The mixture is then covered, heat reduced and simmered for twenty minutes, then removed from heat. It’s important to keep the cover on at this point - the steamy environment inside the pot allows the rice to absorb all of the moisture and fully cook through, removing the lid stops this process and the dish will not finish properly. After ten minutes the cover is removed, the rice is fluffed and the feast of Spanish rice with chorizo can begin!

I have started something new. The first 200-words or so of a post are now going to be detailed descriptions of the cooking process involved in the recipe. This won’t always be needed, especially with pizza or burgers, but I will start doing this whenever applicable. It is just a small refinement in presentation, the first in a long time that is meant to improve the writing.

I have made many tweeks and changes to the design and photography and thought it was time to try and enhance the narrative in each post. I came to this conclusion while looking through my blog recently. Each dish is put together in its own unique way and I thought a detailed description of that process would be a nice addition to the overall narrative. Describing the cooking process also gives me a unique story for each recipe because each recipe is one-of-a-kind.

I started this earlier with my grilled loin recipe. I am not always going to do this, but I will when applicable. For those of you here for more than just the cool graphics and are still reading at this point, I hope you enjoy the changes!

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4; 45 minutes
1 lb Chorizo fresh
1 C Red pepper, diced
1 C Onion diced
1 Tbs Garlic diced
1 tsp Smoked paprika
2 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 C Rice
3 C Chicken broth
Cilantro for garnish

Brown chorizo, sauté vegetables
In a large skillet over medium heat add chorizo, onion and red pepper. Cook until chorizo is browned and vegetables are soft, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add garlic, spices, rice; finish
Stir in garlic, spices and rice, cook until garlic is fragrant and rice is slightly toasted 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, keep lid on tight. Let rest for 10 minutes more. Remove cover, fluff with a fork and serve. Garnish with cilantro (optional).

Thick and Meaty Chili

Printable version
In response to the 10 inches of what the news labeled as “heart attack snow” that fell last week in Northern Indiana, I decided to whip up a pot of chili to comfort my soul. I needed something positive to go with Old Man Winter’s latest thrashing.

I had been waiting for the perfect time to try a recipe inspired by a chili contest I had entered last fall. Many of the entrants were hard-core competition cooks. They all made a similar type of chili that went into an expert category. It was more like a spicy, meat sauce with no beans and a smaller amount of vegetables and peppers than traditional chili.

I thought it would be the perfect dish to make for a snow storm and last Wednesday’s was hopefully my last chance this season to do it.

This recipe contains a large amount of beef and lots of liquid which is cooked out over time. As the chili simmers and reduces it gets thicker and the flavors concentrate, turning it into a dish so tasty I forgot about the snow outside.

I had been wanting to make a pot of chili like this for some time. As I mention in the introduction, it was inspired by a chili contest I entered last fall, called Chilifest in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I had entered chili cook-offs before but this was the biggest by far. I wrote about it here and entered a unique vegan chili for Fort Wayne Trails.

Many entrants seemed to belong to a club or group that went from chili contest to chili contest – almost like a car club that passes their spare time traveling to car shows on the weekend, except these people’s passion was chili instead of cars. All were very nice and many came to me to try the chili I had entered because it was a vegan chili, and many wanted a taste. After I got to sample their entries I realized why they were intrigued by mine. The contest regulars had their own category called CASI chili. (Chili Appreciation Society International) It’s officially sanctioned and the polar opposite to the chili I entered (hence the interest). What I loved about the CASI chili was its rich and meaty flavor. Many were spicy as well, I made note of the recipes and decided that I wanted to enter a CASI chili in next year’s contest.

I consider this recipe a great start for a CASI chili. It needs more spice and something to set it apart from the rest to enter in a contest, but it is exactly what I was hoping for as far as the texture and look. With a few refinements, I think I will have a chili that can compete.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 8; 3 to 3 1/2 hours
3 lb Ground beef
2 C Onion, diced
3 Tbs Garlic, minced
2 can Crushed tomato, 28 oz each
3 1/2 C Beef broth
1/4 C Chili powder
2 Tbs Cumin
5 Serrano chiles, whole

Brown beef, cook vegetables
In a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, add ground beef and onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until beef is browned and onions are soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add remaining ingredients, reduce
Make length-wise slices in chiles then add to pot. Stir in tomatoes, broth, spices and chiles. Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally and skim off fat if needed. Once mixture has reduced and thickened, remove and serve.

Sour cream, cheddar cheese, cilantro or crushed saltine crackers.

Rosemary Grilled Loin Chops

Printable version
This is a simple and elegant meal, flavorful enough for a special occasion and easy to create while chatting up guests. It starts with mini-red potatoes tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper, then roasted in the oven - super simple! As always the potatoes need to be pierced with a knife or fork a few times so that they don’t become little potato bombs while cooking.

The loin chops feature fresh rosemary and is the only extra ingredient used here. The rosemary’s pine-esque flavor helps give the chop a gourmet taste. I place the seasoned chops on the grill and left them alone for the first 7 minutes. This helped create the deep colored grill marks which adds to the presentation of the final dish. After one flip and a few more minutes the chops were done on the heat but I allowed them to rest for another ten minutes before serving, which helps keep all of the yummy goodness locked inside.

When finished, it’s all presented family style on a large plater that shouts “Time to eat.”

I was surprised when this meal was finished. I was just creating a simple dinner and it turned out really elegant in flavor and presentation. One of the keys here is the grill marks on the chops. I oiled the grill before throwing them on and I think that really aided in giving them their golden-brown marks that made them look like they had been prepared in a restaurant. That, and the fact that I let them sit without moving or touching them for the first few minutes while they seared.

I love to use rosemary.

Once while I lived in New York I was visiting home and I made a batch of chops for a little party we were having for a late night snack. (Chops for a snack? yep, it was quite a party!) I used rosemary to flavor them and left the little leaves whole instead of mincing them up. I grilled the chops and put them out to everyone’s delight.

At one point my Aunt Roxie took a good look at the chop she was going to eating and yelled out with a sense of urgency “What the hell is this grass shit on the pork chop!”

Everyone stop pigging out and looked at me. I assured them that it was ok, and that it wasn’t grass, but rosemary, which was responsible for the wonderful flavor that the chops had. All was well after my explanation and everyone went back to their snack. Aunt Roxie did pick the little rosemary leaves from her chop before she ate it though.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4; 1 hour
2 lb Small red potatoes
2 lb Loin chops, boneless
2 Tbs Rosemary
fresh, minced
Olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning

Bake Potatoes

In a roasting pan, toss potatoes in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork or knife. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes, or until cooked through.

Season, grill chops
Season pork chops with salt and pepper and sprinkle with rosemary. Sear on an oiled hot grill for 6 to 8 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes.

Place chops on a plater surrounded by potatoes and serve.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Printable version
When I set out to make this dish I was going to recreate a recipe I had made for the print column more than two years ago, before I had even started this blog. My photography skills are so much better now. I have been trying to go back and re-shoot some of the recipes that I made in the beginning when my skills and equipment were less than adequate.

I was intending to make shrimp fettuccine alfredo but Meijer didn’t have any frozen raw shrimp with tails and shells removed, which is what was required.

Once I realized I was going to have to go somewhere else to find the shrimp I thought I would just make a basic alfredo recipe. It’s a good one to have around because you can add whatever is desired. The creamy Parmesan sauce is a flavorful binder that works with any type of noodle, vegetable or protein. Even without the meat it's a tasty and filling side to any meal. 

I made this last Friday. I was really banking on the shrimp because it’s Lent for us Catholics and I thought it would be a good non-meat dish, I forgot about this fact when I left the store and didn’t get any other fish to cook, which left me with just this for the main part of my meal for supper. It’s delicious but I was craving something else to round it off, it doesn't work by itself as a main dish without a protein, great for a side, but it needs some support for a full meal.

Had I thought about it, I would have bought some of the shell-on raw shrimp and cooked up a batch to go along side this but it didn’t occur to me.

Believe it or not, it does take some discipline to give up meat on Fridays during Lent. It’s so easy to forget and find yourself eating a Big Mac. Then, all of the sudden, you remember it's Friday! That's when the Lord's name is taken in vain – and off to confession you go.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4; 30 minutes
1/4 C Unsalted butter
1/2 C Onion, diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced
1 C Heavy cream
1 C Parmesan cheese,fresh grated
8 oz Fettuccine

Fresh parsley,chopped

Sauté vegetables
Start pasta, see below. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté onion in butter until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Make sauce
Add cream and heat until it simmers slightly. Stir in 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, let melt completely then repeat until cheese is gone.

Toss pasta and sauce together, place on a plate and garnish with fresh parsley.

Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine, return to boil cook 10 to 11 minutes for al denté, then drain.

Chicken Kabobs with Spicy Chipotle Ranch

Printable version
Last week, I said right here on this blog that using my stove top grill would be enough to get me through to the warm weather, where I could be outside using my actual grill.

I lied.

It wasn’t enough.

Just as a snow storm rolled through the area last Wednesday, I found myself with the sudden urge to be grilling again. Unable to resist this primal desire, I busted out the stove top grill, put on a t-shirt and cargo shorts and cooked up my dinner.

For this recipe, I make chicken kabobs. Instead of putting everything on the same skewers, I separate the chicken from the vegetables. Chicken must be cooked all of the way through and requires more time. Cooking them separately helps avoid over cooking the vegetables.

I serve these kabobs in a soft taco with ranch dressing that I spice up by adding minced chipotle peppers. This yummy grilled treat has made it much easier to endure the cold as I wait for warmer spring weather.

The irony of this recipe is that another storm (Saturn) rolled through and dropped even more snow in Northern Indiana as it was being published. It was created for the weekly print column, so I made it a week in advance during a completely different weather event. It went to print Tuesday and that night we got hit with the biggest snow of the season. It was enough to have to call in my uncle to plow the driveway - something that hasn’t been needed all winter. I’m hoping it's the last hurrah for old man winter this season.

I’m so ready for warm weather, we’re getting close to mid-March so I know that warm temperatures are just around the corner, but I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve trying to fall asleep. I just can’t wait to be outside with a campfire and charcoal grill, it’s my favorite thing about the summers here in rural Indiana. Until then, I guess I'll just hangout in my kitchen wearing flip-flops, cargo shorts and a t-shirt.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4; 35 minutes
6 to 8 Bamboo skewers
1 1/4 lb Chicken breast, cut into 1-inch squares
2 Red peppers, cut into1-inch squares
1 Red onion, cut into 1-inch squares
2 Chipotle peppers, minced
1/2 C Ranch dressing
8 Pitas or tortillas
Lettuce, shredded
Tomato, sliced 

Skewer chicken, vegetables
Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least half an hour. Place chicken on one set of skewers. On another place red pepper and onion alternating each one after the other. Brush with olive oil and season to taste. 

Make sauce, grill skewers
Mix together chipotle pepper and ranch dressing. On a hot grill place skewers, cook chicken until cook through 8 to 10 minutes per side. At same time cook vegetables until softened, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Let skewers rest at least 5 minutes. 

Remove chicken and vegetables from skewers and serve on pitas or tortillas with sauce, lettuce and tomato. 

Bowtie Pasta in Mushroom Sauce

Printable version
I would rate this mushroom and bowtie pasta dish as a 7 on a scale of 10. It had good flavor, the noodles and mushroom were cooked spot on, and it worked as a side dish really well. I would be happy to put this out at any family get-together or eat with dinner anytime, which is why I thought I should publish it.

That said, it lacked the punch that I like to get with most of my dishes here at Behind the Bites. I think I needed a cream element to help make it more rich or some shredded beef for more hardiness in the overall recipe.

Any suggestions are welcomed here, please message me or make a comment if you see an easy way to put this dish over the top. It’s obvious that it could be beef and noodles. I think this dish could stand out in a different way though. I’m going to revisit this in the near future - in the meantime I’d like to here what readers think. Any creative solutions for knocking this dish out of the park?

All ideas are welcome. 

I really love making mushroom sauce, the earthy flavor found in mushrooms seems to make them ideal for sauces and gravies, it’s my favorite way to consume them. (Unless we are talking about morels – that's a whole different story)

I have a weird custom when I purchase mushrooms at the store. I can’t bring myself to buying them already sliced. That would take all the fun out of the process for me. There is something about washing and slicing them up. That goes for anything I make though, I would much rather do the slicing and dicing myself - it’s part of why I love cooking. Now, that goes for small amounts. If I need 20 pounds of mushrooms and can get them pre-sliced, I think I’d pay a little extra to avoid 2-hours of work. 10 minutes of work is cool, 2 hours – not so much.

Eat well, cook often ...

Side for 6; 40 minutes
8 oz Mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbs Butter, unsalted
2 Tbs Flour, sifted
3 C Beef broth
1 Tbs Fresh thyme
12 oz Bowtie pasta

Suaté Mushrooms, add broth
Start pasta. In a sauce pan over medium heat sauté mushrooms until they have released their liquid, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add butter, let melt, then stir in flour. Let mixture cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in broth and thyme, simmer on low.

Make Bow tie pasta, finish sauce

Bring a quart of salted water to a boil, add pasta and return to boil. Let cook 12 to 14 minutes for al dente, then drain. Add pasta to sauce and let simmer until thickened slightly then serve. 

Southwest Cream of Chicken Soup

Printable version
If I’m going to use chicken in a soup I always use thighs. The dark meat seems to be richer and more flavorful, making it perfect for a hardy soup or stew. I love the white meat on the grill or when the chicken stands alone, but for a soup I think the dark meat works best. I picked up a package of chicken thighs the other day and decided it was time to make a yummy soup.

I wanted to step outside the box a little and decided to make a cream of chicken. I love homemade cream soups, when it is done right it ads a rich and silky texture that store bought cream soups just can’t match. I added some poblano peppers and took this recipe to the southwest. I included corn, chili powder and cumin for extra wow factor as well.

The end result was a rich and creamy dish with hardiness and spice. It had all the elements of a good chicken chili but with the depth of a delicious soup. This was the perfect late winter recipe containing the flavor of comfort food combined with the warmth of the southwest and coming spring weather.

I really loved this dish. I ate the first bowl in record time. As I just mentioned in the intro, it contained the depth of a good comfort dish but also the warm flavors of spring and summer. I really thought this soup was perfect for March. (But it’s good enough to be eaten anytime of the year)

My mom got a sample and it reminded her of a white chili, which is true, because it contains most of the same elements. What makes it different is the creamy liquid that binds it all together.

This is the second time I have made a cream soup for the column/blog. The first time was a cream of mushroom I made back in 2011. It, like this soup, I devoured like a starving lunatic.

There is nothing like a homemade cream soup, it puts the store-bought canned versions to shame. If you like them canned, you should make a version from scratch at least once. Be careful if you try it though, you may never eat the canned version again.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4; 40 minutes
1/4 C Unsalted butter
1/2 C Onion diced
1/2 C Celery diced
1/2 C Carrot diced
1 C Poblano pepper seeded, diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
1/4 C Flour sifted
2 C Milk
2 C Chicken broth
2 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Cumin
2 lb Cooked chicken shredded
1 can Sweet corn drained
Fresh cilantro for garnish

Create base
In a soup pot over medium heat melt butter then sauté onion, celery, carrot and poblano pepper until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Make Roux; add liquids
Stir in flour until well incorporated, let mixture cook 3 to 4 minutes. Add milk and broth, stir together well so roux dissolves in liquid.

Finish soup
Add spices, chicken and corn to pot. Bring to a simmer and let cook 12 to 15 minutes and soup has thickened.

Spoon soup into bowls for serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.

Grilled Pork Sliders with Coleslaw

Printable version
Spring is just around the corner in Northern Indiana and soon the cold winds and snow will give way to warm breezes and the summer rain. It’s also the time of year that I really start to crave food cooked on a grill. I’m tired of the casseroles, pot roasts and other types of comfort food that I have been making indoors since the cold weather blew in.

Inspired by the approaching spring weather, and craving the flavor of seared animal flesh, I decided to break out my stove top grill and make a batch of mini-burgers to put my mind at ease. (I have actually been using the grill a lot lately.)

For this recipe, I make sliders from ground pork. To add to the warm weather ambiance, I top them with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, a summer party favorite that works great as a side but even better as a crunchy topping for this sandwich. Making these wasn’t as thrilling as an outdoor grill-a-thon in cargo shorts and a T-shirt, but it might be enough to get me through the rest of winter without going out of my mind.

I recently made a spicy Southwestern version of coleslaw and had some cabbage leftover. I decided to make a normal version so it didn’t go to waste and that’s when I thought it would be cool to use it as a topping for sliders. I often have a lot of leftovers and the cabbage is a perfect example.

Throwing away food is just throwing away money and I have made it my goal recently to cut down on what I toss in the garbage - much of which is leftover stuff I have made for the print column and this site. It’s not that it tastes bad, it’s more about buying to much initially and only part of it gets used. It seems as though I always buy one to many tomatoes or an extra jalapeno that ends up getting thrown away. The cabbage was extreme though - I only used half the bag initially - this time I put it to good use.

Eat will, cook often ...

Serve 4; 40 minutes
3 C Cabbage mix
1/3 C Mayo
1 Tbs Vinegar
1 Tbs Sugar
1 Tbs Vegetable oil
1/4 tsp Celery salt
1 lb Ground pork
8 Dinner rolls
1/2 C Barbecue sauce

Make slaw
In a bowl mix together cabbage, mayo, vinegar, sugar and celery salt. Refrigerate and let sit for at least half an hour.

Cook pork, assemble sliders

Form pork into 8 patties and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a medium-high grill and sear until cooked through 5 to 7 minutes per side. Remove, let rest at least ten minutes. Split bun and layer pork, barbecue sauce and coleslaw. Then serve.