Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pork and Beans


Printable version
This recipe started with an impulse-buy. I was looking in the meat case at the local super market when I noticed smoked pork shank on sale. Which is basically the back thigh of a pig just underneath its butt, or the more delectably named ham. I had never worked with shank but I thought I could make a great soup with it, because I knew a long simmer would extract some of the yummy goodness locked up in the cut.

I proceeded to the produce section and picked up what I didn’t already have in my pantry for a mirepoix, headed through the checkout and was on my way home. As I pulled out of the parking lot I had an epiphany and thought I should make pork and beans with it. So I made another stop a mile down the road at another grocery store to pick up some dried cannellini beans.

That's how many of these recipes develop though.

I have an idea of what to make and as I think more and more about it, the whole dish changes by the time I get home. Luckily, with this one there was another grocery store between the new idea and getting home.

Pork and Beans
The final dish was really tasty, the smoked shank provided a meaty hickory flavor to the broth and the beans were cooked just perfect. I fed this to my Mom and Dad for dinner and they both enjoyed it. What they didn’t enjoy was being in the same room together a couple hours after eating all the beans. Lets just say lots of air freshener was needed at their house that night.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I have really enjoyed the comfort food now that fall weather has set in here in Northern Indiana. Pork and beans, tomato soup with grilled cheese, and two types of chili are just a few of the things I’ve made in just the last couple of weeks. (some will appear here eventually)

It's hard to believe Halloween is here and next week I will start the annual march toward Thanksgiving. I have to make all my Turkey day dishes ahead so that they are ready to be published before the holiday. This is the fourth time around for me and the food column, so this year I’m planning to go bigger than ever for the annual event. By the time the actual holiday gets here I’m sure I’ll be tired of all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Pork and Beans

Serves 4 to 6; 4 hours
1 lb Cannellini beans
1 C Red onion diced
1/2 C Carrot diced
1/2 C Celery diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
8 C Chicken broth
2 lbs Smoked pork shank

Quick soak beans
In a pot over high heat cover beans with 1-inch of water and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat and let beans soak for at least 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans in a colander then set aside.

Make base, simmer
In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat sauté onion, celery and carrot in a little olive oil until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Add broth, pork shank and beans to pot. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, or until beans and pork are tender.

Finish
Remove pork from pot and shred, discard bones, Return shredded pork to pot and simmer for 30 minutes more. Remove from heat, spoon into bowls and serve.

Asian Meatball Subs


I'm doing something different with this post.

In the past, I wouldn't have posted this recipe. I served it to a group of friends last Sunday and it was a tasty treat that got a lot of compliments. It was an experiment though, with great potential to be a blockbuster party snack, but there are a couple of adjustments that need to be made for me to spend the time it takes to create the visual recipe that would be the centerpiece of the post. I do think this is worth sharing though because it was a tasty snack that can easily feed a group of 8 to 10. So, I'm just going with a few nice pics of the finished product, instead of the full-blown graphic treatment.

I decided to post this because I was going through photos of past recipes and looking at stuff I had never published. What I found was lots of good, original food creations that I would serve to anyone. The reason I didn't create a graphic for them was because they needed an adjustment to be a home run, rather than just a double up the middle. Sometimes I strikeout and those recipes shouldn't be published, but on the flip side it doesn't have to be an Iron Chef quality recipe to make it here - afterall, I'm not gonna run out of paper.

That said, I think this recipe needs an adjustment to the flavor of the meatball, so I really don't want to spend the time it takes to create a photo-driven infographic when I know I'm going to revisit it soon and turn it into something I would publish in a book - where paper does run out!

BEHIND THIS BITE
Asian Meatball Subs

This is a play on my simple meatball sub recipe. I just thought I would twist it around a little and surround it with Asian flavors instead of Italian flavors. It seemed like a simple way to create something new from one of my favorite easy party snacks.

I purchased home-style meatballs from the freezer isle rather than Italian-style meatballs, but that was the fatal flaw of this dish. Even the home-style frozen meatballs were really garlicy and Italian flavored. They over-powered the stir fry sauce and broccoli slaw. I will make these again but I need to make the meatballs from scratch and use authentic Asian flavors that compliment the sauce and slaw. They were still tasty but to make a great Asian meatball sub, I won't be able to take the processed freezer isle route. (Unless Meijer starts carrying Asian-style meatballs of course.)

If I'm going to go all out and make the meatballs from scratch next time, I will also make the stir fry sauce rather than a store bought version. I think to do this right it needs to be more complex.

Overall, I would recommend this simple version for a low maintenance treat to take to a pot luck, they are tasty - just not 15-photo, full work-day information-graphic tasty. That will come later down the road!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Asian Meatball Subs

Serves 8 to 10, 3 to 4 hours (15 minutes active)
4 lbs Home-style frozen Meatballs
2 bottles Stir fry sauce (12 oz each)
2 bags Broccoli slaw (12 oz each)
1/2 C Rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs Sesame oil

Make Meatballs
Toss meatballs with sauce in a slow cooker. Heat on high for 2 hours, stir pot, and heat another hour or until hot and simmering.

Make slaw
Toss together broccoli slaw, rice vinegar and sesame oil, place in fridge and let marinate for at least two hours. Season with a little salt if necessary.

Make sub
On a hot dog bun layer meatballs and slaw, then serve.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Breakfast Meat Lovers Pizza


Printable version
The aroma of breakfast cooking was my Saturday morning alarm clock growing up, and to this day I love a big morning feast to start a long road trip or a busy Saturday. Most days I eat little or no breakfast at all, which is why I really savor it when I get a chance to go all out.

My favorite part of the morning meal is the meat. Most of the time I go for bacon, but I’ll mix it up every once in a while with sausage patties or smoky links, and I’m always a sucker for a bucket full of sausage gravy over fresh baked biscuits.

In an attempt to satisfy all my carnivore breakfast cravings at once I decided to pile them onto a mega-meat lovers pizza.

For this recipe, sausage gravy acts as the sauce and combines with the melted cheese to make an extra creamy breakfast pie. It also features a double dose of smoky with the addition of bacon and little slices of smoky links. All of this meaty breakfast madness culminates in a hardy pizza that will fill the belly regardless of what time of day it’s eaten.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Breakfast Meat Lovers Pizza

I wanted to put eggs on this pie but I left them off at the last minute so that the pizza would feature only breakfast meats. Also, I have used eggs on pizza before and it adds a creaminess to the pie, which I thought might be to much because, as I mentioned in the introduction, the cheese and gravy make this a really creamy pizza already.

It’s been a while since I posted a pizza recipe here at Behind the Bites. Once I decided I was going to make this pie I knew I wanted to present this one a little different than the pizzas I had done in the past. The difference is really quite subtle but effective. The main shot of the finished pizza is from a 3/4 view rather than a Birdseye shot and I left the pizza on my wooden peel. I had to photoshop a couple of transparent white boxes in so the type for some of the ingredients was readable, which is a minor tradeoff for what I think is a more eye catching presentation of a pizza.

 Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Breakfast Meat Lovers Pizza

Make 2 12” pizzas; 30 minutes
Divide over 2 12” pre-made pizza crusts
2 C Sausage gravy
6 slices Bacon, cooked, crumbled
1 pkg Smoky links, sliced
1 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Assemble and bake pizza
On pizza crust layer sausage gravy, bacon, smoky links and cheese. Bake in a preheated 425° oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly and crust is golden brown, slice and serve.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tacos For 125: Meal Overview

I was completely excited about making the food for this party as soon as I was asked to do it and was told "do whatever you think will work for 100 to 150 people."

Tacos, Mexican fiesta, sauces, nachos, chili - That was my first thought and the party hosts were totally cool with it.

Game on.

Close family friend, Joannie Schnellbach asked me to make the food for a party in honor of her daughter's recent marriage. The bride, Brittany and love of her life, Kevin Bewely tied the knot a few weeks before in a small private ceremony. They wanted to throw a big party for all the friends and family that would have attended a more public and larger wedding celebration. The shindig was going to be held at our family camp ground, so it was home turf to me.

A taco bar is a simple way to feed a lot of people, all of the ingredients can be mixed and matched. A simple taco or a hardy plate of nachos can be made from all the different ingredients. To take the taco bar concept into the gourmet realm I made a series of hot and mild sauces, a ranch-buttermilk based finishing sauce and the meats featured a special marinade and seasoning. For the kids, it was decided to have a small hot dog bar off to the side of the Taco fiesta.

When planning for a meal in general, a good ball park figure is 4 oz portions of meat per person. That is a lot of meat for a soft taco to hold, so I figured that for each person to get 4 oz of meat they would probably need at least two tacos. There were roughly 125 rsvps, Joannie told me to plan for 150, just to be on the safe side. Roughly 40 pounds of meat would be needed to make an estimated 300 tacos.

We decided to only put out small plates and little ballpark-style boats for nachos. This forced people to eat one or two tacos or a modest plate of nachos at a time. It was a little cruel to do it that way but if you give people a big plate, they will fill it – normal people in front of a giant spreads of food will pile food on plates as if they were Spartans prepping for battle. In my experience catering dinners and receptions I have become disgusted by what people do when an unlimited amount of food is set before them. Some people really just eat like hogs when given the chance. Others just pile it on a plate and throw half of it away.

If they were gonna eat like heathens at our fiesta, they were gonna have to do it with multiple trips.

The plan worked. People ate their fill, but there were no plates half full of food tossed in the dumpster.

The tomatoes for the sauces and taco garnishes were fresh from the garden. The party was Sept. 28, right in time for everyone to be bringing in their final harvests before tilling the garden under. I had a full 5-gallon bucket of tomatoes just for sauces and fresh salsa, with another bucket fresh picked before the party for garnish and an impromptu bowl of pico de gallo.

All the shopping for the Saturday party was done the Wednesday before. The sauces were made Thursday, the meat and chili on Friday. All of the little taco and nacho garnishes were done Saturday morning. Being able to do the sauces and meat ahead of time allowed for a really relaxed catering job, there were no moments where I felt I was in the weeds and the prep couldn't have went any better than it did.

THE MEAT
Recipe for the meats

THE SAUCES
Ancho chili sauce
Guajillo chili sauce
Salsa verde
Ranch tomatillo dressing



THE PARTY
The biggest surprise was the amount of people who opted for a plate of nachos rather than soft tacos. They covered the chips with all the gourmet meats and sauces like they would have a taco, many just opted for tortilla chips to deliver the goods.

Another huge surprise was raw onion. I could not keep the container full, I diced at least 10 large red onions before and during the party. When it comes to a taco bar make sure you give them onions!

Another unexpected dilemma was the nacho cheese sauce. We purchased a large gallon container of it and I thought it would be nice for the nacho chips but it was really intended for the hot dog bar put out for the kids. But, like the onions, I couldn't put enough out. People were drowning plates of nachos with the stuff, there was a group of teenage boys that should have just grabbed pint glasses of it and drank it because that would have been more practical than the runny mess they made at the counter. So, if you put nacho cheese on a taco bar, PLAN TO HAVE AS MUCH NACHO CHEESE AS YOU DO MEAT! It was the first and only item that I ran completely out of.

The party had three main waves of eating, and there were people snacking at all times. The first big wave was right when the party started at 2 p.m. and it was mostly the bride and groom's family. The second wave was around 5 or 6 and was a mix of family and a younger crowd of friends that were there to party. The third wave was later that night when all of the party people got the munchies. The late night run got crazy with people using the chili as taco filling. (Which was pretty tasty I must say.)

In the end, small portions of meat were left, a few soft tacos and a half bag nachos. The mild sauces ran out, but I had a lot of the spicier salsa left over. There was just a small amount of chili left and a few dogs. If I had to do it again I would do it exactly the same way, except I would probably make more mild sauce than hot and I would have purchased 2 gallons of Nacho cheese instead of 1.

It was a complete success.

FYI - Desert and cake was provided by the Mother and drinks were BYOB ... 


THE LIST
My grocery list that became the meal:
300 tortillas
30 lbs chicken
1 gallon margarita mix
30 lbs ground beef
2 Cups  Chili powder
1 Cup Cumin
5 lbs tomatillos
15 pounds tomatoes
30 red onions
30 to 40 jalapeños
3 lbs green peppers
20 limes
10 bunches of cilantro
Half gallon buttermilk
Jar of mayo
2 packets of ranch seasoning mix
1 Bag each of dried ancho and gaujillo chilis
10 heads of garlic
5 heads of lettuce
5 lbs shredded cheddar cheese
150 oz of tortilla chips (6 25 oz bags)
1 gallon of salsa for chips
60 hot dogs
60 hot dog buns
1 gallon Hot dog chili sauce
1 gallon nacho cheese
2 30 oz can refried beans
5 cans black beans
5 cans corn
4 32 oz boxes beef broth

What it makes
300 Tacos - meat, garnishes, sauces
10 quarts of Southwestern Black bean and corn chili
60 hot dogs - chili or nacho cheese
Chips and salsa, or a plate of nachos for 125 people

This party was a total success, it seemed as though there was enough variety that everyone was able to build the taco or nacho plate that they wanted. Cant wait to do it again.

Eat well, cook often ...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tacos for 125: The Meat


Margarita chicken taco
When I originally started to plan this meal I was gunning for lime-garlic chicken and a flank steak preparation of some kind. As I got to pricing it out I quickly realized that I would need to replace the flank steak with ground beef because the steak would have eaten up to much of my limited budget. By switching to ground beef, not only would I have a beef taco but I could also make a 5 gallon pot of southwestern style chili.

During my search for a large container of lime juice for the chicken I wasn’t having any luck with finding a gallon size offering on the shelf. I did stumble upon half gallon containers of margarita mix though. I took a look at the ingredients and I realized it had what I needed as for as citric acid to be a good marinade for the chicken. I switched on the fly and bought a gallon of regular margarita mix for marinade.

I bought 30 pounds of chicken breast and 30 pounds of ground beef. 20 pounds each for tacos. The margarita mix was actually a great marinade that I plan on using again, it provided the yummy lemon-lime flavor with a bit of sweet. I seasoned the ground beef for tacos with a simple chili powder-cumin mix that provides all the great flavors of those store-bought taco seasoning packets without all the extra sodium.

After the meat for the tacos and southwestern chili was made I had 10 pounds of emergency chicken left that we never had to use. The plan was to see how things were going and cook it on the fly if necessary but we never had to break it out.

All of the meat was made the day before, refrigerated and then heated to temperature for service before the party. I stored everything in 5 pound bags which I brought out of the refrigerator and warmed up as needed throughout the party. It worked better than I had even planned and I would do this exactly the same way if I had to do it again.

MORE POSTS RELATED TO THIS MEAL
Salsa Verde
Gaujillo Sauce
Ancho Sauce
Meal Overview

THE RECIPES
Ground beef taco

MARGARITA CHICKEN
Makes 20 pounds; 3 to 4 hours
20 lbs Chicken breast
1 gallon Margarita mix

Marinate, grill chicken
In a large kitchen bucket soak chicken in margarita mix for two hours. Half an hour before removing chicken, prepare charcoal grill. Remove chicken from mix shaking of excess liquid. Season chicken with salt and pepper then grill in batches. Cook chicken until cooked through. 6 to 8 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165°.

Dice, serve
Let chicken rest and cool slightly, then dice into small chunks. Put chicken in a warmer for service. If making a day ahead, store in gallon sized bags and  refrigerate until 1 hour before service time then re-heat for serving.

TACO SEASONED GROUND BEEF
Makes 20 pounds; 1 hour
20 lbs Ground beef (5 lb batches)
1 C Chili powder (1/4 C per batch)
3/4 C Cumin (3 Tbs per batch)
Salt and Pepper (Approximately 3 Tbs salt and 2 Tbs pepper per batch)

Cook, season beef
In a large pot over medium high heat cook ground beef in 5 pound batches until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes per batch. Stirring occasionally, breaking up any chunks. Season with salt and pepper at the start. Half way through cooking add chili powder and cumin. Once finished remove to a large vessel and serve. If making a day ahead, let cool and store in gallon zip lock bags, refrigerate until an hour before service then reheat for serving.



Tacos for 125: Salsa Verde


Salsa Verde
I knew I would have a variety of red sauces for the party so I wanted to make a green sauce, or a salsa verde to go with them. The base of this sauce is similar to the red sauces, the major difference is tomatillos replace the chilis and tomatoes. (Hence, the green color.)

The first batch of this sauce I made was actually pretty hot. I had seeded and stemmed the jalapeños but I think there were a couple of peppers on the high end of the heat scale because I got a pretty nice kick upon the first taste. The second batch I dialed back the heat.

The verde was made to go with the chicken. That is how I like to pair the sauces, green with the poultry and red with the beef. Any combo works but that is how I planned it for this particular meal. I thought a sweet and spicy verde would go perfect with my margarita grilled chicken.

Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes in natural paper wrappers. They are actually large berries and are a staple in Mexican cuisine.

MORE POSTS RELATED TO THIS MEAL
Gaujillo Sauce
Ancho Sauce
The meat
Meal overview

THE RECIPE
Salsa Verde

Makes 2 Quarts
8 to 10 Tomatillos, quartered
4 Red onions, quartered
6 Jalapeños
6 to 8 Garlic cloves
2 C Cilantro
Juice of 3 Limes

Roast or grill vegetables
Preheat oven or grill to 425°. Toss tomatillos, onions, garlic and jalapeños in a little olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tomatillos wilt and edges appear slightly scorched.

Blend, adjust taste
IN TWO BATCHES place vegetables, cilantro and lime juice in blender, then liquefy. Taste, adjust seasoning and add a little water until desired consistency is achieved.

FOR HOT AND MILD VERDE

To make a hot salsa and a mild salsa, place more of the jalapeños in one batch than the other or adjust heat intensity by removing all, some or none of the stems and seeds of the jalapeño. 

Tacos for 125: Gaujillo Chili Sauce


Gaujillo Chili Sauce
This sauce features the guajillo chili and required less sugar to balance the bitterness than the other red sauce I made for the diner. Because of that I decided to make a super hot offering. The first batch was of medium heat but the second batch I left the jalapeños whole except for the stems. With less sugar to cut the heat, I knew that I would get a better sting. I like it hot and I knew there would be a few others at the party who would too, so I wanted to make a sauce with lots of kick. This was the chili sauce to do it with and it didn't take much to numb the lips.

The guajillo chili (pronounced wha-he-oh) is a fruity flavored pepper with mild heat, and a little brighter and less bitter than the more popular ancho chili. Made from a dried Mirasol chili it originates in central and northern Mexico but is now grown in many places around the world including China, Peru and the Untied States.

MORE POSTS RELATED TO THIS MEAL
Salsa Verde
Ancho Sauce
The Meat
Meal Overview

THE RECIPE
Salsa bar for tacos
Makes 2 Quarts
8 to 10 Tomatoes, quartered
4 Red onions, quartered
6 Jalapeños
6 to 8 Garlic cloves
10 to 12 Guajillo chilis
2 C Cilantro
1 Tbs to 1/4 C Sugar
Juice of 3 Limes

Roast or grill vegetables, soak chilis

Preheat oven or grill to 425° and boil a pot of water. Toss tomatoes, onions, garlic and jalapeños in a little olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tomatoes wilt and edges appear slightly scorched. While vegetables cook, soak chilis in a bowl of boiling water covered with plastic wrap or with tight fitting lid for at least 15 minutes or until reconstituted.

Blend, adjust taste
Remove chilis from water, carefully discard stems and seeds. IN TWO BATCHES divide and place chilis, vegetables, sugar and cilantro in blender, then liquefy. Taste, add salt if needed, if slightly bitter add more sugar and if to thick add water until desired consistency is achieved.

FOR HOT AND MILD SALSA
To make a hot salsa and a mild salsa, place more of the jalapeños in one batch than the other or adjust heat intensity by removing all, some or none of the stems and seeds.

Tacos for 125: Ancho Chili Sauce


Ancho chili sauce
Due to the ripeness of the tomatoes I was using and the natural bitterness of the ancho chili I needed a good amount of sugar in each batch to give this sauce balance. I made a mild and hot version. The mild, which was also very sweet was the most popular red sauce of the four that were put out for the party.

In the future, I want to experiment with adding ingredients to this sauce. Dark brewed coffee or even some bakers chocolate would compliment the ancho chili. For the purposes of the party though I felt like this sauce was spot on and it garnered the most compliments of all traditional taco sauces. (A special white sauce I made for the party was the biggest hit, but it was a gourmet dressing rather than a taco sauce.)

An Ancho chili is a dried poblano pepper and is the most widely used dried chili in Mexico. It has a “dark” or “rich” flavor similar to prunes or raisins with a slight amount of bitterness. It is considered to have a mild to medium heat.

MORE POSTS RELATED TO THIS MEAL
Salsa Verde
Gaujillo Sauce
The Meat
Meal Overview


THE RECIPE
Salsa bar for tacos
Makes 2 Quarts
8 to 10 Tomatoes, quartered
4 Red onions, quartered
6 Jalapeños
6 to 8 Garlic cloves
6 to 8 Ancho chilis
2 C Cilantro
2 Tbs to 1/2 C Sugar
Juice of 3 Limes

Roast or grill vegetables, soak chilis
Preheat oven or grill to 425° and boil pot of water. Toss tomatoes, onions, garlic and jalapeños in a little olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tomatoes wilt and edges appear slightly scorched. While vegetables cook soak chilis in a bowl of boiling water covered with plastic wrap or a with tight fitting lid for at least 15 minutes or until reconstituted.

Blend, adjust taste
Remove chilis from water and carefully remove stem and seeds. IN TWO BATCHES, divide and place chilis, vegetables, sugar and cilantro in blender, then liquefy. Taste, adjust seasoning, if slightly bitter add a little more sugar and if to thick add water until desired consistency is achieved.

FOR HOT AND MILD SALSA
To make a hot salsa and a mild salsa, place more of the jalapeños in one batch than the other or adjust heat intensity by removing all, some or none of the stems and seeds.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

Printable version

As I drive around rural Northern Indiana I’m noticing a couple of things. First, the leaves are starting to change and the colorful fall landscapes are emerging over freshly harvested fields. The reds, yellows and browns create some of the most beautiful scenes mother nature has to offer and are one of my favorite things to see since returning to Indiana.

Second, the once lush gardens from this summer are being tilled under and the final bounties are being taken in, which means one thing – we're up to our necks in winter squash! I like one variety in particular - spaghetti squash. I use it as a light substitute for spaghetti pasta. I can wolf down a double helping without having to take a full-belly pasta nap afterward.

For this recipe, I roast spaghetti squash and toss it with fresh Parmesan cheese. For extra flavor, I include cherry tomatoes and Italian seasoning, creating a light and flavorful side that will compliment any main course, from meat off the grill to a roast from the oven.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

We have finally reached the end of the garden cycle. Over the last two months I have been inundated with free fresh food raised by friends and family – the winter squash is the final phase. I didn’t care for squash at all until I discovered spaghetti squash a couple of years ago and it wasn't until this summer that I found an acorn squash preparation that I liked. I think the key for me is surrounding squash with savory flavors rather than sweet, and dry roasting them in the oven.

I have never liked pumpkin pie and most of the time I had eaten any type of squash it was over cooked and loaded with sweet, which is a double whammy of yuck for me. Dry roasted with an al dente texture is the way I like it cooked and why I like to roast squash cut side up – cut side down creates a steaming action that makes the squash mushy if it is not monitored closely. The addition of bold flavors also helps to bully the flavor of the squash to the side, but I must say spaghetti squash in particular seems to have a natural savory flavor and I have grown to like it very much. Something I never thought I would be saying three years ago.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

Serves 4; 50 minutes
1 Spaghetti squash, 4 to 5 lbs
1 C Parmesan cheese, fresh grated
1 pint Cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Prepare, roast squash

Preheat oven to 375°. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place both halves on a baking sheet, and roast in oven until cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes.

Toss, serve
Remove squash from oven and scrape flesh into a large bowl with a fork. Add parmesan cheese, cherry tomatos and Italian seasoning and toss together until well combined. Adjust seasoning if necessary, then serve.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

White Chicken Chili


Printable version
Now that October has arrived we enter the cooler phase of outdoor events here in Northern Indiana. Large fires and food to warm the belly are almost mandatory. One of the best ways to keep the cold away on a frosty night is a yummy batch of chili. Usually I make it meaty, thick and spicy. I don’t use beans unless I’m creating a large batch and need to make it go farther. Soupy chili with lots of beans has just never been my cup of tea.

Recently, I set out to create a white chicken version to expand my horizons. Ironically, after a couple of experiments, the culinary Gods spoke and I found that making a thin chili loaded with beans was the best way to make this type of dish.

This recipe features the Italian cannellini bean, which after a long simmer provides a rich, buttery flavor that compliments the chicken. Also, there is no chili powder just jalapeño. Cumin is the star spice and provides a slightly smoky and very distinct flavor. All together, this soupy chili with lots of beans makes for an all star snack on a cool fall evening and completely obliterates, in a yummy way, the thick and meaty version I usually put out on the table.

BEHIND THIS BITE
White Chicken Chili

I really liked this recipe. I like all the stuff that I publish here, obviously, but this dish was one of the best recipes I've published in the last couple of months. I was really impressed with the cannellini bean. It seemed to have soaked in the surrounding flavors as it simmered and produced a rich and meaty tastes that sent this dish out of the park.

I have made white chicken chili before, but never with this type of bean and never without the absence of chili powder. It made a difference and I can’t wait to make it again. Another secret to this is the Mexican oregano which shares the same pungent flavor of Mediterranean oregano with the inclusion of a slightly citrus and fennel flavor. I have used it in the last four or five batches of chili, white and red, and it's a small detail that goes a long way flavor wise. It’s best to sprinkle it in after grinding it with your palms – You’ll never make chili without it again.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
White Chicken Chili

Serves 4 to 6; 1 hour
2 lbs Chicken thighs, boneless, diced
1 C Onion diced
1/2 C Jalapeño, seeded, diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced
4 C Chicken broth
2 Cans Cannellini beans (15.5 oz each)
2 Tbs Cumin
1 tsp Mexican oregano
Optional garnishes: Corn chips, cilantro or sour cream

Brown Chicken
In a soup pot over medium heat cook chicken in a little olive oil until browned and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Stirring occasionally, salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Make chili
Add onion and jalapeno to pot and sauté until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic, cook 1 minute more. Return chicken then add beans, cumin, oregano and broth to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes. Spoon into bowls, then serve. Garnish with corn chips, sour cream or cilantro. (Optional)