Saturday, July 31, 2010

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust

  Today is the first day in a long stretch the heat has not been unbearable.  There was rain for a good part of the morn, and the skies are still gray, even this close to supper-time.  I've loved every minute of today.  I could finally open the windows and take advantage of a nice breeze.  Electric food steamer did a vinegar water steam to combat the area's hard water build-up, and I have a couple of cast iron pieces in the oven getting an overdue cure.  Needless to say, my kitchen doesn't have the most pleasant smell right now.  But to pay homage to my beloved cast iron, I'm going to share a recipe I made a couple of weeks ago, White Chicken Chili with a Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust.  It's a recipe by Gaynell Lawson, from the National Cornbread Festival.  The festival is held once a year in South Pittsburgh, TN - home to Lodge Cast Iron.

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided (I'm fond of yellow onions)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
19 oz cannellini beans (also known as white kidney beans)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can chopped mild green chiles, drained
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (6 oz) package cornbread mix (Gaynell recommends Martha White Buttermilk or Cotton Country)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
Optional for topping - sour cream, salsa, cilantro

  First thing's first.  Preheat your oven to 400°F.

  Take a 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet, and heat the olive oil in it over medium heat.  Once the oil is heated, add in 1 cup of the onions, the garlic, green pepper, cumin, and chili powder.  Saute until the veggies are tender - plan on 3 to 5 minutes.  Once the vegetables are to your liking, add the lime juice, beans, chicken, broth, and the chiles.  Stir until everything is mixed well.  Remove from the heat while you make the crust.

  To make the crust, start by beating the egg in a medium mixing bowl.  Add in the milk, melted butter, and cornbread mix, and blend well.  At this point, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of onions and the grated cheese.  Spoon the mixture over the chili in the resting skillet.  Just try to spoon it over the chili evenly as you can, don't worry about spreading it to cover the chili - it'll do that magic in the oven on its own.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you see the crust is golden brown.  Pull it out of the oven and let it cool 5 minutes before serving.  Scoop it out into bowls and top with your desired goodies - check the optionals on the ingredient list.

Notes:  10 1/2 inch is the size of a standard cast iron skillet.  I personally skipped the extra 1/4 cup of onions in the cornbread.  And a dollop of sour cream is divine in a bowl of this stuff - I didn't need anything else.

For the curious, here are the websites for the National Cornbread Festival and Lodge Cast Iron.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Makeovers - the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Well, if you've wandered by here, you've probably noticed a wee change.  A new look for ye olde blog - everything should be reformatted.  At least I hope so, I spent a good, solid day tweaking and fixing HTML tags.  I rather like the new appearance; it's a bit more "me," I reckon. There's the for the bad and ugly.

I'm not the only one that's underwent change recently. has become  It's been a bumpy changeover, but there's a bug where the recipes aren't displaying properly at the moment.  Until I'm sure it is fixed, I'm removing it from my useful links.  I really don't care for the name change - it's bland.  The new look reminds me of Food Network's website - again, not really a fan of it's look, either.  I'm sure I'll use it again when the site is back up and running smoothly, but not nearly as often as I once did.  But over the past year, I've been spending more and more time over at Kittencal's Kitchen anywho, so don't guess I'm missing much.  ;)  *lowers her voice into a Mae West tone* That lady can cook, honey.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Say Hello to My Little Friend

Goodbye, old garlic press.  I will not miss half the cloves mashed inside.  I will not miss picking the detritus out of your holes with a toothpick.  

This is my new friend, the Garlic Twist.  I was introduced to Mr. Twist in early spring in an issue of Food Network magazine.  It was a review of salad gadgets, and it got pretty high marks.  I had a tough time finding them in stores, so I turned to my good faithful buddy, Amazon.  I was pretty surprise when I got it.  It's much bigger than I expected; I was thinking a little guy from the picture in the magazine.  Nope, this guy is a handful.  But that's not a bad thing.   

As you can see, I went with the red model.  American made, they come in translucent blue, red, and clear.  

Fully closed, you can give your garlic clove a good whack to make the skin easy peeling.  Open it up, and place the garlic on either side of the plastic teeth.  Position on your lid, and start twisting.  Admittedly, the first crank or two is the hardest because you are breaking the garlic down from the solid piece.  But once you muscle through the initial twists, you can crank it easily.  Longer you twist, finer the garlic mince. Open it up, and you'll find your garlic in two neat little triangles, ready to be scooped out - which is easy with a fork.  And it's easy to clean.  Did I mention, I really hate picking garlic out of presses?

Company Website: (As of posting, the website is going through reconstruction)
Price: Under $20 USD

Note: If you have a hard time gripping, another company makes a similar product, but instead of the solid hard plastic construction, it has metal blades in place of the plastic teeth.  I've seen them in a kitchen store when I was looking for these.  If they work as well as these, you'll be pleased.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Squash Casserole

Here's a very easy, no muss, no fuss dish that takes advantage of some of my favorite summer produce - yellow crookneck squash.  It's a little different than most squash casseroles, since it doesn't use canned soup, eggs, breadcrumbs or stuffing.  And the crackers don't go on top; they are mixed in with everything else.  Differences aside, it is still absolute comfort food.

Squash Casserole
Serves 6-8

3-4 cups of sliced yellow crookneck squash (about 4-5 squash)
1/2 small-medium onion, diced finely (I use a yellow or Vidalia onion)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons butter, solid
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (1/2 of a 8 ounce block)
20 Ritz® crackers, crushed (little over 1/2 of a roll of crackers)

  Time for the prep work.  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease a 8" square baking dish.

  Cook the squash just until barely tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain, and set aside.

  Melt the solid butter and add a drizzle of olive oil to a skillet.  The olive oil will raise the smoke point of the butter and give a touch of flavor.  Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onion is a golden color.  Make sure to keep your garlic moving, as it'll burn easy.

  In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, sour cream, and cheese.  Add in the sauteed onion, garlic, squash and crushed crackers and mix until everything is well combined.  Scoop the mixture into the greased baking dish.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until heated through and the top starts to get lightly browned.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kitchen 101: Non-reactive & Reactive

  It's hot outside, it's hot inside (AC isn't working).  So since I don't even want to think about food and potential heat sources, going to switch gears for a second and introduce a new category of posts - Kitchen 101.  Stuff that we should all know or learn to make life easier in the kitchen.  Some of this, I'm learning along with you folks.  The more cookbooks I read, the more new words, ingredients, & techniques I'm introduced to, and sometimes, they're just thrown out there and it's assumed the reader knows what it is.  Thank goodness for the interwebs, right kids?

  Today, let's dish about cookware.  Occasionally you're going to see the words "non-reactive" ____________ (insert skillet, bowl, pan, etc. here) in a recipe.  What does that mean?  Time to take a field trip back to science class - it comes down to chemical reactions.  Don't worry, I'm going to gloss over the technical stuff - but it boils down to mainly acidic foods reacting with certain metals, which will in turn change the taste of your food, and not in the way you want it to.  Non-reactive cookware will not cause that chemical reaction. That doesn't mean you need to root through your cabinets and toss anything considered reactive.  It just means we need to use a little knowledge on when to use them, and when to pull out the non-reactive stuff.   

What's Non-reactive?  What's Not?

  Non-reactive cookware is a pretty broad category that includes non-metallic and metallic materials in it.  Some prime examples of prep and cooking tools that are non-reactive are made of clay, stoneware, silicone, plastics, enamel, glass, and stainless steel.  But stainless steel isn't the best metal for even heating, so sometimes these pieces may have an aluminum or copper bottom bonded to them.  As long as the surface the food touches is stainless steel, it's non-reactive.

  Reactive cookware is primarily made up of copper and aluminum, and includes cast iron.  They are really good at heating up and retaining heat, but they react with acidic foods.  This can give food a metallic taste or discolor it.  That also means you shouldn't be storing your food in containers with these materials.  (If you are stashing your leftovers in your cast iron pans, you need to be fussed at - you're killing your seasoning and promoting rust!)  Copper pots may have a tin coating or lining to keep the cooking surface non-reactive, but as soon as the tin is scratched, your pot now has reactive spots.  Cast iron is reactive, but if you've got a good seasoning on it, you should have no trouble cooking tomato-based and other acidic foods in it, as long as you don't let the food linger around.

When Should I Use What?

Non-reactive - Use it for marinades, vinaigrettes, acidic foods like tomatoes, light colored soups or sauces to avoid discoloration (that means no aluminum whisks for stirring, too).

Reactive - Good for general cooking.   Don't forget about our note on cast iron - tomatoes are okay if you've got a thick seasoning on the pan, and you don't let the food sit around in the pan for a long time.  Just don't get any funny ideas to use it to marinate stuff in it.