The perfect recipe for this crumbling economy…
Or, how I got my cooking groove back.
The first thing I did when I came back from Napa Valley was breathe a sigh of relief, take out some pots and cook something. It wasn’t something I bothered to write up a formal recipe for, and it wasn’t anything difficult or crazy, but it made me feel… well, a bit more like I was home again. Eating out for a whole week was kind of draining; it’s always been like this for me. I love eating in any form but if I spend too much time away from my kitchen, I do feel a bit off kilter. It might not reflect here, but I do cook quite often – just stuff that I’ve already posted about, so I’m not going to post it again. I’m not the kind of cook who has to always cook new recipes, nor am I the kind of cook who sticks to the same thing on a daily basis. I just cook whatever I feel like, and in the past year, more often than not, it’s been more similar to something I’ve already posted about than not, so I don’t mention it here. (You will, however, find this reflected in my bentos.)
In the past year, my life has changed more times and more ways than I care to elaborate here. It’s reflected duly in my eating habits; just a year ago, the number of restauran reviews to recipes posted was about 1:1, give or take a few. Now, restaurant reviews have jumped to a 2:1 lead, which, quite honestly, kind of sickens me – the amount of money I’ve spent on mediocre meals is disheartening. (I hasten to add that I’ve had a good share of mind blowing meals as well!) I don’t consider myself more a restaurant person nor more a home cook, and I want my blog, a direct reflection on me, to show that. I can’t say that it’ll be easy trying to fix this ratio – I’m at the stage of my life that when a friend asks me if I want to hang out, invariably, we meet up for dinner – but I can definitely try.
Hampering this revolution’s kickstart, something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now, is the fact that I’ve decided my cooking is woefully pedestrian. Nothing I cook really is of much interest; as I was telling Cathy of Not Eating Out in NY the other night, my main seasonings consist of salt & pepper, with the occasional dill or Italian seasoning thrown in. Fresh herbs aren’t something I much keep on hand, and I don’t use any really crazy ingredients. It’s something that at times, I’ve been OK with; it makes me an accessible cook, not a hoity toity cook who insists that you use grey salt because that is a defining element to a recipe, or that I must source a locally grown saffron plant (I am not sure that’s even possible, I am just giving a random and somewhat insane example) to achieve recipe nirvana. During other moments, I sneer at myself that I’m another version of Sandra Lee, one of the most viciously hated Food Network hostesses (I’m fine with her – I find her to have some good ideas; I won’t go so far as she does with the not-homemade side, but I do dabble in a similar craft). But the bottom line is that I’ve grown bored of my cooking. Frustrated. I look at chicken, pork, and all I can think is “There is nothing new I can do with that, that I actually want to try doing.”
Of course this just means I have to buy new stuff to add to my shelves, to fill them with things I’ve never used before and start using my spice rack. Why am I so terrified of my spice rack??? I have no idea.
After that discussion with Cathy, I went home, a bit despondent and thought about what I would make the following night. I decided that instead of making a quick run to the local supermarket for anything I was missing (I hate that place; it’s truly a disgusting place of just necessity, not for the love of food), I would cook straight from my pantry. So I came up with this – something a few years ago, I never would have dreamed in a million years of making. Perhaps something y’all have made before, perhaps something you’ve all eaten before, perhaps nothing new whatsoever. But the combination is new to me, and that’s enough. I used some ingredients I wouldn’t have even thought of before, and I even – gasp – took notes.
And baby, I think I’m back.
Bear in mind, this is entirely a pantry recipe. Variations are listed throughout – what I would have used if I’d had it, or what I might use next time. I was surprised and a little horrified to find I had no onions – something I keep on hand constantly – but miraculously, I had a shallot, something I never keep on hand. Probably left over from this recipe. Yes, that long ago – I always keep garlic and onions on hand, but I often forget to use them. See? Terrible cook.
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red Pepper Flakes
Knorr’s Chipotle Cube
One medium sized poached chicken breast
Butter in the bottom of a heavy bottomed skillet. Minced garlic & shallots go in, whee! After they’ve softened a bit, add some red pepper flakes and crumble in the chipotle spice cube. (Sure, you could use a regular chipotle here. The chipotle cube says it’s equivalent to one chipotle. I’ve never used a whole/regular chipotle, and wouldn’t know the first thing about buying them or how to convert this, and I don’t keep them in my pantry [I think they’re canned goods?!], and this is a pantry recipe. But yeah. If you know how to use the other kind, go for it!)
Poach your chicken breast. This is the first time I used this recipe and I have discovered I will keep returning to it because IT. IS. AWESOME. I don’t even like chicken breast but while I was shredding it, I kept sneaking bites and found it super tender, moist and flavorful. WIN.
(While it’s poaching, you can de-seed and chop your bell pepper. Since I was going to be putting beans and corn into mine, I knew I wanted the chop to be about the size of corn kernels and beans. If you want this dish to be vegetarian, skip the chicken.)
Shred your chicken. You can hand shred it – it might make it a bit more even and well-shredded – but I used two forks to shred since I was running around and needed to keep my hands somewhat clean.
Add those bad boy chopped bell peppers to the pan. Smell that? That’s deliciousness cooking up on your stove.
Things get a little squidgy here. So, first, I put in about a half can of tomato sauce. I thought that would be all I needed, but I wound up adding the rest after I’d added the (drained & rinsed) kidney beans. BUT I want to tell you here that I only used tomato sauce because this was a pantry recipe; I’d have much preferred using diced tomatoes or tomato puree or even whole tomatoes that I smooshed up with my hands or OOH! fire roasted tomatoes, definitely!!!, but I didn’t have any cans of those on hand. I’m really into chunky tomatoes now. Oh, and if I wasn’t such a lazy sod and this wasn’t a pantry recipe, since tomato season is winding down, if I could work up the energy, I may – just maybe – have peeled a couple of fresh tomatoes, chopped those up, and used that instead. But I AM lazy, this IS a pantry recipe, and canned tomatoes are just too easy for me to pass up in this case.
Also, I dug through my pantry and found cannelini, garbanzo, and kidney beans, but no black beans. I totally could see this dish with black beans. I think I’ve even eaten that somewhere before. Maybe my mind was subconsciously leading me towards a recipe I’ve seen/eaten before. I don’t know if I got there… I did reach delicious, but not sure if I reached the one I’ve had before?
Here I added about a half a bag of frozen corn. Again, fresh would have been awesome to use, but I didn’t have any of that. Some fresh roasted/grilled corn, cut off the cob straight into here? Smokey delicious, hello?! But I made do with what I had.
Once it’s all heated through, chicken goes on top.
Stir it altogether.
Voila. That’s about enough food to feed four people with just one chicken breast. I think it is anyway. I’ll be eating this for a week or two to come!
A few notes: I really liked the flavor profile, but this may be something you’ll want to tweak. There’s a slight lift of heat at the end of each bite, but it’s not major, which you might like or you might want to make it extra spicy – perhaps some added hot sauce, or more chipotle. Or more red pepper flakes, which, in hindsight, were probably a waste anyway. If you wanted to up the smoky factor, use fire roasted tomatoes and maybe start the pan drippings with lardons/bacon cubes instead of butter the way I did. Or you could add small chopped up bits of sausage. You can really turn this recipe into anything you want, however you like. I just really like the color of the dish and how versatile this is – you can serve it with corn chips, sour cream, and cheese, as a dip; you can plop it on pasta if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind pasta and beans together; maybe with rice, as well; even in a hero for a sandwich. Very economical as well, and packs great for lunch.
I actually served it straight, eating it like a stew – thus the name “Spicy Chicken & Bean Stew” but topped it with “Fancy Shredded Mexican Cheese” (Trader Joe’s name for it), which was lurking in my fridge and seemed appropriate for my sort of Mexican inspired dish. It also helped tame my dish a bit.
Wine Pairing: Don’t expect this to be a regular feature, since, as I mentioned here, I’m still crap at this wine pairing with food thing, but ever since I took that wine pairing class, I’ve been attempting to drink wine with my meals. I’ve been drinking more and more wine (different varieties, tastings, everything), which helps acclimate my palate to tasting hidden notes I might not have noticed before, and become more discerning to these notes. Anyway, since, in that class I’d enjoyed a 2007 Reuscher-Haart Piesporter Treppchen Riesling with a spicy dish, finding that the spicier my dish got, the sweeter this wine tasted, I chose to pair the two together, knowing that anything with a higher alcohol content would spread the fire instead of dousing it. Also, I chose not to use my Riedel glasses because the shape of the glasses meant for sweet wines is designed so that your wine will not taste too sweet, directing it away from the sweet region on your tongue – do I sound crazy? I just didn’t want the wine glass to affect the pairing in this instance, so I used my cheap wine glass from Target ($9.99 for a box of 12, baby, perfect for parties).
Unfortunately, because of the style of spicy I was employing in my dish – slightly more vinegary than the spiciness of the dish I’d originally had the Reuscher-Haart with – the pairing didn’t blow my mind. It was acceptable, but by no means a match made in heaven. Ah well, keep trying, live and learn, right? I guess I’ll just have to finish my bottle of wine solo, or perhaps… order some of that Sichuan pork belly, eh? 🙂
By the way, I’m not entirely sure this will feed 4 adults. It did wind up filling my entire 12″ heavy bottom skillet, though, as you can see, and I was still able to fill a huge box with the leftovers after I’d eaten two bowls. It was for sure enough to feed two people, possibly three… four might be pushing it, eating it the way I did, but with bread or corn chips, some form of starch, I don’t see why not. Either way, this is fairly economical – how many recipes do you know that can feed 2 or more people on a single chicken breast? All the other ingredients are pretty cheap, too – can of beans, frozen corn…
HAPPY EATING and HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND!!!