Today, a little bit of my cooking mojo came back.
Because today our kitchen table arrived! It’s the same table the previous owners had. Creative, no? I liked the way it looked and scoured the Internet till I found it. I assumed a little too much of the previous owners. I checked Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Ethan Allen, all to no avail. And not a suitable table in sight either. Finally, after googling “counter-height kitchen table,” I was rewarded with a hit. Room Store! As in, “We put it all together and save you more.” That Room Store. I was glad to learn the previous residents were bargain shoppers too. I went to bed smiling and had the order in the next morning. The kitchen is almost complete now, and I’m getting back in the swing of things.
I went to Whole Foods today, and every single little thing looked appealing. Such a vast improvement over my last several trips, during which the only foods I was motivated to buy came from the frozen aisles. I ended up with many an impulse purchase during today’s trip, and I wasn’t even hungry while I was shopping. Look for lots of posts coming before all my groceries go bad.
The inaugural meal at a glass of milk kitchen (#3) was Ina Garten’s chicken chili. This chili and I go way back. It’s one of my go-tos for entertaining–it can be made in advance, contains no offensive ingredients, and is classic Ina. It’s rustic, full of flavor, serves approximately 1.5 times the number of people she says it will and is made of foods that most people keep on hand all the time. Or at least close by.
I think Ina and I have the same picky tastes because few of her recipes contain beans. I have a serious aversion to beans. You’re welcome to ask me what I think of them sometime, but that’s not a statement I would ever put in writing. My point is this–chili often contains beans. I love the flavor of chili. But not beans. So here comes the Barefoot Contessa to save the day. A wonderfully spicy, tomato-based chili, that warms you up from your head to your feet and is 100% bean-free. Hallelujah!
Shall I go on? Do you want to know more about this chili? Instead of roasting the 4 chicken breasts Ina calls for, I roast a small, 4 pound chicken. I take all the meat off, add it to the chili, and am left with the base for my next batch of homemade chicken stock. It doesn’t get better than that.
There is a book version of this recipe (in Barefoot Contessa Parties!) and an online version. The online version is simply the book version cut in half. Unless I’m feeding a crowd, I do the half batch, and that’s how I’ve written it below. I can get a solid 8 bowls of chili out of this. You will need:
- 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
- 1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
- 1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
- 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
- 2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
- 1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
- 1 small (about 4 pounds) chicken
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Garnishes galore! We can’t live with out cheese and crumbled corn chips.
If you are making this with the meat of a whole chicken, it will need just under an hour to roast. But during this hour, the chicken is largely unattended. So I roast the chicken during the day while I’m doing my thing around the house, and begin the chili once I take the chicken out of the oven. Pressed for time? You could do things Ina’s way, and use 4 split chicken breasts, without having to crank up the oven ahead of time.
Preheat the oven to 500. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, breast-side down. Roast for 20 minutes. Then, drizzle with 1 T olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the chicken over, drizzle with another T of olive oil and some more salt and pepper. You could keep basting, but I never do and things always turn out okay. Reduce the heat to 325 and pop the bird back in the oven. It should be breast-side up now. Roast the chicken for 30 more minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160. Take out of the oven and let cool.
Chili time. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium low heat, and add the onions. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Open the cans of tomatoes. As you add them to the pot, crush the tomatoes with your hands. Be careful here, the juice will squirt everywhere if you’re not careful. Give everything a good stir, and let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce your heat and let the mixture simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
At this stage, I come back to my chicken. Find the nearest man (sorry all you feminists out there, but I don’t carve my own meat…never have), and have him cut the meat off the bird. Save the carcass in a gallon-sized plastic bag. Freeze that baby until you’re in the mood to make chicken stock. Chop the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. Who am I kidding, I just pull it apart with my hands.
Add the chicken to the chili, and let the pot simmer for 20 more minutes. You can stir it occasionally if it makes you feel better. It always helps me.
Serve with your favorite toppings. Then top with even more of your favorite toppings.