Tuesday, March 3, 2009

White Chicken Chili (South Beach Style)

I. Love. Food. I envy my husband and my father-in-law who seem to be able to inhale just about any dish they choose and yet seem to look thinner after dinner is over! What's their secret?!?

For most of us "normal" people out there, this is just not the case. And for those of us who love to cook - not just cook - but really spend hours in the kitchen with challenging mouth watering recipes, full of butter, cream, and carbs... - Our inability to lose weight by simply eating more of these tasty fat laden ingredients is a problem!

To be honest, I don't trust skinny chefs anyway. I like watching the Food Network and drooling over the dishes Ina Garten creates on her show Barefoot Contessa. Even Rachael Ray is a little curvy. Look at Mario Batali! Emeril! BAM! - There's a chef I can trust!

Over the years I've played with the South Beach Diet. And for the critics out there, no - it is not a low-carb diet. The diet relies on nutrient dense food, high in fiber and low in fat. And to be honest, every time I've dabbled on the diet, I've lost weight. Not only that, but I just feel better! I sleep better. I have energy.

But slowly, as I would see the pounds come off, I would feel the need to celebrate my new found weight loss! Like the bread basket at a restaurant - yep - the WHOLE bread basket (and butter, because that's the best part). Or mounds of hand-rolled pasta. Mounds of ANY pasta. Brownies. Custard. Movie Theatre Popcorn. Real cream in my coffee. Cupcakes.

I mean, I deserved these treats, you know? I had worked so hard eating lean meats, fruits full of fiber, lots of vegetables. Plus, I hit the gym 4-5 times a week! Give a girl a cupcake!

And after awhile, all that progress was undone, there I was standing in my kitchen, chubbier, tears streaming down my cheeks, crying "WHY???? WHY????"

Well, duh...

Over the course of my battle with the diet - I did find one super star recipe. One that is appropriate for all phases of the South Beach Diet. (There are three phases. Phase one is the strictest and lasts for a couple of weeks, followed by a less stringent phases two which lasts until the weight loss goal has been met. Finally, Phase three is the maintenance phase.)

Here's my adaption from a South Beach Diet Recipe: White Chipotle-Chicken Chili

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (Or 3 Shallots)
4 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves (1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1" chunks
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper
3 (14.5-ounce) cans white kidney or cannellini beans*, drained (save 1/2 cup draining liquid) and rinsed
1-2 cans butter beans, drained
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 teaspoon canned chipotle chil**, seeded and minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, ribs removed, finely diced.
1/2 cup nonfat half-and-half
Garnishes: Shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Warm oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion and jalapeno; cook 4 minutes, stirring. Push onions and peppers to one side; add chicken to skillet and sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add 2 cans of white kidney beans and 1-2 cans of butter beans and draining liquid, 1 1/4 cups broth, and chipotle; bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 can of beans and 3/4 cup broth in bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth, then add to soup in pot, along with half-and-half. Simmer a few minutes, stirring, until ingredients are warmed through and flavors incorporate. Taste to check for seasonings. It will probably need at least another pinch of salt. Serve hot; garnish with cheese and cilantro.

*If you are unable to find white kidney beans (AKA cannellini beans), substitute Navy Beans or Great Northern Beans or a combination of the two. (I prefer the draining liquid for Navy Beans over Great Northern.)

**Chipotle in Adobo can be found in many markets now. However, not in small town Wahoo. When I can't get a can of this spicy and smokey pepper - I add an extra jalapeno or two and a tablespoon or two of a smokey salsa.

My best advice with this recipe is to measure the liquid ingredients. I never measure! But everytime I've eyeballed the wet ingredients, the soup wasn't the right consistancy.

Also, if you like it more spicy, leave the seeds and ribs of the pepper and increase the crushed red pepper.

Just remember - all that spicy food is said to increase your metabolism!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Meat and Potatoes... Er... Rice

If there's one thing I generally don't touch in the kitchen, its steak. Not because I don't like it or don't know how to cook it, but because my husband has perfected steak. After drooling over our steaks at Ruth's Chris and Maestro's, Andy took it upon himself to recreate these mouth-watering, sweet buttery steaks at home. Without a 1500 degree oven, however, the task requires some improv.

We get our steaks, specifically - fillets, from Cetak's Meats and Sausages at 70th & Pioneers in Lincoln. He pulls them out of the refrigerator about an hour before he's ready to start cooking. Doing this is so important as it gets the chill off the meat and is less of a shock when the fillets hit the heat. While the steaks come to room temperature, Andy blots the steak dry with a paper towel to remove all excess moisture. He wants a good sear on the steak. He then brushes them with good olive oil and seasons the them with sea salt and pepper. We've prepared fillets a number of ways. When its too cold to grill we go for the cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets can get incredibly hot and distribute the heat evenly throughout the pan. They are not expensive and every cook should hopefully have at least one!

Sometimes he sears them in the pan on the stove before putting them in a 450 degree oven while they finish cooking to the desired temperature. Other times, he cooks them in the oven in the cast iron pan on high broil and later reduces the heat to finish cooking the steak.

Tonight, he puts the cast iron pan in the oven and preheats the oven and the pan to high broil for at least 30 minutes. Immediately, I remember that I should have cleaned the oven yesterday and I open some windows! BRRR! But it definitely beats the fire department showing up!

He broils the meat for 3 1/2 minutes on each side. Before turning the oven to 450 degrees, he inserts the meat thermomter probe.

One of my favorite gadgets is a digital meat thermometer whose console sits on the counter while the oven proof probe is continually measureing the temperature. It makes it so easy to know when to pull the steak out of the oven! Perfect steak every time. Or poultry. Or Pork.
All-Clad Oven-Probe Thermometer

Andy pulls my steak out when the internal temperature reaches 128 degrees and pulls his out when it reaches 133 degrees. He immediately tops it with butter, tents with foil and lets the butter melt on top while the steak rests, at least 10 minutes.

When the Steak Master is in my kitchen, I'm in charge of the sides. Tonight, I chose a brown rice pilaf and roasted asparagus. Brown rice is so good for you but can be tricky when it comes to developing its nutty flavor without drying out the rice. In my last issue of Cooks Illustrated, they suggested cooking it in the oven in a large dutch oven. Here's what I did:

Brown Rice Pilaf with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Parmesan, Peas and Almonds

4 slices Applewood Smoked Bacon
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth (reduced sodium)
Large pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cup frozen peas
5 oz. parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat dutch oven on stove over medium high heat. Meanwhile, chop bacon into small pieces. Add to dutch oven and render until bacon is starting to crisp. Remove bacon from dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Remove all but 4 teaspoons bacon fat from pan.

Add shallots to pan and cook 8-10 minutes or until shallots start to brown. Stir in water, broth, and salt, scraping up all the flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cover. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in rice. Cover. And put in preheated oven. Bake about an hour.

Remove from oven. Stir in reserved bacon, peas, Parmesan, and toasted almonds. Cover. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve!
For a bit of green on our plate, we go with asparagus. Its loaded with Vitamins K, A and C as well as folic acid. Andy doesn't care about that. He just loves the taste. After snapping off the tough ends of the spears, I lay them on a baking sheet and drizzle the green goodies with some good olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, and freshly cracked pepper. (I save the ends for cream of asparagus soup!) In the oven they go at 425 for 15 -20 minutes, or until the heads start to turn slightly crispy. Mmmm!

Let me know what you think!