Monday, December 10, 2012

Congrats to our winner!

Bev V, I know I am not the only one looking forward to trying your Pork and Three Bean Chili!

Shoot me your shipping address to staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) come and I will get your prizes out to you this week.

For everyone else, thanks for the great new ideas!

As for me, I'm back to finishing the new book, but I'll pop in and say hi again soon as I can.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tis the Season, for Braising!


I hope everyone has recovered from Thanksgiving and is gearing up for the rest of the festive season.

Charming Suitor and I have set up our first Xmas Tree/Hanukah Bush.  I think it is adorable.

(For the longer story of this special tree, CLICK HERE)

We kept it simple, little fairy lights, mini mirrored disco balls for sparkle, and a garland of felt balls in 40 different colors for bright.  And of course, the traditional Star of David topper.  It is made of salvaged staves from French oak wine barrels, and if you are curious, yes, wine does smell just as festive as pine.

Despite the fact that as I write this it is in the mid-60s outside, it is still Fall and for me, Fall means braising.  I love the way a slow cooked dish makes the house smell delicious, I love that they are dishes that are almost impossible to screw up and don't need fussing.  I love that they are the perfect thing for dinner parties, letting you make your main course the day or even two or three days before and reheat in a low oven, making for a relaxed hostess.

As promised, I want to share one of my new favorite braises, a basque-inspired stew of chicken thighs and chorizo sausage and chickpeas.  It is a wonderful bowl of spicy and savory warmth on a cold night, and is great for a casual Tuesday night dinner for two or a Saturday night dinner party for eight.  Serve it with a warming Spanish rioja or a crisp white Gruner Veltliner.  A simple salad of butter lettuce dressed with lemon, olive oil, and fried capers and some crusty bread are all you need for a complete and lovely meal.

And since it is time for a new recipe, how about a new gadget!

This is a recipe rock from Architec!  I'm loving this thing.  I keep all my recipes in my computer.  When I want to make something, I print a copy, that way it doesn't matter if it gets stained or shredded, I just throw it away when I am done.  But I'm always elbowing it off the counter, or trying to keep it out of my way.  For a while I was taping recipes to the kitchen cabinets.  Not anymore.  A very cool and simple item...there is a powerful magnet in the base, and a ball bearing.  You can take your recipe or recipe card and slide it between the ball bearing and the base and it holds it upright so you can read it easily, and it stays out of the way!  Even better, it is VERY reasonably priced and a perfect stocking stuffer or small Hanukkah present for your favorite cook, or a happy present for yourself.

Basque Braised Chicken Thighs with Artichokes, Chorizo and Chickpeas

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced 1/4-inch thick  (this is a cured sausage red with paprika, do not substitute fresh Mexican chorizo here, if you can’t find Spanish chorizo, use a stick of pepperoni)
3 pounds chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on)
Salt and pepper
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 small red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 cup dry sherry
2 c chicken stock
1 cup diced plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons Espelette or Aleppo pepper (if you can’t find these, substitute sweet paprika,  but try to get the Espelette, it is worth it!)
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Handful fresh basil, torn, for garnish

Put a large deep saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally, until chorizo has rendered its fat and is brown and crispy. Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon or spatula to your slow cooker, leaving the fat in the pan.

Season the thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet and brown well on both sides, especially making sure to render the skin so that it is crispy about ten minutes total. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.

Remove all but two tablespoons of fat in the skillet. Add the onions, garlic, artichokes and thyme. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about five minutes. Add the sherry, tomatoes, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to dislodge any browned bits and simmer for one minute.  Add this mixture to your slow cooker, put in the chickpeas, and stir to be sure it is all well combined.

Nestle the thighs in the mixture in your slow cooker.  Put in enough chicken stock to come up to the thighs, leaving the top ¼ inch uncovered.  Cover the slow cooker and turn on High for at least 3 hours.  You can then turn to low and hold till dinner time, or cook on low for up to 8 hours.  Before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with basil. Serve.

If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you can cook in a covered Dutch oven at 350 for 1 ½ hours. 

I also love this over cous cous or brown rice.

Also?   Charming Suitor and I were so hungry for it, and it smelled so delish that I totally forgot to take pictures for you, so you'll have to believe me when I say it was lovely to look at, all burnished reds and golden browns.  Very Autumnal.

So, to celebrate this season, comment with your favorite slow-cooker or braised recipe by 11:59 CST on Sunday Dec. 9, and I will pick one for a little prize package of a Hampton Forge Paring knife set (one veggie, one fruit, one tomato all with covers) and a small folding cutting board to easily get your chopped stuff to the pan.  Winner announced next Monday!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath