Gingered Chickpea and Chicken Curry

IMG_6872Yum!  Homemade curry is a wonderful thing, fresh and fragrant.  Lately I’ve been able to convert my curry indifferent husband into a curry loving husband with dishes like this.  Such is the power of good home cooking.  Chocked full of ginger, this spicy dish will make your taste buds sing.  The recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked chickpeas which is approximately equal to 2 (15-ounce) cans, drained and rinsed or 1 cup of dried chickpeas.  You don’t need to pre-soak dried chickpeas either, they cook up fine without bothering.  Just put 1 cup of dried chickpeas into a saucepan, add lots of water and some salt.  Bring to a boil,  turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.  Easy, peasy.

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Costa Rican Chicken and Black Bean Soup

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Black bean soup is one of my favorite comfort foods and I am always on the lookout for different ways to prepare it.  While researching recipes I ran across this one several years ago on what was recipezaar (now food.com).  The combination of Caribbean spices and a little heat from cayenne make for a flavor combination that is out of this world.  I decided to make the soup a more filling meal by adding a protein.  Frozen chicken breasts are an ingredient that we usually have on hand, but boneless, skinless chicken thighs or the shredded meat off of a store bought rotisserie chicken would also work.

I really like to use dried beans when I have the time as they are so tasty, especially when cooked with a few flavor enhancing ingredients like bay leaves and ham hocks.  One advantage to dried black beans over other types of beans is their small size.  Because of this they don’t need to be soaked overnight.  One disadvantage to cooking dried black beans is that they can turn a rather unappetizing shade of gray.  By adding a tiny amount of baking soda to the cooking liquid you can keep them mostly black.  No matter what you do though some of the color will leach out.     If you are time crunched, substituting 4 (15-ounce) cans of drained and rinsed black beans will make the soup much quicker to get on the table.

A squeeze of lime juice across your bowl of soup is a must as this little bit of acidity really allows the flavors to shine.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro.  Serve with a salad and a Red Stripe or Caribe lager for a complete meal.

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Julia Child’s Chicken Bonne Femme

It is hard to imagine how dull home cooking must have been before Julia Child came along in 1961 with her ground breaking cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She was able to use her extensive knowledge of a foreign cuisine and make it accessible to people who believed that anything exotic was beyond their capabilities.  The profound affect she had on home cooking will continue to resonate for generations to come.

August 15, 2012 would have been Julia’s 100th birthday and in honor of her, I chose to cook this classic one-pot meal from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1.  Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme is the fancy name for this dish which is just a pot-roasted whole chicken with potatoes, onions and bacon.  I made this using a large (7-quart) Le Creuset dutch oven which allowed for an easy transition from stove top to oven.  If you don’t have an oven safe pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, you can do all the browning in a skillet and transfer the chicken to a large baking dish (either Corningware with a glass lid or a 9-x13-inch baking dish covered tightly with foil).  The recipe states that you should brown the chicken for a rather lengthy time, 12-15 minutes per side.  Please don’t skimp on this since the chicken will not brown at all in the oven.  Chicken Bonne Femme is French cooking at it’s simplest and quite possibly it’s tastiest.  Finally, I’ll leave you with a classic quote from Julia…..

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.”

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Chicken with Cuban-Style Picadillo

Ah, Miami…where everyone either drives like a bat out of hell or is way past retirement age and drives 45 mph in the fast lane on the interstate.  The best thing about south Florida (other than the Everglades) is the abundance of seafood and Cuban food.  The best flan I’ve ever had was at La Carreta on Southwest 8th Street and their vaca frita was mighty tasty too.  My husband and I really enjoyed our meal even though we only know a few words of Spanish and the waitress only knew few words in English.  When all else fails, smile and point.  Our trip to Miami really opened up a new culinary world for me and in the last couple of years I have occasionally tried out a few Cuban recipes on my willing guinea pig of a husband. Yay for being married to someone who is not a picky eater!

This Cuban-style picadillo recipe came out of a Fine Cooking magazine.  Therefore,  I cannot vouch for any sort of authenticity in the ingredients nor do I know if chicken would ever truly be served with picadillo.  What I do know is that this is one terrific recipe.  The combination of spices melding together with the tomatoes, the salty olives and capers makes flavorful sauce reminiscent not only of the Caribbean but also of Spain.  Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off, everything should be a pantry staple, which makes this an ideal recipe for throwing together any night of the week.  Continue reading

Garlic Lemon Chicken Breasts

Chicken is a ubiquitous ingredient in our house, so this will be the first of many chicken entries on the blog.  The original recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa’s newest cookbook and calls for fresh thyme.  However, I did not have any on hand and really did not want to make a special trip to the store and spend $3 on a tiny package either.  I do have a potted rosemary plant on the front porch so that is what I used.   Besides, lemon and rosemary are one of those magical culinary combinations.  The pan sauce is tangy and garlicky and would be perfect spooned over mashed potatoes.  The sliced lemon that is cooked with the chicken will lend a slightly bitter flavor to the sauce.  It looks really pretty, but if bitter is not your thing then leave it out.  Next time I make this it will be without the sliced lemon.  When we warmed up the leftovers the next day, the bitterness was much more pronounced and not very pleasant.    Continue reading