It’s here! Cool weather that just cries out for those dishes that warm the body – like soups, stews and chili – while filling the kitchen with a sense of warmth and comfort.
Saturday night was a perfect evening for me. After working all day, I received a call from neighbor Jennie Penn inviting me over for chili.
While chili isn’t a dish I make – well, at least not one I serve anyone else – Jennie’s was delicious, with chunks of ground beef and even mushrooms incorporated with spaghetti. It was beautiful to the eye and delicious to the palate – perfect spices, perfect chili taste.
She served the chili with a salad with fresh blueberries and homemade pecan ice cream balls covered with raspberry chocolate sauce.
Jennie’s dinner was proof that even chili can be elevated to a lovely dinner. As we all know, presentation is everything.
I was not a chili lover as a kid. While I have said my mother was one of the best cooks I have ever known, her chili that the rest of my family enjoyed was not something I liked; namely because I thought it was too greasy.
Bean soup was another dish I did not like, especially navy beans. I did like pinto beans, but not as soup.
Today is another matter.
I love bean soups, but I still don’t like navy beans.
The best bean soup – at least my favorite recipe – comes from the Investors Heritage Cookbook 1996 compiled by Lee Waterfield for a leadership convention for the company.
This recipe calls for a bouquet garni. Don’t be frightened. It is simply herbs such as parsley, thyme, and bay leaves tied together or if you have dried herbs, put a few in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it up. The purpose of placing them in the soup tied up is they are easily removed.
This is a great recipe for your family or company, a snowy day or basketball game nights.
FRENCH MARKET BEAN SOUP FROM LEE WATERFIELD
2 cups dried beans, washed and soaked at least two hours
1 quart chicken stock
1 country ham hock; a regular ham hock will do; not smoked
1 24 oz. can tomatoes, chopped with juice
8 oz. smoked sausage
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups celery chopped
2 cups onion chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. cooked chicken breast
1 bouquet garni*
Preparation: In a large pot put water, chicken broth, salt, ham hock, bouquet garni and simmer, covered for 2 ½ hours. Remove ham hock and bouquet; add tomatoes, onions, celery, garlic and continue to simmer uncovered for 1-½ hours. Add sliced smoked sausage and chopped chicken breast and simmer 40 minutes. Serve over a scoop of cooked brown or white rice.
Note: Having made this several times and having watched Lee make it, I have made a few notes in my recipe. First you can use any bean; Lee always used a mixture of about eight – 15 beans, which you can buy. You don’t necessarily have to soak the beans; they still turn out fine.
I use three cups of mixed beans and just increase the water. If you boil your chicken breast, start with that water plus your chicken stock. I always double the sausage because it is so good in the soup. At any point in the cooking, you can add more water. Lastly, you can always add more time in the end.
Another true comfort dish is my mother’s chicken pot pie. Brought to the table, steaming from the oven and served with a salad (probably cottage cheese and peaches or nutty cream cheese with pineapple), it is the perfect cold night meal. Initially she either stewed a whole chicken or used leftover chicken from a Sunday dinner. In later years, she boiled about three chicken breasts on the bone.
LILLIAN'S CHICKEN POT PIE
One double crust pie recipe or you can use refrigerator pie crust. But for a real treat, use a sheet of puff pastry for the top – thawed and lightly stretched to fit the dish.
4-5 cups cooked chicken chopped
1 ½ cups sliced celery
1 cup sliced carrots
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks
1 8-ounce package frozen peas
In juice from the chicken or using chicken stock, add ½-teaspoon salt and cook the vegetables, except the peas, until fork tender. Drain and reserve liquid.
Place a layer of crust in the bottom of a 9x12 casserole. Put chicken and drained vegetables. Add frozen peas.
Over medium low heat in a saucepan (can even use saucepan you cooked vegetables) make a sauce beginning with reserved liquid and chicken stock to equal three cups.
Stir in one tablespoon Dijon mustard, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon pepper.
Using your fingers combine three tablespoons flour with one stick softened butter. Slowly stir this into the liquid. Cook and stir just until it begins to thicken. At this point, you can add about a third cup of cream or half and half for a richer flavor. Taste for seasoning and correct.
Note: If the sauce thickens too quickly, thin with chicken stock. You want it to thicken in the oven, not the saucepan.
Pour sauce over chicken/vegetable mixture.
Top with additional crust layer. I love the puff pastry. Brush top with one beaten egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Bake at 350 degrees until dish is bubbly and top crust is golden; probably 20-30 minutes.
Or if you’re really hungry for chicken pot pie and don’t want to make it, stop by the Office Pub and Deli. John Presley has a killer crust.
You missed it
The Beef Basics class at the county extension office last Thursday was two plus hours of great information.
Agents Keenan Bishop and Tamara Thomas did a wonderful job of providing the group with useful information. In addition, the materials we were given are invaluable as far as I am concerned and included two cutting mats, one for meat and one for vegetables, a chart of beef cuts and where they come from on the cow and a meat thermometer.
Are you aware there are 12 different cuts of chuck and do you understand the difference in braising and stewing? Why is everything Angus beef now and where can “prime” beef be found – most likely not at a supermarket.
Tonya Priddy, from the Capital Plaza Hotel, did a demonstration of using skirt steak in three different ways – appetizer, salad and main course. Those delicious dishes became our dinner.
Add to that, a tortilla soup with ground beef was served by the agency. Oh my, was it good.
As far as I am concerned Thomas and the other staff at the extension office do a marvelous job making these classes informative, interesting and tasty.
I hope more cooks and those interested in food will take advantage of these classes when they are offered. I will always keep you posted on the dates.
Perhaps you missed the Community Education calendar published in the State Journal this fall.
One class especially caught this cook’s eye:
Make Your Own Kentucky Jam Cake, Monday, Nov. 12, 6 p.m., in the Home Economics Room of Western Hills High School.
The cost of the class is $15 plus a $5 material fee paid to instructor Anita Harrod (no relation). You will take home a small jam cake and the ability to make your own for family and friends.
Pre-register to make sure you have a place in the kitchen. Call Gina Hagan at (502) 875-8400, ext. 167.
I love jam cake and a cup of hot coffee in the fall and I’m truly looking forward to this class.