Saturday, December 10, 2011

Spanish Chicken

The Columbus Dispatch is arguably one of the worst papers in the world: poorly written with a blatant political slant, it makes most weekly small-town papers look like The New York Times. The exception--at least 16 years ago, when we lived in Ohio--was the food section. Over the course of our five years there, I must have clipped two dozen recipes from the "Dog Patch." I've lost a lot of them over the years, but a few have become family standards.

This is one of the latter, written by Sue Dawson. The original recipe called for whole chicken cut up, but I like it better this way, as it shortens the browning period and is less messy. The combination of sweet peppers, salty ham, moist chicken and slight heat is what makes this dish so memorable.

Spanish Chicken (Pollo en Chilindron)

1-1.5 lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into one-inch pieces
1 thick slice of ham (1/4 lb or more) diced
2 TB olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large sweet red pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, half-drained
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
3-5 good cranks on the pepper grinder

  1. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken lightly. Be careful not to overcook. You should still see some pink at this point.
  2. Remove chicken and set aside. Add garlic, onions, sweet pepper, hot pepper, and ham to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are beginning to soften. Again, do not overcook.
  3. Return chicken to the pan. Mix, adding salt and pepper. Add tomatoes.
  4. Cook on medium to medium low heat for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and the liquid starts to evaporate. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Serve immediately with rice or potatoes.

Family Ratings

Will, who likes chicken: 9
Lucy, who likes ham: 10
Jamie, who likes (how weird is this for a five-year-old?) red peppers: 10
Ellen and Paul (who like things that taste good): 10

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pasta Carbonara

There's a T-shirt that says: "You had me at bacon." I'm pretty sure they were thinking of this recipe. It comes from Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet, and I've made it so often that when I pick that book up and set it down on the table, it automatically falls to that page.

Pasta Carbonara:
1/4 lb bacon
1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons regular vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 lb short pasta
2 eggs, whipped
1/3 cup of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cook the pasta according to instructions. Drain when slightly al dente.
  2. Place three sheets of paper towel on a microwave safe plate. Place the bacon on top, then cover with three more sheets of paper towel. Microwave for 4-6 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat.
  4. Pour the milk into a microwave-safe cup or measuring cup. Remove bacon when done, place milk inside, and cook for two minutes.
  5. Crumble the bacon.
  6. Once the milk is done, add it and the bacon to the melted butter. Switch heat to medium.
  7. Add vinegar to mix. Stir lightly, then lower heat to medium low. Cook for eight minutes until more or less smooth. (If the mixture curdles and divides when you add the vinegar, start over. Trust me.)
  8. Drain pasta and add to a large bowl.
  9. Mix eggs in a small bowl. Make sure cheese is grated.
  10. Once the sauce is ready, pour the eggs over the pasta, followed quickly by the bacon/butter mixture. This, in effect, cooks the eggs.
  11. Add cheese, toss. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Family Ratings:

Will who hates to admit that it actually tastes good: 8
Lucy. Are you kidding? It has bacon, right?: 10
Jamie. Are you kidding? It has bacon, right?: 10
Ellen, who's not actually that crazy about bacon: 7
Paul, who's not getting any skinnier: 10

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chickpea Pasta

On the face of it, I know, this doesn't look like much. The trick is the combination of celery, chickpeas, and parsley: the three together give this a full, hearty flavor that's very satisfying.

A few notes:
  • Use Bush's chickpeas/garbanzo beans. They just taste better.
  • Once the dish is served up, adults should feel free to add a pinch more of the pepper flakes.
This recipe is adapted from David Young's wonderful Seasoning: A Poet's Year.

Chickpea Pasta

1 lb bow-tie pasta (or really, any short pasta)
2 cloves garlic
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
1 small onion
2 TB olive oil
1 can chickpeas
2 14 oz cans chopped tomatoes
2 TB chopped parsley
Small pinch hot pepper flakes
salt to taste (at least 1/2 teaspoon)
pepper to taste (at least two cranks of the pepper grinder)

  1. Cook pasta per instructions, draining while it's slightly al dente.
  2. As pasta cooks, chop onion, garlic, celery, and carrot into very small pieces.
  3. Saute onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in the oil for five minutes, using medium heat.
  4. Drain tomatoes and add to vegetables. Simmer on low to medium heat for ten minutes or so until much--but not all--of the liquid disappears.
  5. Add chickpeas, parsley, and pepper flakes. Cook for a minute or two.
  6. Add salt and pepper, stir.
  7. Drain pasta, add to sauce, stirring. Cook for another minute or two.
  8. Remove and serve.
Family Ratings:

Will who likes most pastas: 7.5
Lucy who loves chickpeas but doesn't like cooked tomatoes: 7.5
Jamie, who used to be called "garbanzo bean" when he was still in Ellen's belly and isn't quite sure what to make of all our jokes about eating him: 8
Paul and Ellen, who add extra peppers: 10