11 November 2008

No snacks! (But chili on the stove.)

Fall is slowly descending into winter. It's not cold enough to snow yet (though that can't really be said for the Upper Midwest... sorry, guys), but it's holding a brisk 40s and 50s due to the wind. New York is not the Windy City, by any stretch (though you wouldn't know it by listening to the politicians here), but Manhattan is a relatively small, skinny island surrounded by rivers. And our neighborhood is right on the Hudson.

I won't really complain about the weather. I prefer the cold, really. But man does it make me hungry. (Well, that added to running again.) Unfortunately, I generally keep a no-snack household. No snacks! It's terrible. Usually it's not so bad, but yesterday I took a day off to go to jury duty (that I couldn't fulfill anyway... but that's another story), and today is Veteran's Day, so I've been out of school, sitting in my apartment. And while there is plenty of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there aren't really snacks per se. Oh, don't get me wrong, I like snacking, I do, but I generally don't buy "snack foods": chips, salsa, cookies, fruit roll-ups, you name it. I don't buy them because one) they are expensive, two) they always, always have shady-sounding ingredients, and three) I don't really think about it until I'm actually hungry and moping around the house looking for something to snack on.

So to stop me from walking from fridge to pantry and pantry to fridge and back again, I decided to make my mom's extra tasty chili (the recipe involves ingredients from both places, so at least I can feel like I'm taking out food to eat... just... not now). It's the perfect thing to eat when it's cold out: warming, spicy, nourishing. I highly recommend it, especially when the wind whips around the corner and you pull your coat a little closer.

Tina's Tasty Chicken Chili

1/2 chicken, bone-in, skin on

2 cans kidney or black beans, or a mixture of both
1 small can tomato paste
2 bell peppers, any color, diced
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
cumin (about a teaspoon, maybe a little less)
chili powder (follow the directions on your favorite kind. I usually use 2 1/2 tablespoons per pot of chili)
salt and pepper
vegetable oil, to sauté

1. Poach the chicken in water, until you have a very simple stock. (If you've never done this, don't worry--just rinse your chicken really well, plop it in some cold water to cover by about an inch (NOT TOO MUCH MORE), and simmer at least 40 minutes. Salt and taste. If you think it needs to be stronger, let it go longer. For a more nuanced stock, add a leek, rinsed and halved, peeled carrots, celery, or whatever good you have lying around. Ta da! Very simple stock. When you skim the fat from the top, be sure to leave at least a little--that's what makes it taste good. I promise.) Let the chicken cool, then remove from the bone, discard skin, and chop into smaller pieces. Reserve broth.
2. Sauté the vegetables in oil, about 5-10 minutes. Add the beans. Add most of the tomato paste (about 2/3 of the can). Stir in 1/2 cup of the broth. Stir to incorporate. Add more broth in 1/2 cup increments until mixture is desired consistency; add more paste if needed. Stir in spices. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. (You may also add a little sugar, if you wish, but I usually choose to avoid it). Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring.
3. Adjust the thickness again, and spices. Add chicken, cover, simmering as low as possible, at least an hour. Two hours is better. (This is also fantastic the next day.)

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