It all started with a container of store-bought chili. Particularly terrible store-bought chili where the beans were particularly hard and the meat particularly spongy. See, last week I was at the grocery store shamelessly eating the soup samples. What? Don't act like you've never eaten twelve of those little plastic cups filled with everything from chicken noodle to tortilla soup. See, I have a ritual. I go to the grocery store and head straight for the deli where I ladle myself a little plastic cup (ok, a couple of little plastic cups) of soup and contemplate my purchases. The soup loading gives me the patience to deal with the diva-like women that shop at my grocery store. I mean really, rhinestone studded track pants and sunglasses inside the grocery store? It's like a bad episode of the Real Housewives of (insert your city here) except that I'm not being paid to be a part of it!
So there I am, eating my soup sample and wondering if a thirteenth cup would be too excessive, even for me, when a cute old lady rolls on up in her little motorized buggy and says, "Are you getting the chili? Isn't the chili great?" I nod noncommittally but the old lady is undeterred. She sprightly hops out of her buggy and ladles me a giant CONTAINER of chili. "That'll be perfect for dinner," she says and rolls off. Is this my grocery store's new marketing tactic? To guilt people into buying stuff? Because really, the old woman's shock and awe marketing was surprisingly effective because I ended up buying that ridiculously huge container of chili.
And later, I ended up throwing out a ridiculously huge container of chili. Because it. Was. Terrible. I tried to serve it for dinner but after one bite, the hubster refused to eat any more. I busted out the cheese and sour cream hoping to mask the chili with toppings but even toppings couldn't help this chili. It was that bad. I guess it's the grocery store's way for getting me back for eating all their soup samples.
So the next day, I made a real chili. I know, I know. There is no such thing as real chili. Some people add beans, some think beans in chili are the work of the devil (or of evil old ladies on buggies in the grocery store). Some swear it has to have beef. Some think ground beef is the answer. Bottom line is, it doesn't really matter what you put into your chili so long as you season it well and cook it so the flavors meld. My personal favorite is a chicken chili I swiped from Gourmet magazine a while ago. There are a couple of elements that make this chili unique. It uses dry-roasted peanuts as a thickener. I also add some diced jalapenos for heat but you can easily take them out if you don't like your chili spicy (or add more if you like it super spicy). Oh, and once it goes in the pot, it cooks itself while you bask in the delicious smell.
Alongside the chili, I made some gougéres because Jean, of the fabulous blog Lemons and Anchovies, made some recently and they looked so darn good! I swapped out her gruyere and anchovy fillets for sharp cheddar and cracked black pepper because I think the hubster would have refused to eat if I fed him the disastrous store bought chili and anchovies in one week.
The meal was exactly what we needed. Warm and comforting on a cold and rainy day. Oh, and I'm on to you, old lady in the buggy. There is no way I'm buying your store bought chili again. But I'll continue eating the soup samples.
1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (10 fluid ounces)
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (3/4-inch-thick) crosswise slice of a medium white onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 jalapenos, diced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 (15-ounce) can beans (I used kidney because that's all I had on hand)
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro; sour cream
Purée broth, tomatoes with their juice, jalapenos, onion, garlic, cilantro, peanuts, cumin, and salt in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Cook chicken in a separate pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat oil in a wide 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then pour in sauce. Add beans and chicken and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook chili for 30-45 minutes, adding more stock to thin if necessary.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Cracked pepper and salt, to taste
Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
For the choux pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and set aside. Pour water into a medium saucepan, add butter and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure the butter has melted before the mixture comes to a boil.
Reduce your heat to medium and add the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until the flour stops clinging to the sides of the pan and starts to form a ball around the spatula. This will take 30-40 seconds. The goal is also to evaporate as much water as possible without scorching the pastry. Remove from heat, transfer the pastry to another bowl and allow to cool for three minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time to the pastry. Stir the mixture until the egg has blended completely with the pastry before adding the next one.
Fold the cheese, garlic, salt and pepper into the pastry. Use two spoons to form about 1 1/4 inch round balls and drop on the parchment-lined baking sheet. You will get between 25-30 puffs.
Bake the puffs for about twenty minutes or until golden brown. Turn off the heat and leave the oven door ajar for 5-10 minutes to finish the puffs. This will help to avoid soft puffs.
Chili adapted from Gourmet magazine (via Epicurious). Gougéres adapted from Lemons and Anchovies.