Monday, January 17, 2011

A week with Ina: Chicken Chili

There were many weekends when I would get an email from my mom first thing in the morning and she was up just as early as me. Most the time when I would reply and tell her I was watching a cooking show, she would reply right away that she was watching too. Even if we were hundreds of miles away, it made me feel like we were in the same room. Usually it would be the Barefoot Contessa. We both adored Ina Garten.

Eight weeks after mom was diagnosed with cancer, I found out Ina would be stopping in Kansas City during her book tour to promote How Easy is That? I immeditely thought of how great it would be for mom to come and attend the event with me. She had been feeling pretty good and her chemo treatments were going amazingly well. It could be something for her to look forward to and a celebration of finishing the chemo.

Over the next month, I traveled back and forth from mom's hospital room. Anyone who has gone through cancer with a friend or family member will tell you that there's lots of sitting and waiting at hospitals. To fill the time, mom and I talked about food, cookbooks and our favorite cooks. We also talked about the Kardashians, soccer, nail polish colors, leg hair and a multitude of other topics that were just distractions. Anyone who has gone through this will also tell you talking is precious. When the time comes for communicating with just hand squeezes and eye contact, that's when you're glad for all the talking you've done.

In November, I did go to Ina's Kansas City book tour event and felt like mom was there with me. Now when I watch Ina cooking or read one of her cookbooks that mom owned, the wandering thoughts in my brain mix in those random hospital conversations and I am glad we had them.

This week, I'm going to cook from five of Ina's cookbooks. First up is a adaptation of her chicken chili from the first Barefoot Contessa cookbook I bought myself in 2001, at mom's recommendation. I didn't use the canned tomatoes that Ina suggests so I've added chicken stock for liquid. You'll see that I also added white beans 'cause I can't do chili without beans.

Chicken Chili, makes 6 servings (adapted from a recipe in Barefoot Contessa Parties)

  • 2 Tblsp. good quality olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon taco seasoning (Mexican or enchilado seasoning would work too)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 15 oz. cans of Great Northern beans, undrained (pour the liquid in too!)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  1. Heat olive oil over high heat in stockpot or Dutch oven. Add onions and carrots, stirring to cook until carrots are fork tender. Add the garlic, cumin and taco seasoning stirring to coat veggies.

  2. Add chicken and cook over med-high heat until pieces are no longer pink on the outside. Stir in green pepper and cook for a few minutes (I like to wait to add the green pepper after the chicken so the pepper doesn't get too soft). Pour in a little of the chicken stock if you need to keep the chicken from sticking. (Ina likes to roast her chicken in the oven and add it after the chili has simmered but I like cooking it all together.)

  3. Add the beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to let it simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Note: We like a soupier chili in our house because everyone adds something to their own bowl, like crushed up crackers, sour cream or grated cheese. If you like a thicker chili, you can sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour over the onions and carrots at the same time that you add the seasonings.

See step-by-step photos in this video:


The Mom Chef said...

What a touching story that was. So full of warmth and love. Thank you so much for sharing it. The chili looks fantastic and I agree; it needs beans!

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