Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cheddar Cheese Chicken Curry - A Guilty Pleasure


We all have our secret guilty pleasures – something we like even though we know we “shouldn’t.”  When it comes to food, that usually means something that’s unhealthy or too déclassé for words.  Often both.   Dishes like:

  • Tuna noodle casserole (bonus points for corn-flake topping)
  • Cold leftover pizza for breakfast
  • Lipton California dip (the one made with dried onion soup mix and sour cream)
  • Mrs. Paul’s fish fillets (or fish sticks!) with cocktail sauce
  • Frito pie
  • Velveeta & Rotel queso dip 
  • Jell-O mold
  • Kraft's blue box macaroni and cheese

Yeah, some of those on are my list, and probably yours, too.

But my all-time favorite guilty pleasure is a recipe for leftover chicken curried in cheddar cheese sauce that I first tried over 40 years ago.

It’s not authentic.  It’s not healthy.  It requires a processed food product.  And it’s probably not something you want to tell your friends about.

But sample it once, and as its creator suggests, “you may find yourself having chicken often just so you can have leftover chicken often.  I can’t say that I’d blame you.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

I lived for a spell in Texas.   There I learned the canonical Texas chili liturgy.

The dish contains chilies, obviously, and in quantity.  Probably onions and garlic (though some purists insist that spices can include only cumin, coriander, and oregano).   Salt and pepper.  Maybe tomato, in moderation (we’re not making stew here). 

Definitely no beans.  Unless you feel like it, of course.  You’re a Texan, dagnab, so you have the God-given right to eat your food how you like, even though your curious bean hankering may make you a social pariah.  If you persist in this peculiar craving, kidney beans are the best choice (preferably dark red).  Pintos will work too.

And meat.  Always meat.  Coarse ground or hand cut into ½ inch cubes.  Beef is typical.  But there’s also pork, goat, venison, buffalo.  You name it, it almost certainly has been made into chili. 

That’s it.  No additions.

Vegetarian chili?  Perish the thought.  It might be a tasty dish, but to call it chili would be nothing short of blasphemy.

Well, as Huck Finn said, “All right then, I’ll go to hell!”  Because vegetarian chili, done right, is excellent — and much less heavy than the meat version.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Green Soup

Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Green Soup

It snowed last night here in St. Louis.  As I write, there are still flurries, and the overnight forecast is for 10 degrees.  Brrrr! 

Weather like this makes me crave stick-to-your ribs fare.  And in that category, there’s little more satisfying than a hearty bean- or legume-based soup.

Some soup ingredients that are good anytime — but particularly appropriate for the New Year – are black-eyed peas and collard greens.   We’re only a few days into January, so this discussion seems timely.

In the South, Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice) is a traditional New Year’s dish.  Cooked collard greens are often served as an accompaniment.  Popular wisdom has it that Hoppin’ John represents good luck and collard greens mean good fortune (some say the green leaves represent “folding money”).

Well, I can use good luck and good fortune any time, so why not combine the two in one dish?  Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Green soup fits the bill.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ham, Bacon, and Cheddar Frittata

Ham, Bacon, And Cheddar Frittata

If your refrigerator is like mine, after a major holiday you have a shelf loaded with bits and pieces of food — all carefully wrapped.  There’s never enough of anything to serve alone, but it’s too good to throw away.

All too often, at least in my kitchen, those little food packages get shoved to the back of the fridge, and then forgotten.  Until I rediscover them a month or two later, by which time they’re inedible (and sometimes unrecognizable).

Recently, my leftovers included 3 slices of deli ham, a modest-size wedge of sharp cheddar cheese, and a nearly empty package of bacon.  What was I going to do with those?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Red Pepper and Onion Frittata

Red Pepper and Onion Frittata

Most of us don’t have time for the traditional American breakfast of bacon and eggs these days. We’re busy, so we often grab something quick and easy before rushing out the door. Besides, eggs have taken a bum rap the last couple of decades. They’re nothing but little cholesterol bombs, we’ve been told — to be avoided at all costs! For some, they’ve become a forgotten food.

Fortunately for food lovers everywhere, medical research now shows that eggs eaten in moderation have no negative health effects (see here and here). (Of course, I’m no medical expert. So if your cholesterol runs hot, you will want to discuss your diet with your doctor.)

Eggs are full of healthy protein and carry a modest caloric cost (a large egg has only 70 calories). But where to fit them into our diet? Breakfast seems the logical choice, but we still have that time issue.

Enter the frittata — a quick, delicious dish that is perfect for dinner. Add a salad or a hunk of French bread (and perhaps a glass of white vino) and you have a complete meal.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Corpse Reviver

Corpse Reviver Cocktail

Hangover Cure or Cocktail?

New Year’s Eve is an occasion when people may have a little tipple.  Some tipple a lot.  And an unfortunate few tipple way too much.

New Year’s Day?  That’s when some of those poor over-tippled souls desperately search for a remedy to soothe their aching beings.

Some swear by “hair of the dog” remedies.  The idea is that drinking more booze can cancel out a hangover — or at least dull its pain.  There is a longstanding tradition of such potions.  “The cocktail canon is lousy with bracers, glom-lifters, eye-openers and corpse-revivers” wrote Eric Felten in his December 27, 2008 Wall Street Journal column, “How’s Your Drink?” (subscription may be required to access link). He’s referring to entire classes of mixed drinks (most dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) that were concocted solely to relieve overindulgence.

The “corpse-reviver” was one such class, so named because it could — figuratively speaking — bring a drinker back from the “dead.” Today the most commonly known example from that school is the Corpse Reviver #2, a drink that essentially was forgotten after Prohibition, but has become popular again as interest in classic cocktails has exploded.