Sunday, May 10, 2015

Peace and Comfort, a.k.a. Death and Disaster, a.k.a.Joy and Celebration - Chicken and Uncle Bens Long Grain and Wild Rice Casserole

This is one of those family recipes that came from my mother.  Where she got it from, I suspect a Better Homes and Garden cookbook from the 60's.  It has that vibe - you know when beans and wienies with bottle bbq sauce was fine living.  It is the opposite of fine cooking ala Mark Bittman.  It is full of sodium and fat.  It has no fresh vegetables.  But for when it is needed - it is just the thing. My mom always called it Death and Disaster - for when there was a death or disaster in the neighborhood, this is what she made to take over.

I think the habit of making food for your neighbors in time of trouble has become a lost art.  First - do you even know your neighbors?  I don't, not really. Not like when I grew up.  Today we live in a neighborhood, but we don't live life together.  Xbox and Cable, a dozen different churches (or none), with schools so big you will never know your classmates - we don't live life together.  Shame on us.

Later, my sister in law renamed it Joy and Celebration - because it is a fine dish to bring over in time of  Joy and Celebration, and perhaps she is just a little less fatalistic than my mother (and I).  So it became Joy and Celebration.  I made it when we went to visit our new granddaughter.  And visit our daughter and son in law, but lets face it, its all about the bebe.  Joy and Celebration it was.

Recently I had the occasion to make it for a family where the mother of two young children had died. Well, I really did not want to call it death and disaster (although the situation is both), but Joy and Celebration really did not fit.  So what to call it....

In all the events this is shared, it really is about sharing life together.  Sadness and Joy.  Death and Life.  So I have renamed this dish - it shall now and forever more be called Peace and Comfort. Because that is what it is.  It is that family dish that binds together all who share it.  It is, and always has been food made of love.

The recipe is my mothers - with my edits in parenthesis.  This makes a lot of food - it comes from a time when 3 kids was a small family.  Cut the recipe in half or make it in two dishes - one to share and one for your family to eat.

  • 2 chickens, cut up (or just a bunch of chicken thighs - boneless or not, but I do remove the skin.  I think thighs handle the cooking time better than the breasts)
  • 2 packages Uncle Ben's Rice-Wild Rice Mix, but only one of the seasoning mixes.  Mom thinks it is too salty with both. (I agree)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1/2 cup french dressing
  • 2 cans each cream of celery, cream of mushroom, and cream of chicken soup (so that's six cans of soup)- Mom says low fat does not work well - who am I to disagree?
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 soup can water
  • Hazelnuts, a.k.a. filberts (My sister in law omits them - I insist on them)
  • Parmesan cheese (or other)

Mix all ingredients except chicken, nuts and cheese and put 2/3 in bottom of baking pan. Place chicken parts on top. Cover with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to coat. Add nuts. Bake at 350 for 75-90 minutes. This reheats well.

May it bring peace and comfort to those who you share it with, in times of death and disaster as well as in times of joy and celebration.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Green Sauce, a.k.a. Creamy Green Sauce a.k.a. Jalapeno Avocado Sauce a.k.a. ?????

There are a lot of names for this, none of them really very accurate, outside of “green sauce”, because it is, well, green. You will find this in only the finest taco joints.  And by finest, I mean good ones.

While smooth and luscious, there is no dairy, so not really creamy (although you could add crema or yogurt)

While it kind of tastes like perhaps there is avocado in it, there isn’t.  But you could put one in instead of the oil.

It is really just, well, DELICOUS!  Crazy Good!  The kind of stuff you go to a taco joint just to eat spoonfuls of!

So, what is it?

Jalepenos (or other pepper like Poblanos or Anaheims), onion, garlic, salt, fresh squeezed lime (if you like) and oil, cooked and pureed.

Super simple – make some tonight!

This is the mild version - if you follow the directions, it really will be pretty mild, unless your jalapenos are the insanely hot (sometimes they are)

  • ·         1lb jalapenos (about 20 or so)
  • ·         4-5 green onions, cut into 3 inch sections, whites and greens)
  • ·         3-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ·         ½ teaspoon salt
  • ·         ¼ cup corn oil (or other neutral oil – no olive oil)
  • ·         ½ lime juice, to taste

  • ·         Put on some disposable gloves
  • ·         De-stem, de-seed and de-rib the jalapenos.  If you like your sauce spicier, skip step – just toss in whole.   WEAR GLOVES.  Really bad idea to do this and then rub your eyes.  #justsayin
  • ·         Toss jalapenos, green onions into pot of water, bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until soft (about 20 minutes)
  • ·         For the last 1 minute or so, toss the peeled garlic cloves into the simmering water.  This will temper the raw garlic taste
  • ·         Drain, let cool
  • ·         If you did not de-stem, etc earlier, do so now.  The more seeds and ribs you scrape out, the milder it will be.  Like it spicier?  Leave some or all of that out.  But do get rid of the stems
  • ·         Toss everything into blender, add salt, puree at low speed
  • ·         When things are getting nice and pureed, start slowly adding oil to mixture in blender.  Once added, speed up the blender.  Basically your making a nice emulsion so the oil does not separate out of the sauce
  • ·         Taste, add more salt or squeeze some lime juice into the mix while blending.  The lime juice will brighten up the flavors.  Not sure it needs it, be sure to start with just a half lime.  You could use a tablespoon of white vinegar

If too spicy, cut with greek yogurt or sour cream or add advocados.  Yogurt adds it's own tang and was generally preferred in our house.  If you were planning on using yogurt, especially yogurt with fat in it, I would probably reduce the amount of oil.  Same if your adding advocados

1 cup cilantro is a very nice contribution - just put it in at the start of the blending stage.

I like it better without the lime, but to each their own

If you want to have this on chips, remember you want El Milagro "Totopos" homestyle chips.  Really you do.