Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Black-eyed pea and lentil chili

On New Year's Day in the American south it is good luck to eat black-eyed peas. On New Year's Day in Italy it is good fortune to eat lentils. So this year I made a chicken chili with black-eyed peas and lentils and called it Double Luck chili. Maybe it will bring some good things my way for 2008.

I started the night before by soaking 1 ½ cups black-eyed peas in a bowl of water. As I've said before, I don't think the soaking step is really necessary but it does make the cooking time go faster, so if you remember to do it ahead of time it probably helps. I drained them the next day then covered them with fresh water in a pot along with 1 tablespoon epazote, and boiled for about 45 minutes. When they are soft, take them off heat, drain and set aside. In my dutch oven I heated 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and sautéed 1 medium, minced onion until soft and golden brown. Then I added 4 cloves minced garlic and sautéed another 2 minutes. Cleared a space in the center of the pot, added a tablespoon more olive oil and when it was hot dumped in 2 teaspoons chile powder and 1 teaspoon cumin. Let the spices bloom in the hot oil for a minute, then stirred up everything together. I de-seeded and minced one fresh poblano pepper and one fresh long, hot pepper and added them into the pot to sauté as well. I also had 2 dried ancho chilies, so I de-seeded those as well and sliced them into thin strips before adding to the mixture in the pot. I de-seeded all these peppers because I was worried they would be too hot, but it actually turned out to be pretty tame heat-wise, so if you want go ahead and leave some of the seeds in to ramp it up a bit. You can use whatever peppers you like--jalapeno or something would be fine. The dried chiles give it a nice smoky flavor so it's good to find a few of those for sure. After sautéeing together the peppers, garlic, onion and spices for a few minutes, I added in about 5 cups of chicken stock, a bouillon cube, 1 ¼ cup dried lentils, the cooked black-eyed peas and a 6 ouce can of tomato paste. Stirred this all up well together, brought to a boil and allowed to simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile I chopped up 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast into small 1" chunks, then added into the chili. Let everything cook up together for another 30 minutes or until the lentils were soft and the chicken cooked through. At this point, I stirred in 2 tablespoons of minced cilantro and 1 tablespoon minced parsley. The chili got to be a pretty good, thick-ish consistency but you may wish to add more stock or water to thin it out if it boils down too much for your taste. I also made elbow pasta to serve it over because I sort of like macaroni in my chili. Shredded white cheddar is delicious to put on top, so maybe you should do that too.

I made a jícama salad to go with, as well as cornbread. I think I have already written down the cornbread recipe, but the jícama thing is new. Melanie really liked it. She said it was refreshing and thought it went really well with her wine. In case you've never seen one, jícama (pronounce it "hee-kah-mah") is a really ugly, roundish root vegetable. It's pretty big and brown and usually waxy on the outside. But you just peel it and then inside it is crisp and sweet and wonderful to eat raw. You can shred it, but I just cut it into thin matchsticks. I peeled one carrot into long strips, then cut the strips down to 2" lengths and tossed them together with the jícama, juice from 1 lime, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. It made a crunchy, sweet and tangy salad that contrasts well with a bowl of chili.

Happy new year!

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