23 January 2012

Chili and Cornbread

These little hybrid delights finally have me convinced cornbread can be good
I don't like cornbread. There, I said it. It feels good to get that off my chest. It's either dry and crumbly with little to no flavor or overly sweet and cakey, making a poor excuse for a side to a delicious chili or BBQ. So what do I pair with the white chicken chili I planned for our last (tear) football Sunday?

I received a free copy of Cook's Country in the mail last week and saw this recipe for Old-Fashioned Corn Muffins. It cited the same complaints as I had--too cakey, too sweet. This 19-century inspired recipe uses yeast to leaven the batter and a lot less butter and sugar (ok, stick with me here). The result? A nicely balanced, rustic and satisfyingly corn-flavored dinner muffin. I understand they also make some great toast. I will report back on that one.

Next up was our lighter white bean and chicken chili. We got back from a fabulous trip from Bend last weekend with three of our favorite couples, who are all fabulous cooks. Needless to say with that build up, we ate well. Too well. I'm trying to make our menus, even the weekend ones, a little healthier. So, look for more meatless and health-conscious posts in the near future...we're also saving money like mad.

I found this Lighter Chicken Chili recipe on Cooksillustrated.com, but it was also available in The Best Light Recipes cookbook from the America's Test Kitchen. The recipe is suggestive of almost a chicken pozole, only not using any tomatillos or hominy (although that is a suggested substitute for the cannellini beans). I opted for the written recipe since I wanted to up our protein content.

While the "chili" turned out to be more of a soup, despite simmering for the maximum time, the depth of flavor and satisfaction of eating make you forget it's technically a light soup. In fact, I can't imagine it being heavier. As a bonus, you can make it as spicy or as mild as you like by removing or keeping the ribs and/or seeds of the chiles. We errored on the mild side and topped it off with a dollop of lowfat plain yogurt and avocado. Perfect for our last (sniff) Sunday of football at home for the next six months. Next year, Broncos. Next year.

Added bonus: we bought two whole chickens and used the breasts for this soup, and saved the legs to make a hoisin-glazed chicken for dinner later this week--healthy and budget friendly!
Old-Fashioned Corn Muffins 
Cook's Country magazine

1 cup whole or lowfat milk, heated to 110 degrees
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
1 large egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup finely ground cornmeal (although I used medium ground and it was fine)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1. Warm oven. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.
2. Mix batter. Whisk milk, butter and yeast in large liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in egg. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment*, mix 1/2 cup flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Gradually add remaining flour until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until batter is thick and elastic, about 3 minutes.
3. Let rise. Using greased 1/4-cup measure, transfer batter to muffin cups. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until batter reaches rims of muffins cups, about 1 hour.
4. Bake muffins. Remove muffin tin from oven and heat oven to 375 degrees. Discard plastic and bake muffins until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Serve. (Muffins can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 3 days).

Make ahead: Filled muffin tin can be refrigerated, covered, for 24 hours. Let batter sit at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to step 4.

*Note: I didn't use my stand mixer and was able to do this step with a hand mixer, although you want to be sure yours has enough power to not poop out on you because the batter does get quite elastic.

Light Chicken Chili
The Best Light Recipe

Serves 8
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (2 whole breasts, split)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 poblano chiles , stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium
3 Anaheim chile peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium
2 medium jalapeño chiles , one medium and one small, seeds and ribs removed and set aside, flesh minced
2 medium onions, minced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons ground oregano
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
4 scallions, sliced thin

1. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Sear the chicken, skin side down, until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the chicken and sear on the second side until browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and discard the skin.
2. Add all of the chiles except the small jalapeño, the onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer half of the chile mixture to a clean plate; set aside.
3. Stir in the broth, chicken, and beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is fully cooked, abut 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large plate. Continue to simmer the chili, uncovered, until it has thickened, 35 to 40 minutes.
4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the bones. Stir the shredded chicken, reserved chile mixture, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and small jalapeño into the chili. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the chili is too thick, stir in additional water to thin it out. (The chili can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)
PER 1 1/2-CUP SERVING: Cal 320; Fat 4.5 g; Sat fat .5 g; Chol 80 mg; Carb 28g; Protein 39 g; Fiber 9 g; Sodium 1240 mg

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