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Oscar night chili

Spicy chicken chili in a Le Creuset pot for a terrific Oscar night dinner party.
I made this chili yesterday because I was making chicken broth at the same time, (from a roast chicken carcass that I had cooked on Wednesday) and I thought, well this would be easy because the chili calls for two and half cups of broth. It is a fairly quick recipe, so you still have time to make it today. (And your broth does not have to be homemade, although it is better.) Served in warm wide soup bowls with some hot cornbread and topped with some fresh onions, cheddar cheese or sour cream, you have a perfect dinner to watch the Academy Awards with tonight!

So I was all excited to share this with you today. (Last night I was busy with the gallery show opening that my painting was in – a terrific turnout with support from our friends!) And then I said, wait a minute, didn’t I already do that last year? And a quick search said yes I did, for a football Sunday. But wait, I changed the recipe again! So here is my version from yesterday. Although I am serving it tonight, trust me, I tasted it yesterday and it is darn good.

Now, who do you want to win best picture? I’m betting on Lincoln. And I’m rooting for Sally Field for Best Supporting Actress. I thought she was terrific! (Yes, we like you, we really like you!) And if Alan Arkin doesn’t win Best Supporting Actor for Argo, I’ll be very upset. Let me know what you think.

– serves 4 – 5

2 tbs. canola oil
1 medium large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a large red pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/2″ squares
1 lb. skinless chicken thighs (about 4), trimmed of all fat and cut into thin strips
1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. chili powder
1 tbs. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano (preferable Greek oregano)
1 tsp. salt
2 jalapeño peppers, ribs removed, chopped, with some seeds
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with their juice
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1  15 oz. can drained and rinsed pinto beans
1  15 oz. can drained and rinsed black beans
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

Suggested garnishes:
Chopped cilantro
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Minced onion
Sour cream or unflavored low fat Greek yogurt

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper; cover, stir and cook until they soften, about 12 minutes. This makes the onion lovely and sweet.Onions, garlic and red pepper sauteeing in a Le Crueset Dutch oven.

Increase the heat to moderate and stir in the chicken strips. Cook until they are no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Add the jalapeños, the tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15 minutes longer. Serve topped with your favorite garnishes.

Wedges of warm cornbread are always great with chili. Or serve the chili over rice.

Super easy nachos

Easy nachos with avocado and jalapenos.
This is so easy, it’s almost stupid. But it’s really, really good!! I have seen the most sophisticated people not want to stop eating these in my home. And they are perfect for Super Bowl Sunday. You see, I made these up when I was having a casual weeknight dinner party, and needed a quick, easy and delicious appetizer. My guests usually sit at the counter at my kitchen so I can talk to them while I cook on the other side.

It’s funny to me that the “counter” has come full circle in my life. When I was a kid, (I’m the youngest of 6 with 5 older brothers), if we misbehaved at the kitchen table at dinnertime, we were sent to eat at the counter behind us having our back to the table and eating next to a sink filled with vegetable peels and a can of dog food ready to feed the dog. My Dad was a Major in the army in WW II and he could be pretty tough. The “crime” could have been something like my brother, Mark, making me laugh so hard that milk would come spewing out of my nose. Most of the time I was sent to the counter, not Mark! And now I grow up and my counter is full of friends and family hanging out and allowing me to be a part of the party! I love my open kitchen here.

Back to the nachos – I love nachos! We all love the crunch and the salt, but they’re too much. How do you make them lighter and a bit healthier, I kept on asking myself. This is what I think about in the middle of the night. Duh!!!

So here’s what I do.

Restaurant style Tostitos – a mound to fit on an 11” round serving plate
1 15.5 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
2 fresh plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise and chopped
3 – 4 oz. fresh grated sharp cheddar cheese, to taste
½ fresh avocado, cubed
Pickled jalapeno peppers, sliced
Your favorite salsa on the side

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mound a pile of chips on a rimless cookie sheet the size of the plate you’re using to serve this. It’s very important that your cookie sheet is rimless because you have to slide the whole thing off onto your plate. Scatter your drained beans on top, then the fresh tomatoes and grated cheese. Bake on the top shelf in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted. Remove from the oven and slide onto your serving plate.

Top with the fresh avocado cubes and pickled jalapeno peppers. Serve with a cake server on small plates with some salsa on the side that your guests can spoon on to their pile of warm nachos. Enjoy! GO GIANTS!!!!!

Serving of nachos with avocado and salsa.

A serving with salsa

For a snowy football weekend!

Spicy chicken chili in a spoon.

Spicy chicken chili

Tomorrow, we are entertaining for the big Giants game. I thought this chili would be perfect to serve with all the garnishes and hot cornbread, plus a big tossed salad.

What can be better than to make a big pot of chili on a beautiful snowy Saturday with a fire going in the fireplace? NOTHING!

This is a favorite recipe of mine, adapted from a very old Food and Wine Magazine. It gives you the big chili flavor and isn’t nearly as heavy as it’s made with chicken. It has a melody of spices and heat from the jalapeños. If you don’t like so much heat, remove the seeds, but I like to keep them in. I also like to use Greek oregano which is much more potent and grind cumin seeds for the cumin powder. Again, more powerful flavor.

Joko – I hope you like this!!

-serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 4), cut into thin strips, all fat removed
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped fine with seeds
1 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed, with their juice
2 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 15.5 oz can of drained and rinsed pinto beans
1 15.5 oz.can of drained and rinsed black beans
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

For garnish:

Minced sweet onion
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Cilantro leaves
Sliced pickled jalapeños

Serve on top of a few tortilla chips or steamed rice

Serve with warm cornbread

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, covered, until they soften, about 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to moderate and stir in the chicken strips. Cook until they are no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Add the jalapeños, the tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15 minutes or even longer. Serve topped with the onions, sour cream, cheddar cheese or more jalapeños. It is nice to give your guests a choice. Top all with cilantro leaves.

Wedges of corn bread are always a good complement to chili. Or serve the chili over steamed rice or a few tortilla chips.

For Football Sunday

Or shall I say, how to love your man and make him ADORE you.

I made this for dinner last Sunday and my husband was so so happy, and the Giants won!! So maybe it’s also our good luck burger. Now I don’t usually make things like this – too rich, too fattening, too, too and not special enough for a Sunday dinner, but Steve was so excited about the game last week, we had to rush home from the country and be here in Manhattan to see it. We don’t have TV in the country – just Netflix on the Internet, which by the way, the selection there stinks, and DVD’s on our old Sony.

But I saw this Bobby Flay Nacho Burger recipe on the cover of the January issue of Food and Wine and it just seemed so right for the day. It was really good. Really.

However in my inimitable way of constantly tinkering with recipes, if I were to make it again, I might do ¼ lb. sharp cheddar and ¼ lb. Monterey Jack cheese in the sauce, instead of all Jack. And I thought the salsa was too sweet. Rather than the pickled jalapeños on top, I think I would put in ½ of a fresh, thinly sliced jalapeño, with the seeds, directly in the salsa and skip the pickled ones all together.

I have also switched the order of his process – you need to make the cheese sauce first so it cools and gets thick.

Let me know what you think.


(Fortunately we are invited to our friend’s house upstate for this weekend. They have a TV and Margaret is going to make rabbit! A bit more elegant than this!)

NACHO BURGERS from Bobby Flay and Food and Wine magazine

Nacho Burgers.

© John Kernick

Cheese Sauce
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
3 plum tomatoes, finely diced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 chipotle chile in adobo, seeded and minced (I left the seeds in)

Vegetable oil, for brushing (I used olive oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sliced pickled jalapeños and blue corn tortilla chips, for topping
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

MAKE THE CHEESE SAUCE In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook over moderate heat for 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until smooth and thickened, 5 minutes. Stir in the Jack cheese until melted, then stir in the pecorino; season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cool until it is very thick and spreadable.

MAKE THE SALSA In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt.

MAKE THE BURGERS Light a grill or heat a grill pan on high heat. Form the beef into 4 patties (try to handle the meat as little as possible) and brush with oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat until browned outside and medium-rare within, about 3 – 4 minutes per side, depending on your heat.

Place the burgers on the buns. Top with the cheese sauce, salsa, pickled jalapeños and chips. Close the burgers and serve.