Tamale Chicken Potpies

It’s January, which that means we’re due for a deep freeze. And we’re right on course; the last week and more we’ve seen sub-zero temps for days at a time. So when the thermometer dips, I always look for meals to cook in the oven to heat up the kitchen. This potpie was a perfect solution; it’s healthy, easy to make on a weeknight, plus it’s baked in the oven so it warmed both the house and myself!

I don’t have individual ramekins, so I made this in a 1 3/4-quart casserole dish, and although it went over the edges a little bit, I would still say it was a success. I feel like I sound like a broken record, I found it “warm and comforting,” but I really did! That’s my kind of supper this time of year. I served this with a crisp, green salad, although the suggested black beans would be a perfect complement!


Tamale Chicken Potpies

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Serve these individual potpies with a side of spicy black beans: Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper and 2 minced garlic cloves; sauté until soft. Stir in 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed and drained black beans, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind; cook until thoroughly heated (about 5 minutes). Stir in 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, if desired.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
12 ounces ground chicken
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup chopped zucchini
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce
Cooking spray
1/2 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups water, divided
3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide chicken mixture evenly among 4 (10-ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a jelly-roll pan.

Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in 2 ounces cheese. Divide cornmeal mixture evenly among ramekins. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 ounce cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until light golden brown.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Animal Farm’s Butter!
A while back I brought you the recipe for Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits, made with the buttermilk from Animal Farm in Orwell, Vermont. At the time, I told you about Diane St. Clair’s incredible butter that is nothing like you’ve ever tasted (it’s $19 a pound, so at that price it’s like eating gold!). Last month a local television station did a story on St. Clair, her cows and farm, and her butter that she sends to top chef Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in New York City.

It’s a fun story and you can watch it here, Butter Makes Its Mark at NYC Restaurant.

Spring Radishes with Chive Butter

The weather this past Saturday was spectacular, but was I in the flower garden doing the weeding I should have done last fall? Of course not! We took a quick jaunt to the lake for the first time this year to rest and read in the late afternoon. Nevermind the state parks aren’t open yet and it was a bit breezy, a quick walk was all I needed to warm up. But the walk got me thinking of summer, picnics, and what I was going to pack in that basket!

A few nights ago, my favorite local bakery (I’ve written about them here), mentioned they were serving French bread with radishes and chive butter. It sounded delicious, and since I had all four ingredients in the house, I decided to add it to the dinner I was making that night.

I love all alliums of all sorts, but I’m especially fond of chives. I love them snipped into some scrambled eggs with some creamy cheese added or with mashed potatoes. The chive bed is the first to pop up in the spring in my little herb garden and I’m always looking for ways to use them; I hate to think of those gorgeous green wisps being wasted on the wildlife that frequents the backyard!

So for this recipe, no measurement is needed. First off, take some fresh radishes and slice them paper-thin with a paring knife. Next, take a small bowl and add some softened  butter, unsalted or salted, whichever is handy and warm, and add some snipped chives, however much you want, a little or a lot. Spread the butter on a slice of warm French bread. Top with the sliced radishes. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could add some baby arugula or watercress and make a sandwich. And if you’re feeling extremely ambitious, I couldn’t help but think if you had a slice of homemade French bread right out of the oven that it would bring you one step closer to heaven!

This would be perfect to add to your picnic basket this summer as it doesn’t take up a lot of room, is relatively easy to pack, and you can eat it with your fingers. And like I do with my summer herbs and fresh garlic (see here), you can make a big serving, wrap tablespoon dollops in plastic wrap, and freeze for later use!

Saturday Morning Ritual

Saturday mornings in the summer are a total about-face from my winter routine. Up with the sun with a cup of coffee, I sit with a piece of paper and pencil, figure out what I’m going to cook for the week, grab my bags, and head out for my local farmer’s market.

Farmer’s markets weren’t something I grew up with, but following college, I visited my  first one when it opened in town, which had just a couple of booths with farmers selling vegetables. At the time, I didn’t really know what organic meant nor were my cooking skills honed enough to know what to do with most of the veggies, so I stuck with what I knew: peas, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes. That same farmer’s market has expanded ten fold in the past two decades, moved its location, and now is one of the largest in the state.

I’ve been going to my own farmer’s market for more than ten years and along with the usual fruits and vegetables has come a plethora of other vendors. This year we have two local vineyards, meat, greeting cards, jewelry, homemade soap, flowers, prepared food, maple syrup, baked goods, and various crafters. This year I can even get my knives sharpened at $3 a pop! But I’m really there for the food.

Unlike my grocery list that is neatly organized, I go to the farmer’s market with some cash in my pocket, no list, and unusual reckless abandon. My method is always the same, start at one end, going down the other, checking out what is available and their prices, then going back to my usual farmers. And I always end up buying more than we can eat in a week’s time. Who can resist the gorgeous fresh garlic still on its stalk? The pint of bright red tomatoes? All the emerald-colored herbs that will fill my car with the  aroma of summer? The fridge overfloweth with fresh vegetables and fruit.

Herbs are something I love to buy, but I usually end up with too much and too many times have made their way to the compost pile because I didn’t use them in time.  A couple of years ago, staring at some wilting herbs in their water, I decided to make something with them so I could use them up and have summer all year long–Garlic Herb Butter! And it’s so easy; take some minced new garlic and some minced herbs, I like basil, parsley, dill, oregano, or a combination, and mix together. Take some butter and make a paste with the herbs. (Depending on how much you have for garlic and herbs will be how much butter you use.) When you finish mixing, take a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and with a tablespoon, measure out into herb butter patties and place in the freezer. When they are frozen, I take them out, wrap each one individually, and store in a freezer bag. I make several different combinations and just keep them in the freezer. I use these for sauteing vegetables in the wintertime and buttering homemade bread; the aroma of the fresh garlic and herbs is wonderful; it takes me back to my hot kitchen in the middle of summer! And they keep forever; I found some in the back of the freezer this winter with a date I won’t to say, but it was still fresh and was delicious with some winter vegetables!

Another dish to make is something I call Farmer’s Market Salad, with veggies that are currently in the season at the farmer’s market, aside from the ingredients for the dressing, of course. You can use any combination: fresh lettuce mix and/or spinach, steamed green beans, tomatoes, fresh corn, scallions, cooked new potatoes, cucumbers, herbs, basically any vegetable you buy can go in the salad. Since everything is so fresh and tasty, I don’t like to adorn it too much, so some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a splash of either lemon or vinegar will do. Who knows, maybe I’ll see olive oil and lemon purveyors next summer!