A Cheesy Comeback

Just because I haven’t posted for more than a year doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. On the contrary, Glenn and I have used almost every new appliance, tool, and dish that has been added to our kitchen since our wedding. You may find a new immersion blender, jelly roll pan, and set of dishes in our cabinets, but the same old food processor is stashed away in there, too.

Not only have I not been writing blog posts, I haven’t been reading them either. Most of my inspiration comes from the magazines that Glenn’s grandma subscribes me to. I’ve cooked almost every recipe that’s been printed in Fine Cooking for the last 12 months, but I think this soup is the first recipe I’ve made from Southern Living since I began receiving it two years ago.

This Southwestern Cheesy Potato Soup isn’t really my style—it uses frozen potatoes—but I tested it out at a family Christmas gathering and it turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser. I was typing up the recipe to email my to my aunts and cousins when I realized, I already have a forum for that!  May this post be the first of many in a new year!

Southwestern Cheesy Potato Soup
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced onion
3 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ package frozen Potatoes O’Brien
¼ tsp. cumin
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
2½ cups milk
28 oz. broth
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a skillet, saute red pepper, onion, poblanos, and garlic in oil until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the frozen potatoes and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes more. Stir in cumin. Set aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir with a fork or whisk to break up clumps. Cook until lightly browned, about a minute. Add the milk and cook over low heat until thick like gravy.

Add the broth then stir in the cheeses. Mix in the sauted vegetables. Cook until warm.

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Creamy White Bean Chili

If I were the kind of person who threw Super Bowl parties or, you know, owned a TV on which to watch the Super Bowl, I would make this chili. Maybe it wouldn’t be great on a chili-cheese dog or in Frito pie, but it’s hearty and spicy and rich.

In this recipe, the half of the beans and vegetables are pureed after cooking, giving the chili a bisque-like quality. The white beans, cream, and herbs offer richness, which is balanced by the zesty spiciness of the sausage. On second thought, maybe this would make an excellent alternative chili-cheese dog with a jalapeno-chicken sausage and Monterrey-Jack cheese.

Creamy White Bean Chili
Serves 6-8

To prepare the beans:
1 pound dried white beans
8 cups water
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary

To quick-soak the beans, place the dry beans in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let stand for one hour. Drain.

Return the drained beans to the pot and add 8 cups of water along with the garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary. Simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 to 1½ hours. Drain, but reserve 2 cups of cooking liquid to use in the soup.

To cook the soup:
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
2 cups broth
2 cups bean cooking liquid
1 pound chorizo
¼ cup whipping cream

Saute the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until tender. Add thyme, beans, 2 cups of broth, and 2 cups of bean cooking liquid to pot. Simmer to combine flavors, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, crumble and cook the chorizo. Drain and set aside. Remove about half of the cooked beans and vegetables from the pot and set aside with the sausage.

Working in batches, puree the other half of the cooked beans and vegetables in a food processor. If you want a thicker soup, use a slotted spoon to remove the beans and vegetables from the cooking liquid. Whatever thickness you want, just be careful not to add too much liquid to the food processor at a time. The liquid tends to spray out of the lid. Most processors have a “liquid fill line,” but a good rule of thumb is to only fill the liquid to the top of the blade.

Combine the pureed mixture with the whole beans vegetables, sausage, and cream. Warm on the stove over a low heat.

Chive Biscuits with Smoky Corn and Okra Stew

This meal was summer’s going away party. Sorry I didn’t get it up sooner and you won’t have the opportunity to make it until next year. I’m sure there’s a big welcome winter party coming soon.

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Exhibit A: Chive Biscuits. Why limit biscuits to breakfast?

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Exhibit B: Smoky Corn and Okra Stew. Char the corn as much as possible. Cook the okra as little as possible.

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Exhibit C: Chive Biscuit with Smoky Corn and Okra Stew. It’s the biscuits and gravy of dinner. The recipe is below (you could easily substitute vegetable broth and omit the turkey for a vegetarian version).

Chive Biscuits (makes 8):

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1 1/4 skicks cold butter
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • Mix dry ingredients and add chives
  • Cut butter into small pieces and cut into dry ingredients
  • Add buttermilk and stir (not too much!)
  • Knead 6-8 times
  • Roll dough into a 12″x6″x1″ rectangle and cut into 8 squares
  • Whisk together 1 egg and 1/4 cup buttermilk and brush tops of biscuits (not required, but it makes a nice golden crust)
  • Bake for 12-15 min at 450

Smoky Corn and Okra Stew (serves 8 – generously):

  • 4 ears corn (discard husks, reserve silks)
  • 1 lb smoked turkey leg (from grocery deli)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 large onion (quartered)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 lb small okra
  • 3 1/2 Tb flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Brown corn in a hot iron skillet and cut kernels from cobs (reserve cobs)
  • Simmer water, cobs, silks, turkey skin and bones, 1/4 onion, and 1 tsp salt in a large pot (about 30-40 minutes or until reduced to 3 cups)
  • Strain broth through sieve and discard solids
  • Cut turkey meat into 1/2″ pieces
  • Coarsely chop remaining onion, cook in butter until tender
  • Aadd okra to onion and cook until tender (about 5-10 minutes)
  • Sprinkle flour over veggies and cook about 1 minute
  • Add broth and milk and bring to a boil. Cook until slightly thickened (about 2 minutes)
  • Stir in corn and turkey and heat through