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COOKING : WEEKEND COOK

Savor the flavors all week long

A Saturday morning in the kitchen yields delicious dishes that pull double duty.

October 15, 2008|Liz Pearson | Special to The Times

IT'S SATURDAY morning and every corner of my kitchen has that delicious, yeasty fragrance usually reserved for bakeries. A mound of whole wheat dough speckled with dates sits in a towel-covered bowl on the counter.

In an hour or two, I'll shape it into flatbreads and top it with onions caramelized in bacon drippings.

The aromas and busy noises in my kitchen are timely. We're a month or so into the fall semester, and the architect with whom I've shared my dinner table for years is a college professor for the first time. Never having cooked around a teaching schedule before, I'm learning quickly. To guarantee good eats in the week to come, cooking a few hours on Saturday morning is the way to go.

I arrange spicy poblano chiles under the broiler to blister and soften; they'll add just the right heat and color to creamy green chile and chicken stew.

Meanwhile, onions caramelize in a pot on the stove. When they're deep brown and achingly soft, I set aside half for the flatbreads. The rest join with a bottle of beer and cook down for the stew.

When they're done, I drop the roasted chiles into a bowl and set them aside to steam, making the job of peeling them later a cinch. I lower the heat on the oven and arrange a tray of broccoli rabe, dressed with olive oil and orange zest, on a rack inside. On the stove, a skillet bubbles with white wine and cannellini beans.

When the broccoli rabe is tender, some of its leaves crisp and deliciously brittle, I toss it with half of the beans; a shower of ricotta salata over the top and this hearty side dish is done.

Tossed with salad greens, the savory mix will even make a satisfying lunch next week with a piece of flatbread and a sweet fall apple on the side -- ideal for a professor's busy day.

I puree the rest of the beans with the caramelized onions, roasted chiles and chicken stock to make a velvety poaching liquid for the stew's chicken thighs.

I'm always keen to use common ingredients like the beans and caramelized onions in recipes because they afford me the time, even on busy weekends, for small extravagances like baking homemade bread.

As for the stew, we'll feast on it for dinner tonight and then again in the coming week at the end of a long day. What's more, it doubles as a surprising pasta sauce. I consider a recipe like this one -- that's versatile and manages to get more flavorful each day -- to be the hallmark of a Saturday morning's cooking done well.

The flatbreads cool on the counter as I wash the last of the dishes. I'm eager to tear off a hunk and smear it with farmer cheese or maybe a spoonful of thick, garlicky hummus. The smell of my early afternoon snack draws the professor out from behind his desk, where he's been typing away.

Truth be told, I'm biding my time until midterms. He's likely to be tough on his students, in which case they'll surely need homemade cookies to help them soldier through.

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food@latimes.com

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

Creamy green chile and chicken stew

Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Servings: 8 to 12

Note: When making this recipe, you can use half of the bean and wine mixture from the broccoli rabe with white beans instead of the cannellini beans in the ingredient list below. To roast the peppers, place them on a stove burner or under the broiler and toast, turning frequently, until the skin is completely charred; place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. When the peppers are cool, peel or brush off the blackened skin and remove the seeds. Do not rinse the peppers because it removes the flavor.

6 slices bacon

2 large yellow onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 (12-ounce) bottle light beer or lager

1 quart chicken broth, plus more if desired

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano, crushed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

4 large medium-hot green chiles (such as poblano, about 1 pound), roasted, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups corn kernels (from about 3 cobs) or cooked and drained white hominy

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

2 bay leaves

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds)

3/4 cup sour cream, divided

Warm corn tortillas

1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until it's crisp and the fat is rendered, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, crumble and set aside. Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until deep golden brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Reserve half of the onions for the whole wheat flatbread recipe, or for another use.

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