White Bean Chili with Chicken and Collard Greens

Paula Deen's White Bean Chili with Collard Greens2Dead southwesterners everywhere are rolling over in their graves because Paula Deen has added collard greens to their chili. Yes, I’ve done it again, I’ve gone to Paula Deen for another recipe. And you know what? It is the best white bean chili I have ever had. EVER. This is a very bold statment for me to make, especially since I don’t love collard greens as much as other greens. I’m not a huge fan of the traditional preparation of collard greens–which is to cook them to death with some ham hock. But this…THIS…I could eat once a week. It was absolutely delicious. And I think it could easily be made vegetarian–just add some more beans, take away the chicken, and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. And would you believe this Paula Deen recipe does not have even a teaspoon of butter? No, y’all, it does not. 

 

Collard Greens in Salad Spinner

It has been chilly and rainy in Birmingham for the past, hmmmm…month? This soup was perfect for a chilly, rainy night, and I’m actually going to make it again as soon as Glenn brings home more collards. I decided to alter Paula’s recipe just a smidge and, instead of chopping the chicken up beforehand, I let it simmer longer in the broth whole and allowed it to break up itself. I’m sure if you don’t have time to spare, you could chop it up first. But letting it simmer for a whole hour really does make the chicken super tender and allows the flavors to marry longer. Aw, I love it when flavors marry, don’t you? It’s sweet.

Collards cooking

Another thing to mention about this dish: an acquaintance of Glenn’s brought us some fresh New Mexico green chilies she picked up while she was out there visiting (these are the benefits of being a farmer–people trade you great stuff for your produce). Though Glenn and I use green chilies in a lot of cooking (and we must, of course, use the canned variety), the flavor of fresh chilies is superior (the canned variety can taste slightly “tinny”), and the ones we used for this recipe were very very hot.

 

 

 

Chicken, Collards and Green Chilies

Though I didn’t have any time to make cornbread with this, I highly recommend doing so. I would have loved to dip some cornbread in this chili to sop it up and take off some of the heat. If you don’t like your chili too hot, just don’t add as many crushed red pepper flakes and use mild green chilies instead of hot.

The next day, instead of eating this as regular soup, I broke out the tortilla chips, which we used to scoop up the leftovers. Overnight, the soup became much drier than it was first day I made it, so it was totally scoopable. Delicious!

If you have never tried collard greens before, or if you’re like me and think of them only boiled down to a pulp with ham hock, please please please try this recipe. Paula Deen, I curtsy to your goodness.

 

  

Paula Deen's White Bean Chili with Collard Greens3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adapted (ever so slightly) from Paula Deen’s White-Bean Chili 

Makes 4 good-sized bowls (or one bowl for me and three for Glenn)

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

3/4 cup diced onion (I used a Vadalia, just to be extra southern-like)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 halves, that is, about 3/4 of a pound), seasoned with sea salt and fresh black pepper

1  Tablespoon ground cumin

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (I did not have any white pepper on hand, so I substituted black pepper, but I’m leaving this as Paula Deen originally intended, because I’ll bet it’s tasty)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (oops, I added a couple pinches and, yes, it was dang hot)

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound collard greens, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 5 cups)

1 1/2 cups chopped green chilies. I happened to have fresh/frozen ones on hand that a friend of Glenn’s brought to him from New Mexico. Use ’em if you got ’em. Otherwise, canned would be fine.

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

2 15-oz cans navy beans, undrained

Optional garnishes: 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, light sour cream, chopped tomatoes, lime wedges

 

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic and onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the chicken, cumin, oregano, white pepper, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and 1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the chicken is slightly browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes.

Add the collard greens and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the chilies and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low, cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 1 hour. As soon as the chicken was cooked through (after about 15 minutes), I helped it along by breaking it up a little bit in the pot. After a while, it will begin to get very tender. If I had time, I probably would have let it simmer for another 1/2 hour to get it even more tender. Stir in the beans in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Garnish and serve.

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Gumbo

GumboI’ve lived in Alabama for almost four years (wow, typing that makes me pause). Before I moved here, I doubt that I’d ever had gumbo once. I don’t think I’d ever tried okra–one of the key gumbo ingredients–except for maybe some of that fried stuff down at the Cracker Barrel. When Glenn brought home okra from the farm last year (and kept bringing bags and bags of it home every single week), I figured I’d better learn to make it. I started searching for recipes, not knowing what made good gumbo…well…good! I tried recipe after recipe, and they were all fine, but none was THE ONE. By the time summer was over, I was tired of trying and tired of gumbo.

Bowl O' OkraThis year, when Glenn brought home the first batch of okra, I was ready to try again. This time, I consulted the recipe of Paula Deen (you know, Paula Deen of the Food Network, the one who uses a pound of butter in every recipe?) of my neighboring state of Georgia. Why in the world had I not even considered looking at a Paula Deen recipe last year?! Well, for one thing, the last time I tried a Paula Deen recipe, I had a bit of a disaster. It wasn’t her fault. It happened when I made her outrageously delicious coconut cake for my own office going away party. My coworkers at the Baltimore Museum of Art requested I make my OWN GOING AWAY PARTY CAKE. Ha! I don’t blame them for asking me to make it–I had made it once before, and it was INSANE. It is an amazingly rich, sweet, wonderful cake, and I was happy to make it again (I wanted it too, you know!). I spent all evening on it…probably four hours total. I slaved over this cake, knowing it would be my last hurrah at the museum and knowing my colleagues were waiting patiently for it.

Finally, around 10:30 that evening, I finished it. I was exhausted. I was so ready to sleep. I picked up the cake to put it in the refrigerator until morning, and as I opened the refrigerator door, some unknown hateful spirit–perhaps some jealous Food Network Paula Deen competitor? Rachael Ray? Alton Brown?–picked that cake right off my palm, flipped it upside down, and it landed on the kitchen floor completely inverted. Yeah, there was no saving that one.

Chicken and SausageGlenn was sitting in the other room watching a baseball game. I quietly, to myself, in disbelief, said “Oh. My. God.” Glenn didn’t hear me. A little louder I said it: “Oh. My. God!” He suddenly sensed displeasure in the kitchen and looked my way. “OH. MY GOD!!!” I said a third time. This got his attention. He looked down the short hallway at me, standing at the refrigerator with the door hanging open and an empty cake plate in my hand. I saw his eyes look at my eyes, then the plate, then the open refrigerator door. His head slowly lowered until he reached the dead cake, smeared beneath my feet on the linoleum floor.

Make a RouxHe looked back up at me, his mouth open. I looked at him, my mouth open. After several minutes of staring at each other in silence, I smiled. Then he smiled. I laughed…a deep gutteral, insupressable laugh. Then he laughed with me, involuntarily making me laugh even harder. What else could we do? There was no saving this cake. It was carnage, pure carnage, and it had met its demise before anyone could even taste it.

So, we did the next best thing (actually eating the cake being the first best thing)…Glenn got out the camera and began to take pictures. First, we took pictures of the cake, splattered all over the kitchen floor. Then we took pictures of the two of us eating the cake off the kitchen floor–carefully–with forks…then without forks. Finally, we took pictures of our two cats eating the cake off the kitchen floor.

Gumbo 2009 003Then we emailed the pictures. Emailed them to my entire department, knowing they would all open them first thing the next morning, laugh, and then take pity on me when I didn’t show up with my–er, Paula Deen’s–cake. Waiting for me when I got to work the next day for my going-away party was a very lovely coconut cake made at a local bakery that someone had sneaked out to buy after they had watched the cake disaster unfold in my email photo array. One of my coworkers, soberly, cut the store-bought cake and passed the plates and forks around. We all sat down to eat it, and each of us looked around the table at the others. “It’s great!” I said, with a grateful smile. “Yes, it’s very good,” each one of my colleagues said politely as we tasted our slices. But I know what we were all thinking. Each of us, right at that very moment, was thinking the same thing. We were all thinking how much we loved, and how much we missed, Paula Deen.

RiceAnd that brings me back to gumbo. When you want a Southern recipe, always always always go to a Southerner! And be careful! Don’t drop your wonderful completed recipe all over the floor for godsakes! Yes, Paula Deen’s recipes tend to be over the top with fat and butter, but in this case, gumbo just doesn’t have a lot of fat in it anyway. The only neccesary fat in this recipe is five tablespoons of butter. It sounds like a lot, but remember this recipe feeds 8-10 people…so that’s not much at all. If you don’t want to use real andouille sausage, you can always substitute turkey or chicken sausage. The pork andouille, however, is what really makes this recipe authentic, so if you can do it, don’t skimp on the sausage.

Gumbo 2Gumbo recipe from Miss Paula Deen, Y’all!

8-10 servings

3 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves

salt and pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used a little less than that…about 3/4 of a pound. Also, I used smoked andouille sausage)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons butter (she calls for margarine, but come on, people…go for the good stuff)

1 large onion, chopped

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves removed, coarsely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish

4 cups hot water

5 beef bouillon cubes

1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes with juice

2 cups sliced okra (she calls for frozen, but I had PLENTY of fresh)

4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts

1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and remove. Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove. Sprinkle the flour over the oil, add 2 tablespoons of butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown, about 10 minutes. Let the roux cool.

2. Return the Dutch oven to low heat and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper and celery and cook for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste and the 1/4 bunch parsley. Cook, while stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add 4 cups hot water and bouillon cubes, whisking constantly. Add the chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add tomatoes and okra. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Just before serving add the green onions, shrimp, and chopped parsley. I like to serve gumbo over jasmine rice. It would also be great with some nice crusty bread.