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Cooking without recipes

I am not adventurous. People have to force me into situations and give me no choice but to take the risk I am too chicken to decide to take for myself. A prime example of this when I saw my first real concert. It was Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters at the Target Center and I was fourteen. My friends wanted to lose our nice, comfortable, safe plastic seats for the scary, smelly mosh pit down on the floor. What was I to do?? After watching them effortlessly hop down to the floor, I gingerly stepped-crawled-slid-fell down the wall onto my ass. The concert was just starting, and everyone was too distracted to see the dorky middle school girl who just fell, and if anyone was watching, I was too enthralled with the music to care.

I sometimes cook with that same attitude. Afraid to make mistakes, embarrass myself, poison my friends. Sometimes, when I make new dishes, I only share it with only my dearest friends, because I know they will be honest with me (Rox) or tell me it’s delicious no matter what (Jake). This past weekend, I put that shy girl on time-out and decided to make a chili. I couldn’t find a recipe I liked, so I made one up, remembering tasty chilies from my past. I like corn, so I added corn. Sure, it’s not technically “white,” but if I called it murky, yellow, cream-colored chili, I doubt you’d be interested in making it.

So, I encourage everyone to take a cooking risk this weekend. Eat something you’ve never had before (Brussels sprouts!) Try making something you’ve always enjoyed but never knew how to make. A lot of the food bloggers I admire write about perfecting a recipe from their favorite restaurant or cookbook. Perhaps roasting a chicken will be my next challenge to myself.


Balls-Out White Chicken Chili
Adapted from many sources, but mostly improvised

1 1/2 cups onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2-2 lbs chicken breasts, cubed
2-3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water, at most
1 small can of diced green chilies or diced jalapenos
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and/or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, more if you like ‘em spicy
dash of salt
freshly ground pepper
2 cans cannellini beans and their liquid
1 can whole kernel corn, strained
1 cup half & half
shredded monterey jack cheese and saltines for topping

Melt butter in stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook until translucent (at least 5 mins). Add flour to make a roux. Add chicken broth, water, and chicken. (I recommend going easy on the water in the beginning, you can always add more later.) Cover and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chicken looks cooked (about 20 mins). The chicken will be poached, so don’t freak out about raw chicken. The results are really tender chicken and tasty broth.

Add corn, chilies and seasonings. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add half & half and beans (any earlier and they’ll break down big time). Simmer for 20 mins longer.

Remove bay leaf to serve. Top with shredded monterey jack cheese. Add Sriracha, or your hot sauce of choice, if you need more heat.

Like most soups, this makes great leftovers.

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One Response to “Cooking without recipes”

  1. December 15th, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Roxie says:

    What? Friends forcing you to do stuff? Well I never.

    But seriously, you in a mosh pit lets my imagination run wild.

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