Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First off, let me apologize for my extended absence! Between the new job, commuting from NH, moving and Comcast not showing up, I've had very little access to personal internet business! But alas - I am back! I won't have Comcast at my apartment until Saturday, but I'm making it work.

This past weekend my family celebrated yet another 60th Birthday in the family - for my Uncle Fred, my dad's sister's husband. I've been wanting to make this sweet potato and chili dish for a family party for a while, so with the lingering cold temperatures I thought this would be great timing. I saw this dish on one of Rachel Ray's shows last fall as a special dish for an adult Halloween party because of it's bright orange color and hearty welcoming flavors! I've made it a few times now and each time it's come out a little different, probably as a result of my tendency to change recipes to see if I can make them better. This weekend's attempt was successful, though I think I added a bit too much tomato paste and so, the recipe below, reflects this change. As I'm sure you know by now, I don't like spicy either - so I cut way down the amount of ground chili the recipe calls for, but if you like spice - feel free to add more!

Chicken Chili and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
I would like to note that I am not a fan of Shepherd's Pie, so do not be turned off by it's name. It's basically just a layered casserole sort of dish, with the chicken chili on the bottom, topped with the mashed sweet potato mixture and finished with some grated cheese. Yummmmy!

Original Rachel Ray Recipe
(My ingredient portions are cut in half)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
1 tsp. orange zest
2 TB butter
1/2 cup sour cream                                                          1 tsp. Chili powder
Dash of nutmeg                                                               1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 TB olive oil                                                                   1 tsp. ground cumin
1 lb. ground chicken (can also use turkey)                          1 tsp. ground coriander
1 medium onion, chopped                                                   2 TB tomato paste
1 small cherry pepper, seeded and finely diced                   1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 red pepper, chopped                                                      1/2 cup (heaping) black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced                                                     1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Add the peeled and cubed potatoes to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, add 1/4 tsp. salt to the water and cook until the potatoes are tender enough to mash easily - about 12-15 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot (but do not leave them on the heated burner, you don't want to burn the bottom layer of potatoes).
2. At this point you can add the orange zest and butter, then you'll want to use a potato masher to mash the mixture together pretty well. It's okay if it's still lumpy. After you're done mashing you can add the sour cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg - then mix together well. This part is done and you can set it aside for now!
3. You'll be able to complete some of these steps while the potatoes are being boiled above (as you can see I did to the left here). Heat a larger pot over medium high heat with the olive oil. Once it feels warm when you hold your hand over the pot, add the ground chicken/turkey and brown. Once it is almost fully cooked, add the chopped onions, stir together and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Then you can add the chopped peppers and garlic to the pot.
4. Stir in all of the spices (remember, increase amounts of you like your dishes spicy!), as well as a dash of salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the tomato paste and black beans, stirring together and cooking for another minute or two before adding the chicken stock. Simmer for a couple of minutes to thicken the mixture, stirring occasionally.
5. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a fairly deep, large enough baking dish let's get to the layering step. In the bottom, the first layer will be the chili mixture.
Next you can add the sweet potato mixture - which may be pretty thick, so you'll just need to spread it out yourself, so it is covering the top of the chili mixture completely. Finally, sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top evenly! You're ready to bake!

Because all of the ingredients are already cooked and may likely still be warm from your preparation, there isn't a set time this dish needs to bake for. You just want the juices to sort of be bubbling around the edges and you want the cheese nicely melted, maybe even browning a bit on top! Rachel Ray suggests broiling the dish, but I don't have a good history of luck using broilers - which is why mastering broiling is on my to-do list this year!

I also wanted to share a simple garlic tip that many of you may already know. I tend to lean towards using the jarred, already minced garlic - I know, not very professional of me as a cook - but I use it so often and it's so easy! But for this recipe I used fresh garlic cloves. To peel them easily all you have to do is press down on the back side of the knife with your palm - squish down hard and the clove sort of breaks open and the sticky outer layer comes right off!
My best attempt at taking this picture of myself ...

1 comment:

  1. Looks yummy!

    I decided to drop a note to offer my help in getting the installation expedited. Feel free to contact me, provide your account info and a link to this page.

    Mark Casem
    Comcast Corp.
    National Customer Operations