Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Happy Accidents

Wednesdays are a full house for dinner. Brilliant Daughter stops by after her weekly afternoon volunteering at NCEFT, an equine therapy facility for children and veterans, plus Butcher Son and his girlfriend are here. So I try to make something special, with the occasional dessert thrown in. Not as full out as Sunday dinner, but close.

Today I wanted to make a big batch of chili and cornbread. But my pantry had other ideas. Despite turning over every can on the shelves, Mother Brady’s cupboard was apparently devoid of any beans other than cannellini and garbanzo, neither of which I wanted to use. But I did spy a large can of white hominy, kept on hand to make pork pozole. While I wasn’t feeling like making a variation of pozole, I liked the idea of creating something new. A Southwestern stew, perhaps?

I started by browning lean ground beef and tossing in a bit of garlic. Then finished off the cooking with a bit of beer from Butcher Son’s kegerator (which I guess makes us a full service restaurant and bar!). I added a teaspoon each of ancho chili powder and regular chili powder, plus a half teaspoon of chipotle chili powder. Then dumped in one can of fire-roasted tomatoes, plus two cups of the homemade tomato sauce we jarred last summer. This conconction simmered for a half hour before I added in the hominy. Back on the heat for another half hour.

I finished it off with a cup of my homemade chipotle cream sauce, an all-purpose sauce that has a bit of heat to it and which can be used in a variety of Mexican dishes—from tacos to burritos—as well as a dressing for taco salad, sauce for pasta or a dip for chips! (It’s featured in my Eat Drink Merry cookbook, but I’ll provide the recipe below as well.)

Talk about YUM! I kept going back and sneaking tastes all day long. In fact, I was afraid I would eat the whole pot before the family came home. But I tempered myself, and managed to save enough to share. And to top it off, I made cornmeal dumplings, which sat nestled together on top and concealed the fact that I had been depleting the main stew for the last four hours.

And so my happy accident will now become a standard, owing to my own rave review and that of my family. Sometimes it pays to dig around the pantry and be creative….

Chipotle Cream Sauce

This is an all-purpose sauce that has some heat to it. I have used it in all varieties of Mexican dishes, from tacos to burritos and as a dressing for taco salads. It also works well as a pasta sauce and a dip for chips.

4-5 chipotles (dried or canned)

8-10 ripe tomatoes

1 large yellow onion, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup sour cream

1 mashed avocado


white pepper


If using dry chipotles, remove stems and seeds and soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes until soft. If using canned chipotles (en adobo), take seeds out and pour 1/2 cup hot water over to soak for a few minutes. Drain and chop the chipotles, saving the liquid.

Roast tomatoes until blackened. This can be done on a barbecue grill, over a gas flame on the stove, or under the broiler. Roughly chop up the roasted tomatoes and put into a bowl.

Saute onion and carrot in oil on medium heat until soft, but not brown. Put garlic in at the end of the saute. Add tomatoes and any residual tomato juice. Bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add chipotles and cilantro. Simmer another 10 minutes. Cool mixture.

Once cool, puree with immersion blender, standing blender or food processor. Use additional chile water if you need to thin the sauce. Stir in sour cream and mashed avocado, add salt and pepper to taste.

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