Queso Fundido

It doesn't happen often, but tonight I really didn't want to cook. It was the first really cold night (read: cold for Nashville) of the season, this is my busiest time of year at work, and I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible at home.

But when I can't scrape away a little bit of my day to daydream about food, I come home from work and stand in my kitchen uninspired. Nothing sounds good. Then I get cranky and Josh starts calling out the items in our fridge and freezer. Nothing sounds good. I get crankier. Bless that man.

This was actually his suggestion, though it had just happened that it was already on my 30 by 30 list from September (which I still haven't started on, save for this accidental tick off the list, but I have 2 years, right?).

Unfortunately I got a little carried away with the jalapenos, and my lips are still burning as I type this. Next time I'll use a can of green chiles and a different cheese (probably Chihuahua). We are fortunate to live in a melting pot area of Nashville, so I sent Josh to the Latin store up the street for Asadero cheese. He came home with Oaxaca, which was delicious but didn't work well for melting.

If you don't mind doing some chopping on a weeknight, this comes together relatively quickly and is delicious wrapped up in soft flour tortillas; equally so with a fork.

You will need:
3 cups of shredded asadero cheese
1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack
1 can roasted green chiles
1 small onion, cut into rings
1/2 cup of Mexican chorizo

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Break up the chorizo and cook it in a skillet until it’s done, about five minutes. Cook onions in sausage grease until translucent and add chiles until just heated through. Lightly grease a medium-sized cast-iron skillet or a casserole dish and add the cheese. Top with the crumbled, cooked chorizo, cooked onions and diced chiles, and cook for 15 minutes or until bubbling.

Spoon onto tortillas. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Homesick Texan.

Chicken and Dumplings

Food. We're obsessed as a society with it, aren't we? Taking pictures of it, posting our dinners to Facebook. There's even a "food" setting on my new camera.

Some food, however, is hopelessly unphotogenic. Some food is downright ugly. Here's a great example of some ugly - but comforting and filling - food. No matter the lighting I put this in, no matter the angle I took the pictures from, chicken and dumplings is just not pretty. But it is fulfilling and warming on a cold evening, a throwback to the days before Facebook, when food didn't have to be styled or angled just so, or anything but delicious and satisfying.

Everybody loved this. The dumplings are chewy but fluffy. The stew, rich with homemade chicken stock and a twinge from a splash of dry Sherry. And it only got better on the second and third day, as the dumplings and chicken soaked up the flavors from the stew. I'm not sure how well it would keep beyond the third day as it didn't stand a chance in my house - I had to wrestle away the last serving from Josh just to get this ugly picture.

You will need:

For the stew
1 store bought rotisserie chicken, skin discarded and all meat shredded
Salt and black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
6 green onions, chopped, all parts
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup whole milk (do not use anything other than whole)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon herbs de provence or dried thyme
1 cup frozen green peas
3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves

For the dumplings
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the stew: add butter to a Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the green onion, yellow onion, andsalt and cook until softened. Whisk in the flour to make a roux, then whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme/herbs de provence, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken to the pot and stir to combine. Discard the bay leaves. Simmer again, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

For the dumplings: Stir the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm, about 45 seconds. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour/cornmeal mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated.

Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and tarragon, and season with salt and pepper. Drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (my pot was too small, so they were pretty much crammed in there - they were fine and didn't clump together). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes.