We’ve been making a lot of soups and stews lately. That’s partly because it’s February and freezing. But mostly it’s because I’m (still) reluctant to attempt meals that have three or four distinct parts. Yup, I am afraid of making chicken, broccoli, and rice for dinner, or some variation on that theme. Nothing shakes my cooking confidence like a cut of meat, some starchy side, and a vegetable. I worry they’ll be dry, boring, completely unrelated to each other, or done at different times. So, a big bowl of soup with fresh bread or a rich stew over polenta or risotto is guaranteed to be saucy, interesting, and far from time-sensitive.
We’ve made squash soups, chicken noodle, kale and sausage, curried tomato, spicy lentil, and ham-studded black bean soups. For fancier occasions, we’ve been turning out rich, silky stews featuring goat, lamb or beef. It’s all been great, but frankly, I am sick of soup.
But the other day, when we went to a local bar to watch the Superbowl, I had a little revelation. Tony, in typical guy fashion, had a dinner composed solely of wings and beer. Since I’m the one who has to be in a white dress in ten months, I ordered the only two things on their pub menu that seemed to have any nutritional value: a salad and a bowl of vegetarian chili.
Of course, my chili came with a side of tortilla chips and a pile of cheddar cheese, but the chili itself was quite good. I didn’t realized (or had forgotten) how much I like chili. It was the perfect solution to my current dilemma—it’s a meal in a bowl, but not really soup-y or stew-y. It’s warm and comforting and doesn’t require much fresh produce. And the flavor profile is way different than what we’ve been eating.
So this week, we decided to whip up a big pot of chili. Tony rooted around in the freezer and dug out the fresh corn we’d preserved from last summer and the black beans we’d cooked and frozen. We also had a bunch of leftover roast chicken, so we tried something that I’ve never had before—red chicken chili. Tony had the genius idea of throwing in the chicken bones, too, which made the finished product so rich and flavorful. Our chili turned out terrific! We’ve already had this for dinner two nights in a row, and I can’t wait to ladle myself another bowl of it and top it off with a little cilantro, lime, and sour cream.
And so it seems, at least for now, I’ve got a new one-bowl dinner in my repertoire. When I get sick of this, I suppose I can go back to soup. Or maybe, by then, it will be spring.