Monday, January 24, 2011
Setting Food on Fire with Sheila Connolly
I was raised by cooks who made bland food. That was what they'd grown up with, and what they knew. My mother excelled at meat-starch-veg. To be fair, the meat was not cooked to death, and the vegetables were usually fresh. My father (who didn't really cook) followed the duPont dietBwhich to me sounds like the predecessor of the Atkins dietBfor years, with heavy emphasis on meat, broiled. I keep wondering how I emerged from that environment with any interest in cooking at all. But I did.
The protagonists of my two current series, Meg Corey (the Orchard Mysteries) and Nell Pratt (the Museum Mysteries), both enjoy food, but they aren't really into cooking (too busy solving crimes, among other things). However, Berkley Prime Crime wants recipes, so I include recipes, at least in the Orchard seriesBwith no fire (but lots of apples!). And I did write one book (Red Delicious Death) in which I created an entire restaurant!
But! My first series (written under the name Sarah Atwell) was set in Tucson, Arizona, and there's no way to write about Arizona without exploring spicier food. On the minus side, my protagonist Em Dowell hates to cook. On the plus side, I had to come up with some pretty simple recipes for her, and that includes Em's Foolproof Slow Cooker Chicken Chili.
Since when I started I knew little about spicy cooking, I had to do my homework on chile peppers, and I acquainted myself with dried chile peppers, courtesy of Penzey's Spices catalog. I assume you fans of "hot" already know about the heat ratings. I'll confess that I'm cautious, so I've stuck mostly to Ancho peppers, with an occasional Chipotle thrown in. The advantage of this recipe is that you can make it as hot (or not) as you like, depending on which chile you choose to use. The flavor is great, whatever you use.
EM'S FOOLPROOF SLOW COOKER CHICKEN CHILI
Note: Many local supermarkets don't carry a variety of fresh chiles, but dried peppers work well, as long as you soak them long enough to allow you to remove the seeds and veins.
4 cups chicken broth
1 15-oz. can beans (you may use black, white, or whatever you have)