Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Five Recipes! Black Beans, Black and White Chicken Chili, Chicken and Dumplings (both), and Key Lime Salt

Five Recipes!

     The September 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated was devoted to Mexican Favorites.  I learned so much from this issue, particularly about the various types and heat of chiles.  I can hardly wait to try every one of their recipes, from salsa and enchiladas to quesadillas!

The first thing I decided to try was the first part of their Black Bean soup recipe, the section on preparing the beans.  I love black beans, especially when served Cuban style.  I was delighted to see that the recipe called for cumin, my favorite spice to add to black beans.  They go together like Romeo and Juliet, Bogart and Bacall, or Victoria and Albert.   (You’re thinking of others, right?)

Dried Black Beans

I halved the recipe, so here is my version:


2 ½ cups water, plus extra as needed

½ pound (1 ¼ cups) dried black beans

4 ounces ham steak, rind removed (I used the original amount of ham instead of cutting the amount in half.)

1 bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon baking soda (or less)

½ teaspoon salt


** Cumin, to taste


No need to soak beans in advance, but rinse them and add all ingredients to large saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1½ hours.  Stir occasionally, keeping enough water to cover beans.  (Add more hot water and continue to simmer if not tender by then.  Mine took two hours.)   Do not drain beans.  Remove bay leaves.  Remove ham steak, cut into ¼ inch cubes, and add back to beans. 


The recipe continues for making soup, but I stopped here, only adding 1½ teaspoons of cumin and putting the ham back into the beans.  The original recipe for the soup added the cumin in the soup portion.

I added salt and a bay leaf early in the cooking process.  The ham was added after it was brought to a simmer.


I decided that I would add a little key-lime salt (recipe to follow) to the top of a dollop of sour cream on top of each dish.


*I grated the lime while the beans were cooking, using about 8 tiny key limes.  I also juiced the limes and saved the juice for future dishes.  The juicer captured some of the limes’ flesh, so I added this flesh to the beans, about a teaspoonful.  Although it was subtle, it did add one more layer of flavor.


** Since I was making just the beans, and not continuing with the soup, I added about a heaping teaspoon or so of cumin which the original recipe did not call for when preparing the beans.


I found a wonderful hint in the article that a pinch of baking soda will keep the dark color of the beans.  Too much, though, and the flavor is affected.  These beans were perfect!!!


2 Tablespoons of grated lime, grapefruit, or orange zest (I used key limes)
½ cup Kosher salt.

                           Combine. Stores indefinitely in cool, dark place.

I had teeny-tiny key limes, so I only got about one teaspoon of zest. I added this to two tablespoons of sea salt. The tang of the key limes is more potent than the larger limes, and this was the intensity I was looking for. Be careful not to get the white pith, though, or it will be bitter.


Add sea salt to lime zest.

Adjust ratio of zest to salt according to taste.


I sprinkled a liberal amount of my key lime-citrus salt on top of a spoonful of sour cream and served on top of my Black and White Chicken Chili, below.  It was a hit! Unsolicited comments included, “This is a really good topping!”  “The lime salt adds a great kick and enhances the flavors,” and “Where did you get the idea for the flavored salt? It’s great.” Finally, one asked, “Do you have more? Can you save it?”


I’m not done yet!

 Now for the "Eureka", aka " 'A-ha!' moment":

Once the beans were done, I found that I had enough to use in another dish.  Since I was also making chicken and dumplings, I thought, “Oh! I could make black and white Chicken Cordon Bleu!”  Three delicious dishes at one time!!!  After all, the black beans had ham, so the two combined would be perfect to make a Chicken Cordon Bleu soup, right?  But, alas and alack, when I found that I had no Swiss cheese on hand, I decided to just call it, “Black and White Chicken Chili.”


When I made chicken and dumplings the other day, I made a double batch from an enormous organic hen.  I froze half of the chicken and stock mixture.  I brought it out of the freezer and slowly reheated it.  All those spices that I added the first time brought up a heavenly aroma.   I usually cook my chicken in a pressure cooker, cooking it in water with lots of flavorful spices that go together perfectly.  I’ll tell you about those later.  I have to say that I’m glad I made so much.

See all those delectable herbs?

     To make the Black and White Chicken Chili, I added two cups of my chicken and broth to one generous cup of the black beans.  I added cumin and a little lime for more flavor.  I also added a few chopped jalapeno rings to add that “zing”.  I also added a can of white beans as when making "ordinary" white chicken chili. 


Here’s the recipe:




½ -3/4 cup cooked chicken, chopped or shredded

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 15-ounce can of white beans, drained

1 cup Black Beans from above recipe

2 Tablespoons chopped jalapenos

1½ teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste


Sour cream or thick yogurt

Key lime salt (recipe above)


Combine all ingredients and heat thoroughly.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or nice, thick yogurt and sprinkle with lime salt.  Scream with delight as the compliments pour in. 

Chicken and broth from the upper saucepan were added to the black beans.

Look at all the chicken and ham!  Mouth watering!

We were so hungry and the aroma so inviting, I forgot to take pictures of the Black and White Chicken Chili in the dishes with the sour cream and key-lime salt!  Believe me, this was so tasty, with the chicken, ham, and two kinds of beans.  I will be making this again.  Since I don't have photos of the dish with the sour cream on top, imagine it with this key lime salt sprinkled on top.  In your mind's eye, can you see how pretty it would be?

On to the chicken and dumplings:


Chicken for Chicken and Dumplings 

1 plump hen, such as a roaster

6 cups of water

3 bay leaves

A teaspoon or more of the following seasonings:

                Basil, Cilantro, Parsley flakes, Cumin, Nutmeg, Thyme, and Rosemary, or alternately use a heaping tablespoon of Herbes de Provence.  In other words, use your favorites. The more variety, the better I like it.

 Celery and carrots, if you have them on hand, are always a great addition.

Cut up the hen, saving the neck and wings and bones with meat for additional stock.  I find it easier to debone all except the legs and thighs prior to cooking.  Cook for 25 minutes in a pressure cooker or bring to boil and then simmer on the stovetop in a Dutch oven for about two hours.


Meanwhile, make additional stock by adding the same herbs to a 2-3 quart saucepan of water and adding the wings, back, necks, etc.  Bring to boil and simmer for a couple of hours.  Use this stock to add additional broth to the chicken and dumplings as needed, or freeze for other use.
Shred or chop the chicken.  Remove any fatty pieces or skin.

My dumplings are easy, tender, and have a fluffy texture. These seasoned little orbs complement the flavors in the chicken perfectly.

BEST DUMPLINGS ever! for Chicken and Dumplings

1 ½ cups of Pioneer Baking Mix (or make your own with flour, salt, and baking powder as if making biscuit but without any shortening)
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/3 cup milk; adding more as needed
1-2 teaspoons pepper, to taste
½-1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or pinches of the same seasonings as used in the broth
Salt, to taste, if desired

Combine baking mix and seasonings with sour cream and milk, making a moist dough that holds its shape.

Seasoning the dough will enhance the chicken and dumpling dish.

 Drop a teaspoon of dough into the hot broth, pushing it off the spoon with your little finger. About 10-12 dumplings will fill the saucepan. These will expand as they cook, so do not overcrowd. After 5 minutes, gently turn over the dumplings and continue to steam for another 5 minutes. Remove the dumplings and repeat with the other half of the dough. Add the first batch back to the chicken and broth and serve.  

Note: Since the steaming of the dumplings will absorb some of the broth, additional broth may be added to the pot to keep enough liquid as desired.  Aren’t you glad you made more broth?

After 5 minutes or so, gently turn the dumplings over and continue cooking.  The herbs from the broth are what you see on top of the dumplings. 

I added more dumplings to my bowl after I was halfway through eating.  They were so tasty!
So fluffy! These are almost ready.


Let’s raise a glass to these great dishes for cooler weather!


Note: Since the recipes for the Black and White Chicken Chili and Chicken and Dumplings are my own creations, please give credit to me or my website.  Thank you.  Feedback is welcome and appreciated.





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