Thursday, November 14, 2013

Secrets of Slow Cooking

Yesterday I pulled together the ingredients for White Chili, a thick chicken soup that has been a family favorite through the years.  We are hosting a small group of friends for supper tonight, and there is nothing better than a bowl of hot soup on a chilly November evening to encourage fellowship.

Some of the components rested in the pantry, ready in anticipation of this recipe --cloves of garlic, cans of great northern beans, olive oil, and containers of chicken stock.  Frozen chicken breasts waited in the freezer, purchased previously for such a time as this. The necessary spices were lined up in rows in the drawer like a classroom of students with arms raised, "pick me!"  A quick run to the grocery completed the list, adding to the assemblage a bag of onions and cute little cans of diced green chilis. The ingredients stood on the counter, each ready to contribute its part.

But the best element to the success of this recipe is making it ahead of time.  In the past, the first serving of the soup was good.  But, oh, the leftovers were even better.  This recipe needs time, slow cooking as one cookbook suggests, for the flavors to "get married."   The ingredients need the time to get to know each other, hold hands, get engaged, and make a commitment.

"Why are you making it today?" a family member asked last night.

"Because it makes the soup so much better," I responded.  "And besides, then it's ready."  And so am I, prepared for the glitches that always seem to arrive at the most inconvenient times.

I have never regretted
        doing something ahead of time,
but too many times
         I have regretted that I didn't.

The making of soup reminds me of so many occasions I have asked God, "And why exactly am I doing this?"  The result may not be readily apparent, but God's purposes always arrive right on His timing.  What I am doing today may have nothing at all to do about this particular day, but preparing for a time I cannot yet know, a preparation of ingredients, an assembling of components, and a melding of flavors.  Sometimes a recipe -- or what God is doing in my life -- just needs slow cooking, a long time in the making, and the outcome turns out not our work at all, but His, that which only God can do.

For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand,
that we should walk in them.
                           Ephesians 2. 10

I do not need to know "why,"
   to know that God has a reason.
I cannot fully know for what I am training,
or for "what God has up His sleeve,"
but I can be faithful and obedient,
     those essential elements that abide
             even in the mystery,
      even in the assembling of what is not related,
                       and even in the simmering.
Because God will use it all
           for His great purposes
           and for His glory.

White Chili

3 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
2 medium onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 - four once cans diced mild green chilis
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried crumbled oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Mazola chicken bouillon powder
6 cups chicken stock or broth

Drain and rinse the great northern beans in a colander.

Place chicken breasts in a large saucepan, add just enough water to cover, bring to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.  Remove from water, with tongs, cut into cubes.

In another pan, saute diced onions and minced garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil, just until onions are tender. (If using a soup pot instead of a slow cooker, saute onions and garlic in the soup pot first, add other ingredients to that same pot).

Add all ingredients and spices in the slow cooker. Slow cook for 3-6 hours.  If made ahead of time, cover and refrigerate, and when ready, simmer before serving.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, sour cream, salsa and cilantro.  Corn bread is a nice side, as are corn tortilla strips (slice corn tortillas into narrow strips with a pizza cutter, bake in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until crisp).

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