Wednesday 14 August 2013

Chicken, Black Bean, and Cornbread Cobbler

We have a restaurant/take out budget of $50/month.  With prices being what they are, it usually provides us one just meal so we're pretty careful with our choices.  We're rarely adventurous with our treat money, tending to revisit the places we know we like rather than risk our allowance on something we might not care for.  

A take out bucket of chicken is a popular choice with us.  We can enjoy our treat meal, and get a couple more meals from the leftovers, while still staying within our budget. 

We've been buying our take out chicken at the same place for years.  It's tasty and affordable and we both enjoy it.  This time, though, we decided to strike out into new territory and try a place nearer our home; one that had been recommended by several of our friends.

Sadly, we didn't love the chicken.  They used scrawny birds and the pieces were very heavily battered.  There was no seasoning in the batter other than a copious amount of salt.  Not to our taste at all!

Ah well. We'll know now not to go there again.

After our supper and a lunch of leftovers the next day, we were left with 5 (very dry) chicken breasts.  I'm a waste not, want not kinda gal so - however unappealing they might be - I needed to find a way to use those chicken breasts up.

I peeled as much of the batter as I could from the chicken pieces, tore the meat from the bones and broke it into bite sized pieces.

Then I looked through my pantry and fridge to see what we had on hand that might give it moisture and flavour.

I ended up with these ingredients for my dish:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3 cups of crushed tomato (I forced mine through a sieve to remove the seeds, but that's optional)
  • 2 cups of canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • 2 cups of chicken breast pieces
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • homemade chicken stock (not pictured)
  • granulated garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

I began by sauteeing the onion and celery in the olive oil, until the onion was translucent and began to take on a little colour.

I added in 2 cups of crushed tomato (I held some back because I wanted to be sure that the mixture didn't end up too wet), the black beans, corn kernels, a Tablespoon of chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.

When the mixture reached to a boil, it turned the heat down to medium-low, put a lid on the pot and let it simmer until the celery was tender (about 1/2 hour).

When the celery was tender, I added in the chicken breast pieces and zucchini.  I also mixed in about a cup of cooked chopped spinach, found during a second search through the fridge.

The mixture looked a little dry at this point so I added in the remaining 1 cup of tomato and about half a cup of chicken stock.  

I let it return to boiling then tasted it and adjusted the seasoning, adding an additional 1-1/2 teaspoons of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of granulated garlic, some sea salt, and some coarsely ground black pepper.  

I reduced the heat once more and let the mixture simmer for a few more minutes.  While it was cooking, I mixed up a batch of cheddar corn muffin batter.

Once the muffin batter was mixed, I ladled some of the chicken and black bean mixture into individual dishes.

(There was a lot more than is pictured here.  I saved the rest, in two 2-cup freezer containers, for other meals.)

I topped each dish with some of the cornmeal muffin batter

and turned the remaining batter into a buttered loaf pan.

I baked the dishes in a 400F oven until the top of the cornbread was lightly browned (about 20 minutes)

and then served the cobblers immediately, with a crisp green salad on the side.

We had the cornbread I baked in the loaf pan for breakfast the next day.

Cook's notes:
  • If you don't want to serve this in individual dishes, you can turn all of the chicken and black bean mixture out into a buttered 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking pan and spread the entire batch of corn muffin batter over the top.  The baking time should remain about the same.
  • Don't feel bound by my seasoning choices.  Adjust the quantities to your taste.
  • We prefer our seasonings mild rather than hot but, if you like your food to be spicier, you can add some chopped chipotles in adobo sauce early in the recipe.
  • I used chicken stock but vegetable stock, beer, or even strong coffee would work well in this recipe too.