Today is my younger son’s birthday – 28 years old. A victory of sorts, as his philosophy of life could at times have been described as “Fire, Aim, Ready.” This is the son who went out for a pass and crashed into a tree. The one who lost so many winter jackets – I think four was his record for one season – that it often seemed he was running his own charity coat drive. And the one who could get a bad grade in a class simply because he was disappointed that the teacher wasn’t smarter. (“You know,” I’d say, “you’ll have to carry that grade with you for the rest of your life, while she’ll just get a new class and move on.” Ah, well...)
We worried about him, despite his charm and contagious enthusiasm – worried that he’d run off a cliff or into a fist, or – worse – that he’d spend so much time Firing, he’d miss out on the greatness of Ready and Aim.
But for the worriers among you – do parents ever stop worrying? – you should know that today he’s in med school. It took him five years of Ready and Aim, so I think he’s got that part down now. And, in my totally unbiased opinion, those people who encounter him as their doctor will be lucky indeed.
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One place where my son remains fearless is in the kitchen. Here’s a recipe he should like – cheap, hearty, easy. From my southern friend, Gusty, who passed it along from yet another southerner. Isn't sharing wonderful?
The recipe makes a hefty amount of soup – tripling it will feed 50+ if you add salad and bread. For the true Southern experience, I think cornbread is a must; but it’s probably very good with French bread as well.
Hazie’s White Chili
5-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (enough to make 4 c cooked chicken, diced or shredded)
10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
3-4 thin slices lemon
garlic salt & pepper
For the chili:
4 16-ounce cans navy beans, drained (set aside one can for puréeing)
6 cups chicken broth (include broth saved from cooking chicken breasts)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less)
1½ teaspoons chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Place the chicken breasts in one layer in an oven-proof dish. Arrange thyme and lemon slices on top. Salt and pepper the breasts. Cover with foil and bake at 350º for 30 mins or until done. Remove the breasts, reserving the broth, and discard the lemon slices and thyme. Chop or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Heat the olive oil to medium-high in a soup pot and sauté the onions 10 mins; reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic for another minute (don’t let it burn). Add three of the four cans of beans and the rest of the ingredients, including the chicken. Purée the fourth can of beans in a blender and add it to the soup. Simmer the soup for about 30 mins, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.