Friday, October 5, 2012

Kitchen Tools and Chicken Chile

by Sheila Connolly

Recently I received one of those glossy cookware catalogs in the mail (please don't tell me it's holiday season already!), so of course I drooled over it during lunch. Then I realized that we seldom talk here about what we cook with (except maybe cookie cutters!).  And I also realize how much of my cookware collection is inherited—and vintage.

Many of the pieces I use every day belonged to my grandmother or my mother, which makes them as old as I am.  I keep them and I use them because they were well made and they've lasted.  (If you go looking for Revere Ware today, it looks exactly like it did in 1950-something, and I've got the originals.)  The metals were heavy-gauge and spread heat evenly, and they have never warped or developed hot spots, unlike cheaper ones that have come and gone over the years. 

I've got four stainless steel cookie sheets that are better than the crummy aluminum ones I've bought myself; I can remember taking a pair of those old cookie sheets to kindergarten, when we made chocolate chip cookies—the masking tape used for my name label on the back lingered for years.

I finally broke down and retired my mother's KitchenAid stand mixer a couple of years ago only because the motor wasn't up to large batches, but it still works just fine.  The meat grinder attachment she bought still fits the new one I acquired, not that she ever ground meat, as far as I recall. I'm still using the family Pyrex bowls (although my sister made off with one of the set; but I could replace it at any number of flea markets).

Then there are the middle-aged pieces, like the Le Creuset dutch oven and baking dish that I got as a wedding present.  The bigger piece is a bit chipped around the edges, and the interior is kind of dingy, but if I'm not serving a formal dinner it's just fine. There's an electric skillet that was also a wedding present, that I bring out now and then because there are a few things it does that nothing else does. And there's my Cuisinart food processor, that I can't imagine living without now (the first one died of old age, after thirty years, so I have a replacement one).

I inherited my mother's crock pot, a decade or more ago, and I'm still learning to use it. To honor it, here's a recipe from Sarah Atwell's Pane of Death. Sarah was my pen name a while back, and her heroine was culinarily challenged, but even she could handle this recipe. 




3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 large white onion, chopped

3 ancho chiles with seeds and veins removed, cut into strips or pieces (A word about chiles:  if you can't find fresh ones in your local market, you can use dried ones.  Just soak them in hot water for a bit, then rinse out the seeds and cut into large pieces.  Anchos are fairly mild, but you can use hotter ones if you like.)

2 tsp. oregano

2 large cloves garlic (you may leave them whole or chop them)

4 cups chicken broth

salt and black pepper to taste


1 15-oz. can beans (you may use black, white, or whatever you have)


fresh cilantro, chopped


In your crockpot, put the chicken, the chopped onion, the garlic, the chiles, the oregano, and the salt and pepper.  Pour in the chicken stock to cover.  Cook at low heat for four hours (more or less), stirring now and then.


Remove the chicken breasts, shred them (when they're cool enough to handle), and return them to the cooker.  Add the beans and continue cooking for another hour (more or less).

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Just before serving, add the cilantro and stir.

Serve over cooked rice.  Serves four.

The beauty of this dish is its flexibility.  You can use pork instead of chicken, or increase the proportion of meat or beans. If you want more heat, add more chiles, or a different kind of chile, or throw in a dash of Tabasco sauce.  You can stir in heavy cream or sour cream at the end.

It's very hard to mess up!



  1. What a fun post, Sheila! We have a fairly small kitchen, but I've it crammed with stuff: a stand mixer, a crock pot, a food processor, a Dutch oven, a waffle iron, an immersion blender ... and a million little items (lemon zester, ginger grater, pastry cutter ...).

    Alas, I didn't inherit any of my kitchen items (other than the stand mixer, which my mother never used). But I hear you about quality: next time we buy pots, I'm going all high end. :)

  2. Wow, this recipe sounds great for the cold weather that's about to hit a lot of us!

    Why is it that so many items are shoddy and designed for a short life today? I have a pizza baking sheet that I use for all kinds of things and protect diligently -- it puts new baking sheets to shame. I recently bought new cake pans and made sure they were sturdy and made in America. I hope they hold up!

    ~ Krista

  3. Hate to hear your food processor died at 30 - mine is 32! But I only use it a couple of times a month.
    I did not bring my crock pot when we moved cross country and ended up replacing it. However, meat cooked in it does not taste right - has happened several times. Beginning to think we need a more expensive crock pot. Thoughts?

  4. I stumbled upon this blog today - lovely surprise.