Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chickpea and Chorizo Casserole

The amazing Mel Camero, better known as the blogger "bitchincamero" has been at it again, posting recipes that beg to be duplicated, August heat or no. I am already a fan, partly due to my belief that hers has quite possibly the coolest food blog name ever.

Seeing as I already had chickpeas and bread in the pantry and most of a link of chorizo in the refrigerator I was a slam dunk to try out her Chickpea and Chorizo Casserole for myself. Especially since I had never attempted the sausage simmered in cider as she suggests as a must try preparation.

But man (or woman) does not live by casserole alone. Besides borrowing from bitchincamero's blog offerings, I also had plans to dip in to the Sue Bette stream on feelgood eats, taking as a starting spot her recent post about a fig, watercress and bleu cheese salad.

Ever since the other day when John McCain tried to bash Barack Obama by calling him an "arugula eater", I have been jonesing for arugula and wanting nothing more than to defiantly make a blue-gal-in-a-red-state rocket eating statement all my own.

Past that, it seemed I'd been reading about figs everywhere. Have you noticed that? When you are really craving an ingredient you begin to run into it all over the place, smiling, hanging out with other people, taunting you... I began thinking about the amazing combination of peppery lettuce, basalmic drizzled figs and tangy crumbled cheese, and, well, I just had to have me some. Stat!So with a bit of fear and trepidation I set out to answer the burning question. In this, the home of burly flagship Randall's, well muscled Central Markets and the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Whole Foods stores, would the 98 pound weakling Wheatsville Food Co-op even have what I wanted, no strike that, what I needed for dinner tonight?Turns out I trembled for naught. You can read more about me getting all mushy over my hot new food-love partner in another post. Suffice it to say here that I hit Wheatsville yesterday and found everything I needed to put the dinner I'd been dreaming about on the table. And here's how it went. I took Mel's original recipe and mostly just halved it, leaving me with this:

Chickpea and Chorizo Casserole (Serves 4)
8 ounces Spanish chorizo
2 cups sparkling cider
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
5 slices of crusty bread, cut into large chunks
2 eggs
3/4 cup 2 percent milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
pinch salt
4 ounces smoked gruyere, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a casserole dish.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the chorizos and cider. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chorizo plumps up and absorbs the liquid. Remove from the pan and set aside.Add olive oil to the skillet and sauté the onions. When translucent add the chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes. Chop the chorizo into small chunks (and whatever you do for the love of mercy don't taste it at this point or unless you are a stronger person than I am you will be tempted to send your husband to the drive through while you hide in the closet and eat every morsel) and add them to the pan along with the bread. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, stir well, and then transfer to the casserole.

Whisk the eggs and milk and broth and salt and pour over the casserole, making sure to coat evenly. Top with cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the middle is set and the cheese is browned and bubbly.

Serve with a green salad.The salad of my choice? Arugula and baby spinach mixed with pine nuts and crumbled Cotija cheese in a basalmic vinaigrette, topped with quartered fresh figs. I'd originally meant to use toasted pecans in the salad but discovered we are temporarily out, so the pine nuts had to pinch hit. They managed just fine, with a similar nice crunch and hint of their own sweetness to lend to the mix.

So how did it turn out? Mostly amazing. See for yourself, my casserole got a bit overbrowned, even though I checked it at 30 minutes.Next go round I believe I will put some foil over the casserole to begin with and take that off for the last 15 minutes to allow the top to brown (or run it up under the broiler). If that doesn't work, I might knock a few degrees off the oven setting. I didn't actually add the broth in last night, it was only going to add 1/2 cup liquid and the eggs I used were pretty large and I thought I could get away without opening a container just to use that teensy bit. Plus I got totally distracted by all the hooraw on PBS about the convention.When it came right down to it last night history was playing quite the trump card.

Distracted as an excuse or not, turns out the casserole came out of the oven not only a bit brown but perched right on the tippy edge of "too dry". When I reheat the two reserved leftover portions for another dinner in a few days I will introduce some broth into the process to correct for my oversight. I (barely) got away without using the broth this time but know to be sure to throw that in next time I fix this.

And, there will most definitely be a next time. The casserole is a wonderfully nutty meaty cheesy combination of flavors that tempted even our heat jaded appetites last night. We thoroughly enjoyed it.And the salad? My sweet hubbub remarked that he would be a happy camper with figs in his salad, anytime. Sure, I know, salads aren't technically "cooking", but I do have fun combining salad elements in ways that give us a little somethin' somethin' past dressed lettuce, you know?

I think a well composed salad works like a good choir. Every voice needs to have a certain strength on its own, but together they have to be able to blend in a way that takes the whole experience to a new level. La la laaaa.

As usual, many many thanks, Mel and Susan! You ladies hit the inspirational mark yet again. Thanks to all of the food hotties at Wheatsville as well. I can tell we are going to have a long and happy (if not slender) time together, celebrating good local healthy food (in our "easy fit" elastic waisted clothes)...


Flapjacks said...

That sounds delicious. I bet you could make a nice sauce from that cooking liquid left over from the cider and chorizo.

Those are my figs!

TexasDeb said...

The cooking liquid just about all disappears into the chorizo. It was weird - totally cool - and completely delicious.

Technically flapper, possession being 9/10ths of the law, those are MY figs now (especially the ones I already ate). I paid for 'em fair and square.

But actually yes, you get full credit for originally finding the figs, and most likely the arugula too?

bitchincamero said...

Thanks Deb! So glad you liked it :)

I'm completely addicted to figs in salad right now. Too bad they'll be out of season soon.

TexasDeb said...

Me too, bc - I'm eating figs in everything right now. BTW, I tried a sunny side egg on top of the reheated chorizo casserole for dinner recently and it not only added the moisture I'd left out while distracted by TV the other night, but the flavor of the yolk added on top was delicious.

I'm beginning to think an egg on top of ANYthing is a good idea.