Friday, October 18, 2013

Picture Perfect Parties: White Bean Chili

I'm a party girl. Well, not the wild kind. The kind who dreams about dinner parties and brainstorms fancy menu themes for no reason at all. I'm the girl you want to be friends with because I throw the most delicious parties ;-) There's nothing quite like a well-structured menu from start to finish to make for a perfect evening with loved ones.

The one thing I always miss when I prepare these festive meals is the ultimate ambiance. I might decorate a bit, or play some appropriate music on the stereo, but I don't set a table with a centerpiece and linen napkins. It's something I always intend to do, but it always seems to get brushed under the menu planning stage of the party.

Enter Picture Perfect Parties by Annette Joseph, an expert on entertaining who regularly appears on The Today Show. In her new book, she shares a year's worth of party ideas complete with recipes and decor tips. Even more so, Joseph gives readers the guidelines they will need to build their party pantry and toolbox so they can throw the best parties in town. 

One thing that makes Picture Perfect Parties stand out next to other entertaining books (which usually showcase lovely photos of parties along with recipes, but not much more about setting the mood), is that Joseph includes thorough instructions on recreating many of the DIY components of her featured table settings. 

For example, for the Big Game Pizza Party in addition to the actual recipes, Joseph includes instructions on making the following: a pom-pom centerpiece, pennant crates, a pennant garland, and a football field table runner. You know I will be rocking these decorations for a future Super Bowl party ;-)

Also, each party plan includes a list of elements used to make the party pop. Joseph lists serving pieces, glass, metal, textiles, ceramic, wood, plastic, paper + ribbon + string, lighting, and more for each of her well-themed gatherings. Even if you don't follow her plan to a T, having these lists is great help in general for putting together the best soirees. 

I really look forward to utilizing many of Joseph's great tips for setting the mood, but in the meantime, I couldn't wait to try some of her recipes! There are some great ones in the book, and they can certainly be cooked without incorporating them into a party menu. 

The first recipe I decided to try came from the Comfort Food Get-Together chapter. The White Bean Chili is just perfect for fall. I decided to make this chili for my family to enjoy while watching football on a recent Sunday. No, I didn't make the football field table runner since it was just us and not a real party, but that would have been a great addition to this chili or many of the other recipes in the book for an afternoon of football.

The White Bean Chili is very easy to make and features simple ingredients that intensify through a slow-cooking process. The recipe does not originally specify if the pot should be covered or not, and it initially has you stew it for 3 hours after adding the beans, but I simmered mine uncovered and realized it was reducing much faster than I thought. Having it covered would perhaps not allow it to reduce as much (since the water will just evaporate into condensation in the lid and drip back down, here I suggest covering it partway to allow a little bit of both). When mine over-reduced, I just thinned it back out with some water (really that's all that evaporates when you reduce something too much).

This chili also features a combination of ground sirloin and turkey. I made mine with only turkey, simply because it was easier to purchase the ground turkey in bulk and use the extra for turkey meatballs later. Either way would definitely work. This is a very straightforward chili without complicated ingredients, but the flavors hit the mark and the result is a perfect game day chili.

The garnishes are a fantastic addition. I don't often top my chili with more than just sour cream and maybe cheese, but adding avocado was a great touch, and the tortilla chips add some great crunch. This chili could also be used for chili cheese nachos with the same garnishes.

White Bean Chili
Serves 6 to 8
(Adapted from Picture Perfect Parties)

1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound ground turkey (I actually omitted the sirloin and use 2 pounds turkey instead)
3 tablespoons olive oil (I used less)
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 quarts chicken stock
1 (15.5 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, or as needed
2 cups sour cream, or as needed
4 avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced, or as needed
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, or as needed
1 (16-ounce) bag tortilla chips, or as needed

In a stockpot over medium-high heat, saute the ground sirloin and turkey for 5 minutes, or until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned meat to a bowl and set aside. Pour any excess oil out of the pot.

Heat the olive oil in the same stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the browned meat back to the pot along with the chili powder, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Pour in the stock and simmer for 1 hour, partially covered.

Add the cannellini and pinto beans and coriander and continue to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until reduced and thickened. If it is too thin, continue to simmer and remove the cover if necessary. If it's too thick, thin it back out with a bit of water and continue to heat until hot.

Serve with bowls of the shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, and tortilla chips alongside. This chili can be made a couple days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to heat and serve.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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