Last weekend I was finally feeling motivated to cook and photograph food again. One slight problem: I was feeling extremely uncreative and unimaginative. Thankfully, I had a little help…
Earlier in the day, we had taken some really good shots of carrot soup that I was more than pleased with. And when a photo session goes well and the food is cooperating, it always makes me want to do more. (Don’t ask about the times that the photography goes all wrong…it ends with one very cranky and usually very sweaty Karen, swearing off food photography forever.) But when dinnertime rolled around, as much as I wanted to cook and photograph another dish, I had a complete mental block. The big part, red pepper sauce over chicken, had been decided but that was all I had. Hoping that something would come to me, I went out to our very own garden to pick peppers.
An aside: Saying that I’m going “out to our very own garden to pick peppers” never gets old. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. Every time I go out to snip herbs or a pepper, I announce it to the household. If Andy isn’t in the room, no matter…the animals are listening, right?
Back to dinner: With a pile of peppers in front of me, but no real plan, I started chopping and rattling off ideas of what else I might throw in the pot. Andy had that look on his face like he didn’t really agree with any of my suggestions, and honestly, I wasn’t really buying what I was selling either. And then, very casually and like it was so obvious, Andy suggested cumin and coriander. D’oh! Why didn’t I think of that?! Later he suggested a sour cream-lime drizzle “to not only cool off the dish, but also to add some color variation for the photos.” (His words…see why I love him??) And then, to literally top it all off, let’s add chopped cilantro, he says. I was ready to just hand the apron over to him…
Once the sauce was finished, Andy barbecued the chicken and I started to plate the dish. We fussed with it for a few minutes and ran to take photos, hoping it would be an “easy” dish and we could eat a hot meal. After a few less than great shots, I looked at Andy with that look that he now knows to mean “please help right this very second or I’m going to go off the deep-end.” He stepped in front of me, took probably the fewest shots we’ve ever needed to take, and ended up with some of our best photographs yet. In fact, I spent a lot of dinner just ogling them and smiling.
Red Pepper Sauce over Chicken
Makes 1 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped assorted red peppers (sweet and/or spicy)*
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup chicken broth
barbecued chicken breasts
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté shallots until soft, add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds. Add chopped peppers and stir to combine. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in all spices, sauté for about 5 more minutes until soft. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes until broth is reduced by about half.
Transfer pepper mixture and all liquid to a blender. Blend until completely smooth. (Add a little more broth to thin out sauce, if desired.)
*Note: The spice level of this sauce is easy to control…add as many or as few spicy red peppers as you want. For my mix, I used a combination of red poblanos, red bell peppers and 4 red Fresno chiles (seeds and all), which made it quite spicy.
Sour Cream-Lime Drizzle
1/4 cup sour cream
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
Whisk together sour cream and lime.
Serve red pepper sauce over chicken with sour cream-lime drizzle and cilantro.
This is a very flavorful (especially when it’s spicy), very versatile sauce. It was perfect over tender barbecued chicken breasts, but I think it would be just as good over steak or halibut, or even used as a dipping sauce for shrimp. Overall, it has a robust red pepper taste, but hints of cumin and coriander make it layered and interesting. The sour cream drizzle does the trick to soothe some of the spice and the cilantro adds brightness.
So I went from completely uninspired to having this meal in under an hour, complete with great photos. The Beatles said it well, “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends…” Or in this case, with a whole lot of help from my husband.
Apparently the cat wanted in on some of this action too. It was that good (or she's that bad).