Shameless Chef

The Shameless Chef: Southwest Chicken and Dumplin' Chowder

It'll be Super Bowl time before long, so when I saw an imminently Super Bowl-style dish on the back of a can of Dinty Moore, I-

Quit looking at me like that. Oh, you've never made something from off the back of a can before? Well, me neither. I'm aware that people used to with much more frequency than they do now; these days, I don't know anyone who bothers. So, I thought it would be fun to try one of these recipes out, see how it works. The worst that'll happen is I'll wind up with a bucket-full of inedible glop which I can gleefully hurl at neighborhood children. This happens about once or twice a week. They've started saying my house is haunted by a projectile-vomiting ghost.

You will need:

- 24-ounce can of chicken and dumplin's. It is crucial at this point to illustrate the difference between a "dumpling" and a "dumplin'." A dumpling is an Asian concoction, usually some kind of noodle shell stuffed with spiced meat. It resembles real food. A dumplin', on the other hand, is pretty much just a chunk of fried lard. They are glorious. I used Dinty Moore's variety because a) I've always considered their chicken 'n' dumplin's to be reasonably tasty for the price, and b) I couldn't find any other brand that comes in a 24-ounce can. One assumes 24 ounces of any chicken 'n' dumplin variety would work. - 1 cup of chicken broth - 1 cup of salsa - 1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained - 1 11-ounce can of corn with green and red bell peppers, undrained

Optional stuff for the fancy-ass gentleman: - 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder - Sour cream - Guacamole - 2 tortillas torn into strips. They said to fry them in oil, but as reckless as I am with what I put into my body, even I was loathe to add extraneous fried food to this recipe. I just toasted them a little, and that worked out okay.

First, you're going to want to get out your Fairly Sizable Sauce Pot. Your Big-Ass Sauce Pot is unnecessary, for once. In no particular order, toss in the chicken and dumplin's, chicken broth, salsa, beans, corn, and chili powder. You might want to use more chili powder than I did, because 1/4 of a teaspoon is a seriously teeny amount.

Stir all that together while simmering it over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes. And guess what? That's it, son. As far as the main dish goes, once it's hot, you're done. As for the garnishes, I recommend you just leave 'em out by the big bowl of chowder so the guests at your football party can add them to taste. I went all the way with mine; sour cream, guacamole, tortilla strips, the whole bit. Well, not technically "all the way"; the recipe says you're supposed to garnish with "fresh cilantro sprigs," which made me laugh and laugh. Come on, seriously? Who are we trying to fool here?

We've reached the conclusion of our "Can you trust a recipe on the back of a can?" experiment, and I have to say: it turned out pretty damn tasty. You could definitely do worse for something to bring to some kind of informal function, although if you try to bring this dish to any kind of dress-up affair, people are going to think you're crazier than a shithouse rat. If I'm at a nice-clothes event, people don't even come near me anymore. Especially church folk, but I think that's less to do with the things they've seen me consume and more to do with the way my skin blisters and sizzles when touched by the religious.

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John Seaborn Gray