Archive for January, 2009

Amy’s Award-Winning Super Chili

Friday, January 30th, 2009

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The Big Game is just around the corner. (Apparently, unauthorized people are not allowed to combine the words “Super” and “Bowl” into one phrase lest they violate copyright and get raided by the Football Gestapo. So we’re calling it the Big Game. You know what I mean.)

 

The traditional dish for this event is chili. I usually make my standard beef chili, but this year my college roommate Amy MacDonald has offered something more unusual. Her chili was tied for first place in a chili cook-off last year. She says she was inspired by a class she took years ago with chef/instructor Pat Kapp.

 

Amy

Amy

 

Amy sent me her recipe in narrative form. In her words, “It’s not really a recipe—it took three days—it’s practically a way of life.” I love her attitude and her writing because they illustrate the improvisational way in which we all really cook (yes, even cookbook authors!). I hardly ever follow a recipe from start to finish. There’s too much tasting, thinking, and running out of ingredients along the way.

 

In the interest of making this blog more or less coherent, however, I have translated her essay about making the chili into a semi-standardized recipe. I’ve left in several of her observations because they reflect her personality and that of her chili.

 

I should add that my family ran out of time and turned the three-day chili into a two-day chili. We just basically kept it in the slow cooker overnight and thought it was ready to serve after 24 hours, just after we added the brown sugar and jam. The end result was quite delicious and definitely prize worthy. So don’t worry if you don’t have three days before the game.

 

Amy's son William wanted to add barbecue sauce to the chili.

Amy's son William wanted to add barbecue sauce to the chili.

 

 

The Chili

 

Ingredients:

 

2 chicken breasts (or 5 drumsticks, which I happened to have in the house)

2 4-inch sticks fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh

salt to taste

1 cup red wine, divided (Amy says, “if you happen to be drinking it at the time. I say, “Drink.”)

1/2 pound kielbasa (I mixed kielbasa and locally produced chorizo), plus more if desired

1 large red onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

butter and olive oil as needed for sautéing

2 cans black beans

2 cans other beans (NOT garbanzos; I used pinto and kidney)

1 can pureed or chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari—even better—if you have it in the house)

3 serrano chiles, seeded and minced

6 ounces dark beer or ale

2 heaping tablespoons chili powder, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 ounces barbecue sauce

vegetable or chicken stock if needed

1/3 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
hot sauce to taste (optional)

 

Instructions:

Day I: 

Poach the chicken in a little water along with the rosemary and thyme, plus a little salt. Throw in 1/4 cup wine.

 

Slice the kielbasa into pieces “about the size of a very thick quarter,” and brown them in a frying pan.

 

In a separate frying pan, brown the onion and garlic in butter and oil. “I don’t know why both butter and oil,” says Amy. “Just do it.” (Actually, the combination adds flavor and keeps the butter from burning.) “The critical thing here is the browning part. Searing everything adds depth.”

 

Open the cans of beans. Throw them into a pot. “Heat them to a really good simmer.” While they are heating up, take the chicken meat off the bones. Put that meat and the chicken’s cooking liquid in a large slow cooker.  Add the beans, vegetables, sausage, tomatoes, soy, chiles, and beer.

 

“[T]hen start worrying about whether there is enough meat,” says Amy. If you’re concerned (I was! I love meat!), brown another 1 /2 pound at least of sausage in a frying pan. Deglaze the pan with the remaining wine, and add the sausage and wine to the slow cooker. If you don’t use more sausage, just throw the wine in by itself.  Stir in the chili powder.  Cook overnight on low heat.

 

Day II:

 

On Day II Amy’s son announced that the chili needed some barbecue sauce.  Amy didn’t actually add any, but I misunderstood her explanation of his request, and I put some in. Not bad! Taste for flavoring, and if you want to add more chili powder. If you think you want more liquid in your chili, add some stock. Stir in the brown sugar and jam; then cook for a few more hours on low heat. Remove the chili from the crock pot, and refrigerate it overnight.

 

Day III:

 

Return the chili to the crock pot, add the cilantro, and cook it for several additional hours on low heat. Taste it a couple of hours before you’re ready to serve it. If you think it needs more seasoning, feel free to add some chili powder, salt, red pepper flakes, or even hot sauce. If you think it just needs more cooking, increase the heat to high.

 

If you’re entering a chili cook-off, lobby avidly and look cute. (Amy always does.) If you’re just watching football, dish the chili out.

 

Serves at least 10 football fans.

 

Our Michael is ready for the Big Game.

Our Michael is ready for the Big Game.

Soup Days: Chipotle Corn Chowder

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

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BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!
 
Frank Loesser’s playful lyric is appropriate to this time of year.  It is indeed chilly—and snowy—and icy—outside. The cold gives us an excuse to linger indoors and enjoy ourselves, however. 

And of course we can cook………

January is National Soup Month for a reason. We have entered the season of simmering pots and warming lunches. I have lots of favorite soups for cold weather. I can eat split pea soup for days on end (a good thing since it’s hard to make only a small pot of it). I save my chicken bones religiously for stock. I turn the dregs of pot roast into vegetable-beef soup. And I’m a sucker for the potential in a can of tomatoes.
 
We can light fires, which always cheer. We can read the occasional novel. We can think about going for long walks in the snow. We can catch up on housework. (We CAN—but I’m not sure I will.)
 

Here is a soup I’ve just started making, and I love it. It was inspired by the Happy Valley Locavore, a blog maintained by Meggin Thwing Eastman of Greenfield, Massachusetts. Meggin writes about her quest to cook with and eat as much locally produced food as she can.

 

The soup on which this one was based (which of course used fresh corn!) solved a long-time dilemma for me. I love to make corn chowder, but I have lots of friends who avoid pork and thus can’t eat the bacon that gives my favorite corn chowder its smoky taste. Meggin’s answer is to use canned chipotles (smoked jalapeño peppers). These give the soup not only smoke but a touch of heat as well.

 

Stay warm and eat hearty!

 

chipotles

 

Chipotle Corn Chowder

 

Ingredients:

 

peanut oil as needed for sautéing

1 onion,  finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound new potatoes, cut in small cubes (leave the skins on!)

1 quart vegetable or  chicken stock, plus more stock if needed

2 pounds frozen corn (or the corn from 8 to 10 ears), preferably slightly thawed

2 chipotles in adobo sauce, seeded and finely minced

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

cream and milk to taste

chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

 

Instructions:

 

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté them until they begin to brown. Stir in the potatoes, and cook for a couple of minutes, adding more oil if needed to keep them from sticking to the pot. Pour in 1 quart of stock, and bring the mixture to a boil.

 

Add the corn and chipotles to the pot, return the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the mixture covered until the corn and tomatoes are soft and the soup tastes good. This takes about half an hour on my stove. Add a bit more stock if the soup looks as though it is drying out.

Let the soup cool for a few minutes; then carefully blend it using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Return the soup to the pot, and add a little cream. Stir in milk until the chowder looks and tastes right to you. Heat the milky mixture just to the boiling point, and serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired. Serves 8 to 10.

Lorelei Lee likes to nap on soup days (and on non-soup days, too!).

Lorelei Lee likes to nap on soup days (and on non-soup days, too!).

Nibbling with the Oxen

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

tinkybean2web2

Welcome to the Year of the Ox!

The Chinese New Year starts on Monday, January 26. Naturally, I’m thinking FOOD. We don’t have a Chinese restaurant in Hawley, Massachusetts, so I have to make my own fare. Despite our lack of Chinese restaurants, Hawley is a perfect place in which to celebrate the year of the ox. In New England oxen still do agricultural work. Ox pulls are major draws at our local fairs.

I know dumplings are a traditional New Year’s dish, and I plan to make them … next year! This year I’m concentrating on a couple of old standbys. Noodles are lucky for the Chinese New Year so I’m working on my friend Stu Cosby’s Sesame Noodles. I’m also serving spicy green beans because they go nicely with the noodles–and because I love beans any time.

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Sesame Noodles

Ingredients:

8 ounces Chinese noodles (you may use spaghetti in a pinch)
3 tablespoons peanut butter (I used crunchy)
3 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (you may use regular if you don’t have light)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon hot oil
2 carrots, cut into julienne strips
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into julienne strips

Instructions:

Cook the noodles as directed. Drain them. Heat the peanut butter in a microwave oven just until it is soft and stir-able. Combine it with the scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, and hot oil. Mix until smooth.

Toss the noodles and sauce together. Place them on a platter or in a bowl. Garnish with carrot and cucumber strips. Serves 6 to 8.

 

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Spicy Green Beans

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons sherry
peanut oil as needed for frying
1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like things spicy)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 scallions, chopped

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, water, and sherry. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Stir fry the beans for about 5 minutes or until they begin to brown. About a minute before you think they will be done, toss on the red pepper flakes.

Remove the beans from the pan, and add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Stir fry for 1 minute; then add the beans and the soy/sherry sauce. Stir fry briefly-just until the sauce is warmed. Remove to a platter. Serves 6.

Maple-Pecan Granola

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

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Ben and Jerry aren’t the only Americans shouting “Yes, Pecan!” this January in honor of the inauguration. In keeping with my current oatmeal theme I’m making a special Obamalicious batch of oaty, nutty granola.


 

If I had to pick only one food in the world to eat every day, this granola might just be it. It offers a pleasing mixture of tastes and textures. Luckily, I don’t eat it every day. It’s expensive to make and rather fattening. Nevertheless, a little bit is heavenly with ice cream or yogurt or just by itself as a snack. It also makes a welcome gift. If I thought it would get past security, I would send some to the Obamas. Instead, I’m sharing it with my neighbors.

 

It’s easy to make this mixture gluten free. Just cut out the Grape Nuts and add a few more nuts. (I can ALWAYS add a few more nuts!)


 

Maple-Pecan Granola

 

Ingredients:

 

3-1/2 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats (do not use instant or steel-cut oatmeal)

1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup nutlike cereal nuggets such as Grape-Nuts
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup canola oil, plus oil for greasing the pan
3/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup raisins (plus as many extra as you like!)

1 cup dried cranberries (more of these are nice, too)


 

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, cereal, almonds, pecans, and sunflower seeds. Make sure they are well jumbled up. In a separate, smaller bowl or a 2-cup measuring cup, carefully whisk together the oil, salt, syrup, and vanilla. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix the whole mess together thoroughly with a big spoon.


 

Generously oil a large jelly roll pan with canola oil. (Pour a little oil in the pan, and smooth it around with a paper towel.) Place the granola on the pan, and bake it until it is golden brown, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stirring well every 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and cool the granola to room temperature. At that point, transfer the granola back into the large bowl, and stir in the dried fruits. Store the granola in an air-tight container (or several).


Makes about 8 cups of granola—more or less, depending on how much stuff you add.


granola-being-mixed-web1


The Golden Spurtle


 

Before I leave the topic of National Oatmeal Month, I’d like to point readers to the website for the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, http://www.goldenspurtle.com/. Thanks to Peter Beck and to Apartment Therapy’s Kitchen section, http://www.thekitchn.com/, for finding this for me!

A yearly cooking contest set in Carrbridge in Inverness-shire, Scotland (of course!), this contest looks ALMOST as much fun as my annual Pudding Hollow Pudding Contest. Avid food enthusiasts will be happy to hear that they can attend both. The Golden Spurtle is scheduled for October 11, 2009, while the Pudding Contest will take place on October 31.


The Golden Spurtle web site includes rules, an entry form, and a wonderful page devoted to porridge, including something you won’t find anywhere else–a Porridge and Oatmeal Thesaurus.


 

Eat it up!


2008 Golden Spurtle Winners Andy Daggert & Ian Bishop (Courtesy of the Golden Spurtle)

2008 Golden Spurtle Winners Andy Daggert & Ian Bishop (Courtesy of the Golden Spurtle)

A Cake Called Hope

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

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I’m not traveling to Washington for the Inauguration this week. My mother, the animals, and I will be huddled next to the electronic hearth for the next couple of days, however, absorbing as much televised inaugural coverage as we can.

It’s an exciting event. Even people who aren’t Obama girls and boys can’t help hopping on the hope bandwagon. We all want to do our part to put the country on a new path.

My brother is going to an inaugural ball. Not to be outdone, I have prepared an inaugural cake. I wrote to the folks at Wilton to ask for some red, white, and blue sprinkles. They generously threw in some writing gel, star-shaped icing decorations, and a star-shaped pan. (They offered me a flag pan, but I was afraid that it would present too much of a challenge to my limited decorating skills.)

The resulting confection is not only delicious but beautiful as well. I started out trying to outline the star with the gel. When that didn’t work (did I mention my limited decorating skills?), I decided to revert to my usual free-form style. I ended up with a cake that is cheerful and-yes-hopeful.

In tribute to our incoming president’s message, HOPE is in fact the name of this cake, which includes honey, orange, pineapple, and eggs, among other delicious ingredients. It’s easy to make and even easier to eat.

“Hope is a recipe …. For a country that is looking for a brighter future, hope is the main ingredient.”

                                                    –  Donna Brazile

tinkydecoratesweb

HOPE Cake

Ingredients:

for the orange-pineapple pound cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple (including its juice)
the grated zest and finely chopped pulp of 1 orange (everything in fact but the seeds and the bitter white part)

for the honey-cream cheese frosting:
1 8-ounce block cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
2 generous tablespoons honey
confectioner’s sugar as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan (or a star pan from Wilton).

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, followed by the vanilla, baking powder, and salt.

Gently stir in the flour until it is incorporated, and fold in the fruit and zest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The timing will depend on your pan. With my star pan and my gas oven, it took 45 to 50 minutes.

Let the cake cool in its pan for 10 minutes. Gently loosen the sides and turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack and allow it to cool completely.

When the cake is cool, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and honey. Beat in confectioner’s sugar until you have a soft, spreadable, delicious icing. Beat in the vanilla, and spread the frosting over your cake. Decorate with abandon. Serves 10 to 12 inaugural guests.

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