Fresh Fridays: A Chili Recipe Straight from Grandma

For this week Joe shares his Grandma’s special chili recipe which took a little convincing as you’ll read below so make sure you try this recipe and leave a comment below.

After receiving several requests for a chili recipe, I have decided to give my Grandma’s chili recipe, just in time for football parties.  This is a special recipe to me because it is one of the first things I ever learned to cook that people thought actually tasted good.  And I learned a valuable lesson when I made it,  you don’t need a long list of ingredients or complicated techniques to make delicious food.  This recipe is a study in the “less is more” philosophy that I use when I cook.  This recipe will be pleasing to many because the ingredients work well together and there aren’t a lot of differing flavors or textures here.  The right combination of a few ingredients is often far better than something that is overly complex.  Chili powder has always been one of my favorite spices, and as the key flavoring ingredient in this recipe, pays homage to the flavor from which this food gets it name.

Every time I make this chili I eat at least half the batch myself and usually gain about 5 pounds the week I have this chili on hand.  In fact this simple recipe means so much to me I almost didn’t want to share it,  but after I “got over myself”  I realized that the point of dear recipes is to allow others to experience how good simple soulful cooking from the heart can be.   I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Ingredients

60 fl oz tomato JUICE (most important ingredient)  this is exactly 5 cans out of a six pack
3 12 oz cans of dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
2 lbs ground beef
2 large white onions (diced to approx 1/4″)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2-3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Preparation

Heat the veg oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute till soft and starting to turn translucent.  Next add garlic and stir in to incorporate.  Immediately add the ground beef and brown evenly, stirring occasionally.  When beef has browned, drain out excess fat.  Add tomato juice and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, reduce to simmer.  Add beans, salt, pepper, and chili powder (at this step you can also add cayenne pepper, hot sauce, or just more chili powder and black pepper, if you like it hot).  When this comes back to a simmer it should start to really smell like chili, reduce even further to a light simmer, cover, and let cook for 1 hour (or as long as you can stand to wait). Turn off heat and let cool 20 minutes before eating.

This is a thin chili by most standards but the flavor given by the tomato juice should be more subtle and makes a better broth or base than most tomato sauces. Eat with lots of friends, and several loaves of fresh Italian bread, and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Enjoy!

You can download a PDF version of this Grandma’s Chili.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Photo by: Starbuck

Bookmark and Share

Fresh Fridays: Cream of Butternut Squash Soup

For Fresh Fridays, Joe teaches you how to make one of his favorite types of soup, cream of butternut squash.

So, for a cool fall evening I thought I would write a bit about soups, and in particular the pureed soups that are ever popular with fall squashes, butternut, perhaps being one of the most common types.  These are easy soups to prepare, but the difficult work can come when you have to peel some of these peculiarly shaped squashes, such as buttercup, hubbard, and some pumpkin varieties…just to name a few of the more oddly shaped ones. The things that you will need to have are a good blender, a big stock pot, and an ultra heavy duty vegetable peeler (I find that the pull down type work better for rugged jobs than the side to side types).For the purposes of this post I will list the basic method to making a good cream of squash soup, and then follow it up with my recipe for cream of butternut.  This method was adapted from legendary French chef Joel Robuchon’s recipe for cream of pumpkin soup.  Chef Robuchon’s seasonal cookbooks have been a constant inspiration throughout my culinary career, as he tends to have an elegant yet simple style that makes common ingredients become incredible.

The rough idea to this soup is to have approximately the same amounts by volume of peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped squash, and stock, which you will be boiling the squash in (for squash soups, chicken stock is the natural choice).  Begin by placing the squash pieces into your large stock pot, pour in the chicken stock to just about cover the top of the squash, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook till the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.  Next, you will be pureeing this mixture in your blender, in small batches (you could use an immersion blender, but I find that the container-type blender results in a smoother soup).  Ladle a few scoops of the solids and then just a scoop or two of the liquid into your blender and puree till smooth.   Repeat this process till all the squash and stock are pureed smooth.  If it seems too watery, use less stock and more squash, if too thick do the opposite.  Now that you have all your squash and stock pureed, return to your cleaned stock pot and bring to a light simmer, add heavy cream, spices/flavorings (salt, white pepper, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, honey, sugar, maple syrup, all work well in these type soups) and bring back to a simmer.   Remember when flavoring these soups that the squash themselves already contain a good deal of natural sweetness, so season carefully and think savory.  The last thing you want is to have an overly sweet soup that tastes like candy, or worse, one of those super sweet candied yam casseroles with the marshmallow fluff on it.  If your soup is this sweet, you may have trouble getting your guests to partake in the next courses of the meal. 😉

To finish the soup I like to whisk in some cold unsalted butter pieces which provides some additional savory richness and body.   If after all this your soup seems too thick, you can thin by whisking in some more stock.  If too thin then you can whisk in some cornstarch diluted in cold water, like finishing a gravy.  Some other types of squash/vegetables that work well for these soups are, acorn squash, buttercup squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potato, and leek, and you could even do a nice creamed carrot soup this way.

Experiment with lots of different types of squashes/vegetables and seasonings, and enjoy!

Joe’s Fall Cream of Butternut Squash Soup

Note: These are restaurant size portions so either make a large batch or cut back on the portions.

Ingredients

4 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
2 large white onions, peeled and quartered
6 qt homemade dark chicken stock (store bought works fine too)
3/4 qt heavy cream
1/4 lb unsalted butter chopped small
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp dark amber maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
2 or 3 small dashes freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation

-Boil butternut squash and onion in chicken stock till tender
-Puree all ingredients from previous step in blender
-Return to cleaned stockpot, add seasoning ingredients, whisk thoroughly to combine, bring back up to simmer
-Add heavy cream, whisk to combine, bring back up to simmer
-Add butter, turn off heat, whisk till butter is melted and incorporated, remove cinnamon sticks and taste for seasoning.

The finished product of this soup should be velvety smooth and more savory than sweet.  The texture should be that of warm baby food (sorry for the potentially appetite altering metaphor). The color should be a rich pumpkin orange lightly flecked by the grated nutmeg.  This soup will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Enjoy!

You can download a PDF version of this Cream of Butternut Squash Soup.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Photo by: Divine Domesticity


Bookmark and Share

Fresh Fridays: Corn and Potato Chowder

It’s starting to get cold (and fast!) here in New England which starts to bring the thoughts of crackling fireplaces and hot soups, chowders, stews and chili.  Therefore, for this week’s Fresh Fridays we are going to provide you with an excellent recipe for a corn and potato chowder with a kick.  If you don’t like either of the main ingredients, corn or potato, feel free to omit from the recipe and substitute with more of the other ingredient.  If possible, try to buy fresh and local corn though it’s not necessary.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1-2 jalapenos, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups canned vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
2-3 Idaho potatoes, diced
6 ears corn
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 lb bacon
¼ cup scallions
¼ cup cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Cook the bacon until crispy then remove from the heat.  Allow the bacon to cool for approximately 5 minutes so you don’t burn yourself.  Once the bacon has cooled, dice into small pieces as the bacon will be used to top your chowder.

Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos and thyme.  Cook these ingredients for approximately 8-10 minutes or until the onion appears to have softened. Evenly add the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat everything well. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the heavy cream and potatoes.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Boil hard for about 7-10 minutes until the potatoes soften.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob and add to the soup.  To help thicken the soup, you can take the back of your knife and scrape the cob into the soup however this is not necessary to the overall preparation of the soup.

Season with salt, pepper and parsley. Lower heat and simmer until the corn is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Once the soup is done, let it rest for approximately 5 minutes which will allow the chowder to thicken. Next, ladle into serving bowl.  Top the chowder with the chopped bacon, scallions and cheddar cheese.  Allow the cheese to melt and serve.

Note: Whether you peel the potatoes is up to your preference.  Also, feel free to modify the ingredients in this recipe to fit your palette.  Many people will wonder if the jalapenos will make the chowder spicy.  Since the jalapenos have the seeds removed and are cooked down from the start of the cooking process, they add some kick but does not make the dish spicy overall.

Enjoy!

You can download a PDF version of this Corn and Potato Chowder.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Original Recipe by: Tyler Florence
Photo by:
fille_de_photo


Bookmark and Share

Fresh Fridays: Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

So, recently while at work in our kitchen one of our friends who’s been around the restaurant industry for a long time stopped by the back door with some exciting news!  He was recently out in the woods on a rare day off performing one of his favorite pastimes…mushroom foraging.  He had brought his good luck to the restaurant to show off.  The back of his Jeep was filled with about 50 pounds of various sized Hen Of The Woods mushrooms.   Being curious we bit hook, line and sinker.  Joe had worked with these mushrooms briefly in the past it had been a while.   When we told our friend this he happily gave us a few juicy tidbits of information (as any proud mushroom forager would) about this particular fungus.

The tidbit of info that really caught our attention might seem insignificant to some but to us, when we heard that the Hen of the Woods is also know as Maitake in Japanese, we were officially SOLD.  The reason this meant so much to us, has to do with the fact that we both have been lifelong fans of the Japanese cooking show/contest/battle know in the US as Iron Chef (the original show, not the Food Network version).  Any good fan of the show will tell you that Maitake mushrooms are a prized delicacy and are used often in the lavish dishes created in Kitchen Stadium.

So we then began to do a little research on this mushroom that is foraged in the forests of the Northeast US as well as most of Northeast Japan.  It is a heavy yielder with specimens commonly reaching 10 or 20 pounds (the one we purchased was just around 6 pounds).  They are commonly found at the base of hardwood trees, and tend to grow in the same spot perennially.  They are a good eating mushroom, with characteristics similar to a white button mushroom, with a denser texture, and a pleasant woodsy flavor.

We bought our prized specimen on Sunday evening, had Monday off, and Tuesday began to test different cooking and cleaning methods, as well as to research some recipes.  So far we have found that the best way to clean these large mushrooms is to cut away the hard parts of the main trunk on the underside as well as any dirty or sandy areas you might find. Next, work your way up peeling off the main leaves.  These will break apart and segment easily and you will then be left with a piece of mushroom that looks like an ear or a funny looking half of a an oyster shell, with a bit of the white trunk attached underneath.  This trunk is a bit tough and can easily be torn away.  Go through the rest of the mushroom and clean it into pieces that are of an appropriate size to what you will be cooking. If you can’t eat them right away then break them into pieces that will fit into a freezer bag and freeze them. The density of this type of mushroom makes it especially adaptable to freezing and thawing.

We had great success preparing the Hen of the Woods (or Maitake) mushrooms in a simple risotto.  Start by breaking 2 or 3 oz of mushroom into approximately 1/2″ square pieces and sauté them in a little cooking oil over medium heat.  When the mushroom pieces start to “talk” to you it is time to season them with a good pinch of kosher salt and then reduce heat to medium/low. Let the mushrooms cook for a good 10 minutes as this will help tenderize these dense fellows.  Once the mushrooms are getting tender add a small pat of butter, wait for it to melt and start to become absorbed by the mushrooms then add about a cup and a half worth of your 9/10ths of the way cooked risotto (The process of making a perfect risotto is another chapter entirely which we will cover at a later time). Add a few ladles of your favorite homemade stock (ours happens to be a garlic/ginger based vegetable stock) and another good pinch of kosher salt.  Let this all simmer on low heat till 90% of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally.  Next add a few pats more butter, wait till it is all melted in and finish by adding a good handful of grated hard cheese such as Parmesan or Asiago and stir until all the cheese is melted and mixed in.   Now for the most important step – Turn off the heat and walk away for 10 minutes (or at least a solid 5).  Great risotto needs to set and kind of gel together to ensure that perfect creamy, melty (our new word 🙂 ), macaroni and cheese-for-adults type texture.

This is the first recipe we have tried with our Hen of the Woods and so far we’re loving them! So a big thank you is in order to my local mushroom forager.  For those folks who are interested in trying some Hen of the Woods, now is their season so hit up your independent groceries, farmers markets, and local restaurants that support these organizations and you should have no problem finding some.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.


Bookmark and Share

Fresh Fridays: Delicious Summer Tomato Salad

The following salad is especially nice during the summer tomato months.  Early summer it can be made with some of the smaller, earlier maturing types of tomatoes, even cherry or grape tomatoes if you prefer.  Mid summer we like to use the classic beefsteak variety when they are in their full glory.  At end of summer we like to use some of the more slow maturing heirloom types, such as Brandywine, Purple Cherokee, or Striped German.

As with any recipe you should always use whichever types you like best, just don’t be afraid to experiment, and remember when it comes to tomatoes, always try to buy local, seasonally, and to ensure maximum flavor – never refrigerate them.  The bottom line is to make sure you buy quality ingredients especially the tomatoes because since it is a simple salad, the ingredients need to shine.

Ingredients

One big ol’ local summer time tomato (or the equivalent amount of smaller ones)
1tsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Pinch fresh minced garlic
Pinch chopped parsley
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
Pinch dried oregano
Pinch sugar
1tsp toasted pine nuts
1tsp crumbled Gorgonzola
Small handful local baby field greens
Preparation

1. Slice tomato into 5-7 large slices
2. Combine all but last three ingredients, and toss to coat, let rest at room temp 10 min
3. Place tomato slices in an overlapped line on a long plate, reserving marinating liquid
4. In small bowl combine field greens, most of the pine nuts, and Gorgonzola, and dress with some of the reserved marinating liquid
5. Place dressed salad on center of plated tomato slices
6. Garnish with reserved pine nuts and Gorgonzola, and drizzle with little marinating liquid
7. Eat!

You can download a PDF version of this Delicious Summer Tomato Salad recipe.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Photo by AskNetGuy


Bookmark and Share

Fresh Fridays: Thai Pork with Vegetables and Noodles

This week the spotlight for Fresh Fridays is on a Thai dish that I created earlier in the week.  I love Thai food and kept meaning to try making it and I finally had the opportunity.  This recipe is for Thai pork with vegetables and noodles in a red curry sauce.  I chose to make it using Thai Kitchen Red Curry Sauce instead of making the sauce from scratch.  I did this due to time constraints and also to make the recipe easy for anyone else to make.

This recipe was designed to be tweaked to your liking.  You can substitute the pork for chicken, use a different type of Thai sauce, add or remove any vegetables or seasonings that you don’t like.

Ingredients

1lb pork chopped into 1/2 in. pieces

1 medium shallot

1 can of sliced whole potatoes

1 red bell pepper chopped into 1/2 pieces

1/4 cup of scallions chopped

1 can baby corn

3-4 medium cloves of garlic

Sm. package of shitake mushrooms sliced

1/8-1/4 cup of salted peanuts finely chopped

1 box of thin rice noodles

1-2 jars of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Sauce

Peanut Oil

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

Pinch of salt and black pepper (to taste)

Preparation

After chopping the vegetables and cutting the pork or chicken (on separate cutting boards of course!), take the box of thin rice noodles and place them into a large glass bowl.  Cover the noodles with very hot tap water and set aside for 15-20 minutes so that the noodles are al dente.

Place the wok over medium-medium high heat.  [It is preferable that you use a large wok but a deep pan would work as well if a wok is not available]  Pour a few tablespoons of peanut oil into the wok enough to coat the bottom.  Allow the oil to heat for 1-2 minutes and then add in the garlic.  Allow the garlic to cook for about 1 minute and add in the pork.

As the pork cooks, season it with a pinch of salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.  When the pork is approximately 1/2 cooked, add in all of the vegetables except for the mushrooms.  Pour a few more tablespoons of peanut oil over the vegetables as well as another pinch of salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.

Allow the vegetables and pork to cook together for approximately 5 minutes.  Add in the jar(s) of red curry sauce and chopped peanuts.  Continue cooking over medium heat continually stirring until the chopped red bell pepper has begun to soften.  Drain the thin rice noodles and add to wok.  Add the sliced shitake mushrooms.  Mix all ingredients together and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Note: If you prefer more sauce to pour over the plate then use 2 jars of the sauce.  However, if you reduce any portion sizes, then you should just use a single jar.

Serve with some of the scallions and peanuts, if you have extra, on top for garnish.

Enjoy!

You can download a PDF version of this Thai pork with vegetables and noodles recipe.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Photo by Ken@Yokohama


Bookmark and Share

Fresh Fridays: Chimichurri Verde

Starting today, we introduce Fresh Fridays where we will provide you with an easy-to-make recipe that is guaranteed to impress your family, friends or next guests.  Some of the best main courses, side dishes, sauces and desserts that you have at a restaurant are among the simplest to make at home.  At times we will offer more advanced recipes but will always ensure that we’ve explained any techniques or elements needed in a previous post for you to reference.

For the first Fresh Friday we wanted to introduce you to our favorite dipping sauce/marinade, chimichurri.  There are two main versions of chimichurri: a verde (green) herb-based version or a darker, thinner variation which typically consists of tomatoes, onions and cilantro, among a few other ingredients.  Today we’ll be presenting the recipe for a chimichurri verde.

The recipes can all be modified and tweaked to your individual liking.  The following recipe was developed to be served with grilled shrimp or scallops, and is the perfect flavor component for an appetizer or light summer meal.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup rice vinegar

1 cup dry white wine (preferably an Argentinean one!)

1 cup hot but not boiling water

2 bunches scallions, finely chopped

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 cup minced garlic

zest and juice of 2 lemons and 2 limes

1/2 cup sugar

2 crushed bay leaves

1/4 cup dried oregano

salt and white pepper to taste

Preparation

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly with whisk to distribute all ingredients evenly.

Let the chimichurri rest in an airtight container at room temperature for approx. 4 hours to allow the liquids to absorb the flavors of the solid ingredients, and the dried herbs to “soften”.

Prepare shrimp or scallops for grilling by skewering and marinating in chimmichuri verde in a shallow covered container for 30 minutes in refrigerator.  Grill at medium/high heat, basting with reserved chimmichuri while grilling to desired doneness.  Serve with small cups of reserved room temperature chimmichuri verde for dipping.  The remaining chimmichuri verde (not used for marinating) can be kept refrigerated in an air tight container for 2 + weeks.

You can download a PDF version of this chimichurri verde recipe.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.


Bookmark and Share