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!


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


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.


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

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Photo by: Starbuck

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Make a Fresh Habanero-Lime Salsa this Sunday

We both have always loved salsa though Justin tends to be a little obsessed with it….really, no joke!  Justin seems to have become a salsa connoisseur and today he shares one of his favorite recipes for habanero-lime salsa.  Instead of buying some of that store bought jar stuff, take a little bit of time before sitting down for the football game this Sunday and make some fresh salsa.

Habanero-Lime Salsa


6-8 firm plum tomatoes
1 medium sweet onion
2 habanero peppers
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1-2 limes
1/3 c fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/8 c fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c rice wine vinegar

Warning: Be careful when handling habanero peppers.  You should wear gloves and be careful of where and what you touch immediately after handling habaneros.


Remove the seeds from the plum tomatoes and then finally dice into small quarter pieces.  If you want the salsa to be very spicy then leave the seeds in the habanero peppers.  If you want it to be more mild, then remove the seeds and you can also add a dash of sugar to the recipe.  Finally chop onion, cilantro and parsley.  Combine all ingredients and squeeze the juice of the limes into the dish.  Stir all ingredients together and let rest together for approximately 20-30 minutes to allow all of the flavors to meld together.


You can download a PDF version of this Habanero-Lime Salsa.

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Photo by: SuziJane

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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.


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


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.


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

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Original Recipe by: Tyler Florence
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The Steps to Making a Proper Risotto

Joe is known for his famous risotto recipes and today he shares the basics of those recipes with all of you.

Risotto is a glutenous rice that is cooked with small additions of flavored liquid such as stock or broth, rather than the measure, cover, and cook method which is traditionally used for most rice.  This cooking method and the glutenous nature of risotto creates a creamy texture unlike other rice, which is simply delicious, and has led to risotto often being referred to as “macaroni and cheese for adults”.

Risotto IS in fact a rice, not a pasta (orzo is rice shaped pasta)  which it is often confused with because of its creamy texture and the fact that on many restaurant menus, risotto is offered in the pasta section.   For those that doubt that risotto is in fact a grain, look closely at an uncooked piece before you begin to cook it next, and you will clearly see a stem scar, something all grains that were once attached to a plant will have.

The following are the steps to making a classic plain risotto (exact measurements aren’t needed here)

1.  In a rondeau pan, large saute, or small soup pot, on low-med heat, heat some vegetable oil and begin to sweat some thinly sliced shallots or onions(approx 1/4 cup)

2.  When the shallots take on the first bit of color, add your dry risotto (approx 1.5 cups).  I like Arborio rice, but there are many types to choose from.  Stirring occasionally, allow the risotto to be coated completely with the cooking oil and to toast a little bit (about 5-10 minutes).  If it begins to get very brown you have toasted too much.

3.  Time for the first addition of liquid – I almost always use white wine (approx 1 cup).  Both Chablis and Chardonnay work well.  Stirring constantly, allow all almost all this liquid to be absorbed.


4.  Add your stock a little at a time (1/2 cup, or a few small ladels worth) and keep stirring.  I like to use vegetable or chicken stock, and if your stock is seasoned properly, you shouldn’t have to season the risotto very much if at all.  When the liquid is almost all absorbed, guess what… add more.  You will repeat this several times, varying in number based on the size of the liquid additions, and type of risotto you are using.

5.  Check for doneness frequently by tasting – you are looking for an al dente firmness, where the risotto is soft and creamy, not dry, but the center of the grains still has some raw “tooth” to it.

6.  When your risotto has reached this stage of doneness, you can take it off the heat if you are going to use it later.  (Spread it in a thin layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment, this will allow it to cool faster and more evenly as well as stop the cooking process).  It is now ready to complete.

7.  You can add almost anything to your risotto at this point, but I suggest before you do, you first perfect the plain risotto and your risotto timing as well.  Put your risotto back in the pan (that is if you took it out to cool for later use) and add another single addition of stock.  When this is all absorbed, taste, if it seems almost ready and needs no further seasoning or cooking, add some cold butter (for this batch 1/4 stick will do).  Let the butter melt completely, stirring constantly of course.  When the butter is melted, add some grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan or asiago (about 1/4 -1/2 cup), stir it in and when it has almost melted completely, turn off the heat.

8.  Possibly the most important step, let your risotto rest for 5-10 minutes before you eat it.  It will need some time to set and get to the right thickness for maximum creaminess and the ideal texture.

Once you have mastered the plain risotto, the possibilities of ingredients you can add are almost endless.  It is however the final timing of the last addition or two of stock that will make or break your risotto.   For example if you were to add shrimp, you could add them raw and let the heat from the cooking process finish them off or you could add pre-cooked shrimp at the very last second. You could also start with a fresh pan and some par-cooked risotto, sear the shrimp to about half done then add your risotto back to the pan with the final addition of stock and let this cooking time finish them off (this is the common restaurant method of making individual portions of risotto to order).

When adding additional ingredients it is possible to over and under cook both the risotto and other ingredients.  Use your level of experience to base cooking times.  You don’t want crunchy, or mushy risotto and you wouldn’t want uncooked or overcooked ingredients, especially proteins.

The best advice for perfect risotto is to keep it to a “less is more” kind of philosophy,  the risotto itself is the star, the additonal ingredients are the supporting actors, and you really don’t want too many of them.   A general rule of thumb is to think of 5 or less flavors and textures that will be present in your risotto.   With the rice, stock and cheese you already have three flavors before you add additional ingredients; Think of the rice, the stock and the cheese, as the main cast and base your supporting actors on what will best compliment them.   Fish stock, cheddar cheese, beef tips, and dried apricots certainly doesn’t sound as appealing as a garlic/veg stock, and Parmesan with snow peas and shrimp.

Enjoy, practice, and have fun with the endless combinations of flavors you can add to a proper risotto!

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Photo by: evilnick

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Meat the Press Mondays: Hen of the Woods Duxelle

So, we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled broadcast of Meat the Press Mondays due to the small issue of Justin forgetting to charge the battery (and backup battery) for the camera…woops :).  Next week we will return with some great new videos for you.

A couple weeks ago we highlighted the use of compound butters to enhance a meat.  Today we would like to discuss the use of a duxelle, specifically a Hen of the Woods mushroom duxelle, to make your next dish stand out.  We thought this would be great due to the popularity lately of our previous Fresh Fridays posts about these great wild mushrooms.

This year in New England agriculture has been one of mixed blessings,  we had lots of rain which translated to good watering of crops and aesthetic plants alike.  Some plants had trouble, mixed growing seasons, some did ok, or about the same as always, and some did especially well.  In the beginning of the year, the Hadley asparagus was a little on and off, with plentiful harvests and great availability one week, and then limited to no availability the next.  Fortunately, asparagus grows extremely fast.   On the other hand a crop that grows relatively slow, pumpkins, had a bad year here in New England.  The ground was just too wet for too long and the big orange fruits had issues with mold and rot.  Joe recently observed the price of a three pack of kind of crappy small/mediumish pumpkins at $14…not what we’re used to seeing at all.  But the real blessing from all the rain this year has been the abundance of wild mushrooms, in particular the Hen of The Woods type, which we thoroughly enjoy and have written about before.

This weekend at work we had calls from three different mushroom foragers asking us how much we needed.  Fortunately for our friends we are loyal customers and went with our regular mushroom man and we ended up purchasing some of the most beautiful Hen Of The Woods mushrooms that either of us have seen to date.
Hen of the Wood mushrooms are favorites of people that live in the area but many do not know the rich history of this mushroom.  For over four thousand years, these wild mushrooms, also know as “Mitake” mushrooms have been praised in Japan for it’s excellent health benefits, including:
  • Stimulating the immune system
  • Regulating the healthy functioning of the digestive system
  • Moderating blood sugar levels
  • Providing anti-oxidant support
  • Improving skin health
  • Assisting in weight control
  • Calming of the nervous system

Due to their abundance in Japan, this wild mushroom makes up one of the 4 major or so major mushrooms which are popular in the country.  Within the United States, Hen of the Woods are typically found in the Northeast but some have been found as far away as Idaho.  In the Northeast, Mitakes typically grow in clusters at the foots of big oak trees which is exactly where our local mushroom forager has been finding them for us.  These mushrooms can grow up to 50 pounds earning them the nickname of “King of Mushrooms”.  With mushrooms that can grow so big, there is only one thing to do and that is come up with recipes to use them in!

A couple weeks ago when we got our first Hen of the Woods mushrooms of the season, we ran a risotto special last time and it sold like hotcakes.  Joe doesn’t like to be repetitive, so this time around we ran a special featuring a Hen Of The Woods duxelle, which is just a fancy word for mushroom stuffing.  We used this stuffing in filet mignon, which was butterflied, pinwheel style (basically unrolling the filet like it was a roll of paper towels), spread a generous layer of my duxelle on the inside and then rolled back up, tied with butchers twine, and grilled the whole thing.  The result is a wonderful melding of mushroom and beef flavors in every bite.  Doing a stuffing like this is also especially nice because the juices released by the meat as it cooks are absorbed by the mushrooms, and mushroom juices are permeating the steak as it rests both before and after cooking, creating a delicious harmony of flavor.   This stuffing is especially good in game birds, pork, or even as a spread on crackers or in a puff pastry appetizer.  But if you’ve read any of our previous posts you well know that I am partial to beef, so naturally that is where my duxelle ended up this week.

Hen Of The Woods Duxelle

  • 1.5 lbs hen of the woods mushrooms, stems and leaves, evenly distributed and chopped to a small rough dice
  • 1/2 large onion, small chop
  • 1 leek white part only, small chop
  • 1 tsp garlic minced fine
  • 4 slices bacon, rough chop
  • 1/2 cup dry white cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/8 lemon worth of juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Once you have all your chopping done this recipe is really easy. Start by rendering the fat out of the bacon on a large pan over medium heat.  When the bacon bits are crisp remove them and set aside.  In the rendered bacon fat add the onion and the leek, saute till  the onion and leek are soft and begin to almost brown,  add the garlic and stir to combine, next add all the mushroom bits, mix well, and when the mushrooms begin to sing to you, salt liberally.   Keep stirring, and when the mixture seems to be slightly reduced and looks a bit dry, add the wine, let this mixture reduce stirring occasionally, and when approximately, 7/8 of the liquid has reduced/been absorbed, add the lemon juice, parsley, and reserved bacon bits, mix to heat through, then taste to check for seasoning, add more salt and black pepper if needed.

The result should be sweet and aromatic from the onion and leek, and woodsy and rich from the mushroom, with a hit of salty savoriness from the bacon flavor, which will all be balanced with a slight fresh tang from the acid of the lemon juice. Now all you have to do is let the duxelle cool before stuffing your favorite food with it, use it liberally, and experiment with a wide variety of foods.  The duxelle will hold well in the fridge for several days, or if you can’t get to it immediately, do what my mushroom forager does, pop it in an old ice cube tray, wrap it tightly and freeze it.


You can download a PDF version of this Hen of the Woods Duxelle recipe

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Contributing Writer: Joseph M. Gionfriddo
Photo by: sweet little bunny

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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.

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Meat the Press Mondays [9/15/08]

For this week’s Meat the Press Mondays we are exploring compound butters as a way to improve a finished steak or a good white fleshed fish.  Compound butters are one of our favorite simple things to do in the kitchen lately.  It is essentially a technique used to flavor butter, which is then used to impart flavor to food in the cooking or finishing process.  The combination of flavors that you can give to compound butter are virtually endless.  Any food that tastes better with butter on or in it (i.e. everything) can benefit from compound butter.

There are a few simple steps used to make good compound butter.  The first and most important is to begin with soft, room temperature butter, preferably unsalted and not melted at all.  Place butter in a large mixing bowl and add any flavoring ingredients, seasonings, spices, etc.  Keep in mind that, except for in small amounts, such as a squeeze or two of citrus juice, liquids will not incorporate well with butter.  Using your hands and some disposable rubber gloves mix the butter and seasonings to thoroughly combine.  Next, with a rubber spatula, place the softened butter on a large piece of parchment paper.  Spread the butter lengthwise along the parchment paper from end to end keeping in mind the finished product is going to be a cylinder approximately the size of a paper towel tube.  Roll the parchment paper as you would paper towels and gather up the ends twisting in opposite directions, this will force the butter into an even cylindrical shape.  Place in the refrigerator until solid.  Your newly flavored butter is ready to use, cut off as much as you like and use with just about anything.

Here are a few recipes for some of our favorite compound butters:

1 lb unsalted butter
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
1tsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Note: This is great used to top a finished steak.  Let the butter sit atop the steak while it is resting and the butter will become meltingly soft and maintain its creamy semi solid texture.

1 lb unsalted butter
zest from 1 orange, and 1 lemon
1tsp chopped parsley
1tsp chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Note: This is a compound butter best used when roasting white fleshed fish,  when the fish is a few minutes away from being done add a few slices of this butter and let melt down the fish and mix with the pan juices us this as the sauce for serving the fish.

These flavorful butters are great on bread, proteins, veggies, in sauces, and as last minute flavor additions to almost any dish, savory or sweet.  Use your imagination, experiment and enjoy!

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Photo by joshbousel

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