Posts tagged “good food

Chili con carne… possibly the best you’ll ever have!

Clearly this is not for the vegetarians among you.  If you are one, perhaps now is the time to go look at something else

Are you still with me?  Good, now, lets talk about meaty chili goodness!

I know most of you probably make chili using ground beef or turkey, but we won’t be doing that. What I used might make this the most expensive pot of chili you have ever made.   What I used is a piece of beef called the chain.  The chain is a strip of meat that is located next to the tenderloin.  It is pretty similar as far as tenderness and flavor, but because it is wrapped in fat and connective tissue it is rarely eaten except as ground beef. You can’t buy chains* in the store so I would suggest a chuck roast, and cut it into cubes.  Since you will be simmering this for a while you will end up with nice tender meat by the time the chili is ready.

This wasn’t originally going to be chili.  I’m not sure what I was making, exactly, but I had a few ideas in mind.  As I gathered ingredients it sort of became obvious that it was, in fact, chili.

2# beef chuck cut into cubes

1 TBSP achiote paste

1 TBSP canola oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 large onion diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large poblano, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

25 oz can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

2 cups cooked black beans

salt and pepper to taste

ground cumin, corriander, dry oregano to taste

3 bay leaves

ancho chili powder to taste

The first step is to get the meat marinating.  Combine the achiote, oil, salt and pepper, and mix them into a smooth paste.   Add your cubed meat.  I used the cryovac machine at work to seal this up, and left it in the fridge overnight.  Obviously a ziplock bag would do almost as well. At this point you should also cook your beans. Drain them and cool them in the fridge.

When you are ready to cook, gather all of your ingredients.  We are going to start with the meat.  Heat some vegetable oil in a large pot, and add the meat.  Lightly brown the meat, and add the onions, peppers and garlic, and a little salt.  Cook until the vegetables have softened, and then add the tomatoes and stock. Bring up to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and season to taste with salt, pepper, ancho powder, bay leaves, coriander, cumin,  and oregano.  Allow your chili to simmer, and add the beans after an hour or so.  Taste it after a while and adjust the seasonings if you need to.  If it is to acidic you can add a little bit of honey.  That will help balance things out. Give it a couple of hours to simmer, and enjoy. This is not going to be a spicy chili, but it is tasty!  If you like it spicy there are lots of possibilities, for instance chipotle peppers would be nice in place of the ancho chilies while still giving you a nice smoky flavor.

This chili was a huge hit at work, and I think it will be for you as well. There are plenty of things you can tweak, but this should get you started.  Enjoy it!  I know I did!

*In the course of day to day prep at work we do some butchering, and end up with scraps that are perfectly edible. The chain falls into that category. The only way to get chains is to buy beef tenderloin PSMO (peeled, silver skin, side meet on or pismo).  To make this chili you would probably need three chains.  Of course if you like filet mignon or chateaubriand this will save you quite a bit of money.  The less processed the meat the less expensive it tends to be.  The last time I went to the store pismos were $19.99/pound, and filet mignon were $23.99. Breaking down PSMO’s takes a bit of practice, and time.  It is certainly something you can do, but you do need a sharp knife, and the time to do it.


Cassoulet Day Two!

Well, this happens sometimes.  I end up eating really late.  It isn’t intentional, but I get busy doing things and still need dinner.  Of course these time are usually when I have some long cooking dinner in the works.  Tonight would certainly fall under that heading.  I sort of had a feeling it might.  I had a family thing to go to, and had planned to pop in, and split in fairly short order.  I had hoped to be home, cooking by about 6, and instead didn’t get home until 7pm.  It also took a bit longer than I expected to cook the beans, but in the end it was all worth it!

One of the best things about the internet is the abundance of information about cooking, recipes, and food.  Michael Ruhlman, Rick Bayless, Eric Ripert, and Mark Bittman just to name a few.  I follow these, and several others on Twitter, and they all send out interesting messages, recipes, and today I adapted a post from Mark Bittman.  Really, my biggest change to his recipe was to skip the bulk of the meats and just use a couple of chicken legs.

1/2 pound of dry cannellini beans soaked overnight

canola oil

2 chicken leg quarters

2 cloves of garlic

2 onions cut into half inch dice

2 sticks of celery half inch dice

2 carrots half inch dice

1 zucchini half inch dice

salt and pepper

1 28oz can of diced tomatoes

1 tsp dry thyme

bay leaves

handful fresh parsley chopped

1 quart of chicken stock plus a little water

Since I had my beans soaked last night, and I broke down the chicken to get the legs I was more or less in assembly mode tonight.    Step one, heat some oil in the large pot, and brown the chicken a bit.  I could have given them a bit more time to brown a bit more, and that might have added a bit to the flavor, but in the end it was pretty good.

Then add the beans and enough stock to cover everything. This took about a quart for me. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer.This will need to simmer for about an hour.  In the mean time, take your diced vegetables, and sweat  them in a large skillet.  You’re looking for them to start to get nice and tender, but not brown.  A little salt is helpful when you are sweating veggies since it draws out moisture.  Once they are tender I added the tomatoes, and herbs, and got everything hot, and also reduced the liquid a bit from the tomatoes and whatever came out of the veggies.

Once I had been simmering the beans for about an hour, and the veggies were softened and hot I added the veggies to the beans. Then I returned the pot to a boil, and turned it back to a simmer.  This is where patience started to come into play.  Everything really started to smell great.  Cannellini beans take time to cook, and if you want to do this right you will let them take the time they need.  You will be rewarded.My beans took another 30 minutes to finish cooking. They were tender, and not the least bit chalky.  After an hour and a half simmering in the stock, and with all of the veggies the chicken was so tender that grabbing a leg bone to fish it out would leave you with no meat at all! That was dinner, and although it was certainly different than the cassoulet that I have had in the past I would certainly be happy to eat it again.  That is a good thing, because I have plenty!  Next time I make it I will probably find some turkey sausages that I can throw in there, and make it a bit more traditional.  Traditional or not this was very tasty.  Personally I always find this kind of long, slow cooking process very rewarding.  It always seems to pay off in the end with a ton of flavor, and actually is fairly simple to do as long as you give yourself the time to take on the challenge.  I ended up having dinner a little later than I would have liked, but it was great, and gluten-free.  Hope you all enjoy it.

Edit: One thing I kind of forgot this morning at 2 am when I was finishing this up is a link back to day one, just in case you haven’t read it yet.


Soup’s on!

I don’t know about you, but when I go out to eat I almost never get soup. It can harbor gluten in lots of things that may not be mentioned in a description, pasta, roux, barley, and who knows what else. This is a drag, but a menu description is not a list of ingredients, and asking your server may or may not get you useful information. One part of my job is to make soup, every day we have a soup of the day as well as our house vegetable soup.

How do I come up with soups?  There are two ways.  First, I’ll go through cookbooks, and find things that I can easily expand to meet the requirements I have as far as quantity, and durability.  Now, you might be wondering, “durability??”  Certain things in a soup may cause it to change over time.  Pasta, beans, and barley will all absorb lots of liquid over time.  Obviously barley is not an issue for us, but beans and  gluten-free pasta (I have not made a soup with gf pasta yet, so I don’t really know what any of the various types would do.) could be.  Some things may not look quite as pretty after they sit in a  hot bain-marie for several hours.

The second way I come up with soups is to wander through the various coolers, and freezers looking for something that strikes my fancy, and looks like it needs to go away.  Sometimes, I can just sort of claim things as they sit in a hotbox at the end of a buffet.  The other day I grabbed a large-ish container of buttered new potatoes.  Or a while back I grabbed a five pound piece of pork loin to make posolé with (that ended up going somewhere else, but that happens).

My goal (at work) is just to make soup that happens to be gluten-free, rather than screwing with things that are not gluten-free to make them be gluten-free just so I can eat them. Some things are just not gluten-free, and I just don’t eat them or even taste them.  I grab somebody to be the taste-test-dummy, usually its the sous chef.  He understands my situation, and is fine with tasting things for me.  Sometimes if I’m not sure I’ll grab him to taste things that are gf just because I want a second opinion.

Ok, so on to the soup.  Today we’re going to make onion soup, but rather than the traditional French Onion soup that we all loved, we’re going to make an Italian version.  I eat this with just a sprinkling of grated Asiago cheese on top rather than the crouton with melted cheese.

There is a recipe, in a book that I looked at, and promptly disregarded, except for the general idea behind it.  You may need to tweak these quantities as you go.  I’m not making this soup right now.  The last batch I made was roughly three gallons.

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup Pancetta  chopped
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart thinly sliced onions
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes (Italian plum tomatoes would be fantastic here)
  • splash of white wine
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • herbes de provence to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Asiago for serving

First cut up the onions.  Cut off the top and bottom, slice in half from end to end and peel it and then lay it cut side down and slice from top to bottom.  The trick to slicing an onion with out crying is to make sure that you have a very sharp knife.  That is it.  The sharper the knife the less damage it does as it cuts.  The fewer cells of the onion you disrupt the less of the chemicals that irritate your eyes are released.  There are several enzymes, and chemical reactions that go on, but the end result is tears.  Sharper knife, less damage, less chemical reaction, fewer tears!

Next chop the pancetta into small pieces.  You’re done with the prep!

Over medium heat, heat the oil in a large pot, and then add the butter.  Once it has melted, and stopped foaming, add the pancetta.  Reduce the heat, and let the pancetta render.  Pancetta is very similar to bacon, but is not smoked.  Once the fat has rendered out of the pancetta, you will see some brown on the bottom of the pot.  Don’t worry about that.  Add the onions, and the sugar.  You want to start caramelizing the onions, so leave them alone for a bit.  Stir every few minutes, get everything caramelized.  This will probably take some time, so relax.  Give it time.  Once the onions are golden brown you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Add the tomatoes, stir them in, and add the wine.  Let the liquid reduce for a few minutes, and then add the stock, and season with salt and pepper, and the herbes de provence.   Remember to taste it now, and adjust the seasoning to your taste.  Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, and serve to your amazed and appreciative family and friends in warm bowls with a sprinkle of the grated Asiago cheese on top.

This soup is all about the onions, just like the beloved old French Onion soup we all grew up with, but much more three dimensional.  You won’t even miss the crouton!