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31 January 2009 @ 03:23 pm

Winter chili is downright fantastic. I love this stuff. There's something about having 4 feet of snow on the ground (Which, ugh. I most certainly do right now) and having a nice warm pot of chili on the stove. Winter chili is an interesting beast, however. It's not what you'd expect. It's a mild chili, and it has no tomatoes. It's also creamier than normal chili, for that comfort food feel.

I should confess, I'm eating this as I write. This recipe also easily doubles, and when it does you can feed a small army for pennies.

1 lb Sweet italian sausage (BE CAREFUL OF THE SODIUM. You'll feel a salty sausage in this, it'll seriously impact the taste. If you can't find a less salty sausage, go 50/50 with plain ground pork)
1/2 julienne small white onion (cut it from top to bottom in half, then set it down and slice into it from top to bottom to form little petals.)
1/2 medium diced green bell pepper
1-2 cloves chopped garlic, to taste
1 small can corn
2 cans cannelini beans, drained well but not rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp chili powder, to taste. I use 1.
s+p to taste (light on the salt, if any. The sausage will provide enough)
1/4 c water
splash of olive oil

So, decase your sausage. Cold pot, of a fair size, with a splash of olive oil, set on medium low heat. When the olive oil is warmed, add the sausage and gently brown while breaking it up as best you can. When the sausage is mostly cooked through, but still slightly pink, add your onion, pepper, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Mix it up really well, then cover it and sautee it until the bell peppers are nice and soft, but still have a bit of tooth to them, and the sausage is cooked through. Add the corn and cook a bit longer, maybe 3 minutes, then add your beans. The reason you don't' rinse them is we want the starch from the beans to thicken up the liquids in the pot. Cook this for maybe another 5 minutes, until nice and warm, then add in the water and cook for a tiny bit longer, until you've got a nice creamy base in the chili.

That's it, really. This is a wicked simple meal that can be made in about 15 minutes if you're even moderately handy with a chef's knife. Obviously you could add more veggies to this if you wanted, I'm fond of adding in sliced mushrooms and diced carrots. However, for how easy it is to make, it's got a depth of flavor that hints at a really long preparation time.

Great garnishes for this are sour cream and some shredded sharp white cheddar cheese.
Current Location: Old Town, Maine
Current Mood: contentcontent
11 November 2008 @ 08:33 pm
Sorry for my absence, I got a job working at an academy for at risk youth, teaching young adults the realities of working in a commercial kitchen, while at the same time helping make about 1000 dishes a day. I'm a bit zonked, at the moment, but I felt like sharing about this. I realized that I had a very simple marinara sauce recipe, but I hadn't gone into anything more advanced. So, let me fix. I'm going for quick and easy here. If you're the type of person who'd reduce tomatoes down into a sauce, I can give you pointers but basically it boils down (heh) to keep adding water as needed, low heat, and stir them frequently until they start to fall apart, then crush them and add the herbs and such. That's a whole different post, though.

1 big can of chopped or diced tomatoes in sauce (I'll explain this, bear with me)
1 medium sized can of tomato sauce (go for the lowest amount of sodium possible, read the label)
1 chopped green bell pepper, deseeded
1 small white onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 pieces of bacon (you're going to love this part)
about a shot and a half of sweet wine, or 2 of good non-dark beer
optional: a few sliced mushrooms. baby portabellos are best imo

herbs (equal portions to taste, I go with about 1/2 tsp):
marjoram, oregano, basil, parsley, thyme
2-3 bay leaves

Ok, I'll start by repeating the saying: fiddle with all of this. I specifically left the color of the wine and the type of beer blank, because all of them will work (seriously. I've used pabst to make some amazing sauces) and you should use what you like. I will say, however, that bitter wines don't like pasta sauces as much in my experience. Pasta sauce should be sweet and tangy, and I find bitter wines tend to add too much tartness and overpower the tomatoes. Blush wines are great for this. A bit of strawberry zin makes a GREAT pasta sauce, since strawberries and tomatoes are very similar in terms of the enzymes they put out. It lifts the tomatoes, and at the same time dissolves those alcohol soluble yummies in the tomatoes.

So, pre-prep. chop your veggies, and gather your herbs, as you normally do. Then, grab a tea bag. preferably something herbal and non-offensive like chamomile. open up the staple, and pour out the tea. Eat the tea. Snort the tea. Feed it to your cat. open up a bag of other tea and replace it to mess with your roommates. Just dispose of it in some way. Then, put the bay leaves inside of the tea bag and restaple it, being sure to reattach the string. Voila. easily removable bay leaves.

Start out the sauce by cooking your bacon on the bottom of a big frying pan. When the bacon is nice and brown, set it aside on a paper towel. Add in the onions and garlic. Sweat them over medium to medium low heat until the onions start to turn clear, being careful not to burn the garlic.When that's done, add in the wine and the rest of the veggies. Cook them for about 2 minutes or so until the wine begins to absorb, then dump in a bigger pot, add in the herbs, and both kinds of tomato sauce. I know what you're thinking. Taco, what the hell. Why canned tomatoes? SLACKER! Well, in a grocery store the fresh tomatoes are picked for appearance, waxiness.  Not necessarily optimal taste, and aside from that to make a good marinara you have to use slightly old tomatoes, since the sugars start to break down and make it less sweet. canned tomatoes are more often picked for flavor rather than appearance, and have chilled out a bit, the canning process doing what time would have to normally.

This is the most important step: Eat your bacon. It's served it's purpose, and I love making recipes that involve eating random bacon. My gift to you. :) Then, cook the sauce until it's done. it'll have to be nice and hot (160 farenheit for you thermometer people) and the spices will have to be nice and mixed in, and have given off most of their flavor. The veggies will have to be soft. Serve it immediately, or do what I do and stick it in the fridge, as marinara always tastes better reheated.

The Meatballs:

No real recipe here, it depends on how many you want to make. You want to use equal parts of ground pork and lean ground beef. The pork adds the fat, and the leaner beef makes them taste, I don't know, cleaner? Less oily. Add a single egg, a bit of diced sweet onion, a bit of garlic, and just a touch of ground sage. Like a tsp per pound of meat. Simple is great, you want the meat to shine here. No bread crumbs, they dry out your meatballs. Instead, add an egg. It'll hold them together better and add extra moisture. A bit of grated parmesan or romano would go well, too, adding a bit of extra savory flavor.

To cook them, don't boil them in the sauce. You'll leech out all of their flavor. Don't boil them in water, the same thing will happen. Instead, toss them in a cupcake pan, and cover them. Bake them at 425 for about 10 minutes or so, until they're done. Either cut one open or use a thermometer, aiming for about 150 farenheit. This way they'll be nice and brown, and juicy, but you won't lose their shape or texture, or steal all of their flavor.

Obviously I could go on for days about different tips to make a good spaghetti and meatballs, but I think in the end the best sauce is the one you customized yourself. Everyone has that family member that makes that amazing pasta sauce. The one that when they hand out the recipe, it's not quite as good? It's because they fully and completely own it. Minor touches they add in that make it special.

Anyone got any to share?

Current Location: Bangor, ME
08 October 2008 @ 09:02 pm

Cooking with alcohol mystifies a lot of people, so I thought I'd weigh in on the subject. I'm a huge fan of mixing liquor into my food as often as possible, because there are many enzymes in food that can only be activated by it. First, I'd like to dispel a myth. All of the alcohol does NOT cook away. The most you'll be able to cook off is somewhere in the area of 15%, reasonably, unless it's a really long and really slow cook. So, before we embark on this, that's a warning. It won't be enough to get you drunk, but it is there. So, on to the tips.

1: Flavor combos. Whiskey always goes with steak. Burbon and tequilla always go with chicken. rum always goes with pork. Vodka and the tomato love one another. You can mix and match, obviously, according to the recipe, but these are tried and true rules.

2: A little dab will do you. One of the BIGGEST mistakes people make when cooking with alcohol is overdoing it. Alcohol in a dish is a flavor accent. A shot of liquor in with your meat is more than plenty. With sauces, unless you're making a LOT, a half a shot should be more than adequate. You want the alcohol to break up those enzymes and add a bit of flavor, not overwhelm the dish. We're not making jello shots.

3: DO NOT FLASH. Think about this for a second. When you add alcohol, you're adding it to flavor your food, right? When you flash fry, all of the flavor is evaporated directly off of the pan. Not much gets into the food. To truly work a dish with alcohol, you want to keep the heat under the flash point of the liquor. You have to use less, and you get better flavor. Remember the golden rule: flash for style, simmer for flavor.

4: Beware the alcohol marinade. Beer is a great marinade. As is wine. Liquor can make a very biting taste on food if you let it sit for too long. Liquor has a strong flavor, and when you get every single fiber of the meat fully imbued with it, the results can be pretty wicked. If you want an alcohol marinade using liquor, my suggestion is keep it short, and don't add too much. Chicken with a bit of tequilla, some lime juice, and a bit of garlic is an amazing marinade. Add too much more on top of that and you're going to nuke the flavor of your chicken and make it taste like a liquor bomb. You're always better off (Barring specific circumstances) poking holes in the meat and letting it marinade for an hour, rather than overnight. There's no need to make the meat taste like an AA meeting.

5: Don't be afraid to experiment. A dab (key word. Dab.) of alcohol makes a lot of foods more interesting. If you're curious about how a certain liquor would taste in a certain dish, add a tiny splash. You'll catch the undertone, and be able to tell if adding enough to make a difference would be a good idea.

6: You don't have to cook with what you'd drink. That's bs. Liquor tastes different when cooked. Port wine is GROSS, but port sauces can have an amazingly subtle, rounded flavor. The trick is cooking with the proper amount. Unless the liquor is taking center stage, don't be afraid to skimp. If it's just a hint of liquor? I tend to use cheap tequilla to cook, and serve it with a jose cuervo margarita. It's still the same liqour, and drinking the good stuff will very well accent the stuff you put in the dish. The same holds true with wine, in many cases. Beer? Beer is something else. Always use a good beer.

Obviously there are exceptions to all of this. That's just a general guideline on how to become proficient with liquor in everyday cooking.

So, with that out of the way, another question (see? told you I was question happy today). What's your favorite dish that has alcohol in it? I love vodka sauce, but my downright favorite has to be my bourbon sausage gravy. Served over some egg noodles? Yum.

08 October 2008 @ 08:50 pm
I'm question happy today :D.

What's your favorite veggie? Either raw or to cook with? I downright LOVE brussels sprouts. I always have, but I'm a pretty umami kind of person. I love savory, and there's so much to work with in the flavors of a brussels sprout. 
08 October 2008 @ 01:22 am
This is for a friend who is teaching some kids in Honduras and has to make food from different countries as part of a project. Textbook British food.

No pic, because people seem to think british cuisine doesn't exist and I just used up all of my ingredients to make this.

4 large eggs
3 large diced potatoes
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup corn
3 large mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until slightly soft. Scramble the eggs well. In a big skillet, over medium heat, cook all of the ingredients but the salt and pepper, mushrooms, and corn. after 5 minutes, add in the mushrooms and corn. cook until the mushrooms start to get soft and get lighter. Then, add in the potatoes. Cook the whole thing until the potatoes are just about a nice golden color. Add in the eggs, and basically push them around until the eggs are done. Top it with a bit of salt and pepper, and serve. A bit of cheese wouldn't go bad either, right at the end of the cook. I suggest cheddar, added in right before the eggs finish.
08 October 2008 @ 12:25 am


Carne asada is Honduran by descent, and not Mexican like so many people believe. The Mexicans have adopted it, and done wonderful things with it, but at it's root it's definitely a carribean inspired dish. Meat marinated in sour orange juice is a fantastic thing. This is the real deal, like you'd get at a local party in the middle of Honduras.

3 pounds of flank or skirt steak
1 large thinly sliced white or yellow onion (slice it across the side, to get rings. more surface area that way)
the juice of 3 oranges (I suppose you could use orange juce too, but it'd have to be unsweetened.)
1/4 cup any oil but extra virgin olive oil, canola recommended
S+P to taste

Marinade the stuff overnight in your fridge. Take it out of the marinade and grill it for about 6 minutes, until nicely browned. Flip it, and do the same again. Carne Asada requires high heat, so either work with hot coals (mesquite coals would rock here) or broil it. Cut it on a diagonal bias and you're good. Brushing it with more of the marinade as it cooks is also not a bad idea. Discard the rest and the onions, because you don't want to eat onions that have been sitting with raw meat. Add ons include a tiny bit of lime juice, cumin, chili powder, and/or chipotle, but really this is a simple dish, so overdoing it with seasoning might be a bit un necessary.

For the taco, simplicity is great. Corn meal tortillas, some chopped onion (red onions are great in this), a bit of chopped cilantro (shredded cabbage is authentic, too). A bit of guacamole isn't exactly authentic, but it is crackalicious. These really don't need cheese, the meat is tender enough as is, but if you do use cheese, use a sharp hard white cheese. It's more authentic that way.

Carne asada can be eaten alone, as well, I just think the taco is a great use for it. You could also serve it over a bit of seasoned long grain rice.

07 October 2008 @ 05:52 pm

Twice baked potatoes freaking rule. I used to be a huge fan of potato skins until I figured out that twice baked potatoes are basically the same thing, on some serious steroids. I've seen about 900 different variations on the twice baked potato, most of them amazing, but I'm going to go with a classic. Of course, I have to put my own spin on it.

4 large baking potatoes (russets would be good here.)
8 slices of bacon (but if you can find a slab of pork belly and mince it, it's a lot better. pork belly's basically a giant slab of uncut bacon. Buying it sends me into fits of hysteria, and I usually end up cackling like a mad scientist. Butchers hate me.)
1/2 clove minced garlic
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup ranch dressing (it's the secret weapon.)
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup milk
shredded cheddar
8 green onions, sliced on a diagonal bias
S+P to taste

This is the only time you will ever see me suggest this. Screw the oven, it takes too long. Microwave your potatoes instead. Ugh, that made me feel dirty.

Poke a couple of holes in the potatoes with a fork, and nuke for 10-11 minutes. If you want to bake them, they'll go for about an hour at 350. Preheating the oven to 350 is a great idea anyway, since it's needed for the second part of this. You can use a toaster oven, if you want. I'd suggest cutting back the recipe a bit if you do, or working in batches, since you're only going to fit one potato in the toaster oven, unless your toaster oven is HUGE. At the same time, you're going to want to brown your bacon and break it apart into bits.

After the potatoes are done, hollow them out. You want to leave just a bit of meat attached to the skin, for body, but try to get as much of the potato out as you can while still leaving some body and firmness to the skin. Melt the butter and milk in the microwave (hey, twice in one recipe I used the evil box) and bash them into the centers of the potato. If you have a potato ricer, it's a lot better, but I suppose in a pinch you can use a fork.  After you've worked in the butter and milk and the potatoes are starting to break down, add your sour cream and ranch dressing and beat the heck out of it. Don't be afraid to break out the electric mixers or cuisinart. Just be sure to get them PERFECTLY SMOOTH. Chunks are not your friend here. After it's well blended and smooth, add in half of the green onions, 1/2 a cup of cheddar cheese, and the garlic. mix it in until combined fully. Stuff it back inside of the potato, top it off with the bacon, some more cheddar cheese (to taste, there. make it as cheesy as you like), and the rest of the green onions. Put it in the 350 oven for about 15 minutes. The cheese should be melted and the potato should be nice and firm.

The great bit about this method is that while it should technically be called once nuked and once baked potatoes, it cut a full 50 minutes off of the cook time. Bonus number 2? Well then, you've got this nice bacon grease in your already hot pan. Why not toss in some herbed chicken? Drumettes would be great, and fast. A great side to finish off this meal is, of course, broccoli. sautee it gently in some garlic butter for extra combo points.
06 October 2008 @ 07:30 pm
I just went on snack mode for a second, so help me out here. What's your favorite dip? Got a good recipe for some dip? What kinda chips do you like with it?

I'm a sucker for a good bean dip. I could eat a gallon of the stuff.
06 October 2008 @ 07:00 pm
No pic on this one. My pics wouldn't turn out, and nothing I can find online comes close to replicating this one. I'm trying to push the edges of cuisine a bit, and the idea struck me. How come you never see true italian salsas? I mean, there is bruscetta al pomodoro, which comes close, but a real salsa with some fire to it? You never see them.

Here's my attempt at fixing that.

This is a labor intensive salsa. Most of it is slow cooking, though, and chopping. If you have a mandoline you can seriously cut back your chop time.  Most come with a julienne setting, just julienne the veggies then chop them to cubes. It guarantees a pretty even chop. This is another 2 parter. The upside is the sauce side is a pretty delicious pasta sauce on it's own.

1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped coarse, de seeded
1/4 small red onion, chopped
2 small white mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp of basil
1/2 tsp of oregano (both can be dried)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 shot whiskey
1/4 tsp sugar

So the trick to this one is 2 fold. first trick: let the ingredients sit in a fridge together overnight, to let the flavors mix. Then, cook them together on low heat until the veggies soften. Trick 2? Puree them, then heat them up again. The double heating extracts more flavor, and the cooking big then breaking down to small also adds a bit more flavor to the party. The sugar breaks up a bit of the acidity from the tomato, and the whiskey breaks down all of those yummy enzymes in the tomatoes that can only be activated by alcohol.

The Salsa
3 roma tomatoes, de seeded and chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, de seeded and chopped
2 small white onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp lime juice

I know what you're thinking. Dude, you just took out the acidity, why are you putting it back in with the lime juice? Well... Good question. I took out the acidity from the tomatoes so I could introduce the tartness of the limes.

As with all salsas, the key here is to get all of the veggies chopped as uniformly as possible. The texture is greatly improved if the veggies are all a consistent size. From here, you basically mix it all up and add in the sauce until it's a consistency you like. I tend to go for the texture of a really thick store-bought salsa. You want it to have a good amount of liquid (that's where the heat is) but at the same time you want to be able to pile it up and have it stand on it's own.

It's kinda unorthodox, but I promise you this salsa will be like nothing you've ever tasted. I suppose you could cut out the basil, red pepper, and oregano and instead add some cilantro to the salsa, and 1/2 a chopped jalapeno to the sauce, and make it more traditional. Either way it's pretty freaking tasty.
06 October 2008 @ 05:59 pm
This is the easiest recipe you'll ever make. I'm including tips on how to roast your own red pepper, just in case you're curious and ever want to try it. You can use the jarred kind, too, just as easily. I use the real stuff for cost, but it's really not that much of a difference. lol I just like being difficult and doing everything the hard way.

Shamelessly stolen from the internet because my picture wouldn't turn out right.

1 15 oz can of chick peas (garbanzo beans)
2 tblsp tahini (sesame paste. feel free to sub peanut butter or cashew butter)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cloves chopped garlic (to taste)
1 tsp olive oil (extra virgin would work)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 roasted red bell pepper (jarred or fresh. for the fresh, bake it at 450, turning occasionally, for about 45 minutes. it'll blacken considerably. peel the skin, take out the seeds, and bam.)

Mix it all in a cuisinart until perfectly smooth.

That was the hardest recipe I've ever written.