Monday, June 24, 2013

Carnivore-delight Chili

Carnivore-delight Chili 
Serves: 8
Carnivore-delight Chili 
This is no namby-pamby chili. This is man chili for carnivores and perfect for the 4th of July. It would also be perfect for tailgate parties – baseball, football and even lacrosse.  One last thing: If you are from Texas, take a deep breath before reading the recipe.  I know how seriously Texans take their chili con carne and their feelings about things named chili that contain things like beans, peppers, oregano….and if that hasn’t blown your top yet, tomato sauce too. I know that no true Texan would call this chili. But then again, if you are from Texas you’ve likely got a recipe you were making since you were old enough to stand at a stove and don’t need my Carnivore-delight Chili.  To make matters worse, this one also contains nature’s most perfect food: CHOCOLATE! In any case, you might want to just venture out a bit…give it try….and call it something else, perhaps just Carnivore Delight!
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1½ lb. chuck steak, fat trimmed, cut into 1” pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 C red wine
  • 3 Tb ground cumin
  • 3 Tb ancho chili powder, or more to taste
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne, or more to taste
  • 3 – 6 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 C diced canned tomatoes
  • 3 C diced onion
  • 3 C diced red bell pepper
  • 3-4 squares unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 3 – 15 oz canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 C chopped fresh cilantro & some for topping
  • 2-3 C beef broth
  • Garnish: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro and/or pickled jalapenos

The key to success for this recipe is to have great beef cut into BIG juicy chunks. Each cube should be about 1” across.
BIG CHUNKS of beef for this chili!
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add ground pork and beef and sauté until brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add cubed chuck steak and garlic and sauté another 5 minutes until cubed beef is browned.  Add 2 C red wine; don’t use your finest red wine, but it should be something you would be willing to drink like a cabernet blend. You could substitute beer or beef stock. Bring to a boil. Add cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and cayenne pepper. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, sugar and simmer 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, onions, and red peppers and simmer until vegetables are tender – about 30 minutes.
Browning the meat
Add chopped chocolate, black beans and 1 C chopped cilantro to chili. Add beef broth, ¾ C at a time, until thinned to desired consistency. This can easily be prepared one day ahead or frozen.
Secret ingredient: Chocolate!
When serving, heat chili, simmer slowly to warm meat and sauce, ladle into bowls, top with garnishes of choice or have your guests select their own.  Suggestions include grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro and/or pickled jalapenos. 

Serve this with a beer, especially lager, pilsner or wheat or a wonderful fruity zinfandel, barbera or chianti.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mushroom, Leek & Fontina Frittata

Mushroom, Leek & Fontina Frittata 
Serves: 6
Mushroom, Leek & Fontina Frittata 
Who doesn’t love a frittata! It is so easy to make, so nutritious and healthy – and takes only 30 minutes to prepare and another 30 minutes to bake. Frittatas are excellent served warm or at room temperature - which means this meatless entrée is a perfect do-ahead dish. They were great for a brunch shower I hosted last month and so perfect for feeding a large group. They’re inexpensive, easy to make, go well with baked goods, maybe a simple salad, fruit and mimosas. Am I selling you on my shower menu?

Frittatas are very forgiving. Use this recipe as your launching pad to so many variations.  I used Fontina cheese this time but could have easily substituted Asiago, Pecorino Romano, Cheddar or Goat for the rather mild Fontina. A sprinkling of Parmesan on top adds an additional flavor boost.
  • 2 Tb olive oil, divided
  • 2 med leeks, while & pale green parts only, cleaned and chopped
  • 8 oz crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 12 large eggs
  • Sriracha Chili Sauce – to taste (optional)
  • ½ C crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 Tb coarsely chopped parsley
  • ¾ C shredded Fontina cheese, divided
  • ¼ C grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper 
Place a rack in upper third of your oven; preheat to 350 degree F. Meanwhile heat 1 Tb olive oil in a 10” nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add cleaned, chopped leeks; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Clean all mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Mushrooms should never be submerged in water.  They are extremely porous and soak up water like a sponge. Be aware that the salt releases the water from the mushrooms so never add salt until they are finished sautéing, as the additional water will steam rather than sauté them. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until softened and all liquid has evaporated, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Crimini mushrooms
Sliced and read to go with the leeks
Sauteed to perfection!

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, crème fraiche, parsley and Sriracha sauce in a large bowl; mix in ½ C Fontina cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and add remaining 1 Tb olive oil to the skillet. Pour the egg mixture over the mushrooms, shaking the pan to evenly distribute mixture. Cook the frittata, without stirring, until its edges begin to set and lightly brown, about 5 minutes.
Eggs and the key ingredients
Mmmmmm.....can you smell the aromas?
Sprinkle remaining ¼ C Fontina cheese and ¼ C Parmesan cheese over eggs and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake frittata until golden brown and center is set, 20-25 minutes.

Of course this is perfect with champagne, or mimosas, or anything with champagne. There is nothing quite like a bit of bubbly with eggs…really. But, then a fruity Zinfandel is also great if no bubbly can be found.  I would serve with an arugula salad – dressed with just a touch of wonderful olive oil and squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  We love our eggs with hot sauce – so keep that on hand as well.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Apricot, Pecan & Cinnamon Chewies

Apricot, Pecan & Cinnamon Chewies

Makes about 40 chews
Apricot, Pecan & Cinnamon Chewies 
Sanders & Rachel had a wonderful baby girl a whole month ago. They surely must be out of casseroles by now and need a tasty delight delivered – Larue to the rescue with apricot, pecan & cinnamon chewies. They are so darn good – much better than their name implies – and also a little bit chewy. But, not the chewiness that sucks the fillings out of your molars but the kind that gives crunch as well as slightly sticky ooze. Perfect! They can be made in literally 1 hour, including the 30 minutes of cooking.  Apologies once again for the ridiculous simplicity of this goodie.
The Fixins' for the Chewies

  • 6 oz dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 C orange juice
  • ¼ C sugar
  • 2½ C yellow cake mix (not with pudding)
  • ½ C (1 stick) butter
  • 5 Tb of mix of cinnamon/sugar  (ratio approximately 1:5)
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 C toasted chopped pecans
  • Powdered sugar

In a saucepan, gently simmer together apricots, orange juice and sugar until the apricots are soft. Drain the apricots and set aside.  Reserve the orange juice for another use – perhaps a cocktail?

In a 9 x 13 inch glass pan, melt the butter and spread evenly. Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the butter and pat down with a fork. Sprinkle the chopped apricots on top, and then the pecans and finally the cinnamon/sugar mix. Lastly drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over all.
Butter and cake mix
Adding the apricots and pecans

....and the condensed milk

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Allow to cool and cut into squares. Sprinkle the top with a dusting of powdered sugar and enjoy. 
Cook until it is browned....then enjoy!
As an added advantage – this freezes beautifully. Try it next time you need a quick and simple scrumptious dessert. You will not be disappointed.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Soup duo: Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup & Roasted Tomato Soup with Serrano Cream

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Soup duo:
Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup & Roasted Tomato Soup with Serrano Cream

Serves: 6
Soup duo: Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup & Roasted Tomato Soup with Serrano Cream
It is hard to believe...but this is my 100th post! It has been great fun and a constant challenge to come up with interesting and tasty delights. But for my centennial recipe, I wanted to do something special....a soup recipe that will amaze your guests and family!

I will not try to convince you that this “soup duo” is a mid week meal. But for that special time, that special dinner – this is one that will knock their socks off. Truly, it is a showstopper. Neither soup is difficult or time consuming alone, but you have to make two. Serve it with simpler entrée – like steak or fish, so you will have time for this sensation. The most important aspect is getting the consistency of both soups to be the same so when you simultaneously pour them into a bowl they remain separate. My friend Susan provided this amazing recipe several years ago…I have made dozens of times since to consistently rave reviews. It is not difficult but given that you make two distinct soups – it does take some time. Gratefully, both can easily be done well in advance.

To decrease the is how to pour the two soups into the bowl

For the pepper soup:

  • 3 Tb finely chopped shallots
  • ½ tsp dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 Tb unsalted butter
  • 6 yellow peppers, roasted and coarsely chopped (about 6 C.)
  • 1½ C low salt chicken or veggie broth plus additional to thin soup if necessary
  • ¼ C heavy cream
  • Fresh lemon juice to taste
  • Salt & pepper

For the tomato soup:

  • 3 lbs. plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
  • 3 unpeeled large garlic cloves
  • 3 Tb finely chopped shallots
  • ½ tsp dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 Tb unsalted butter
  • 1½ C low salt chicken or veggie broth plus additional to thin soup if necessary
  • ¼ C heavy cream
  • Fresh lemon juice to taste
  • Salt & pepper

For the Serrano cream:

  • 3-4 fresh Serrano chilies or jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced & mashed to a paste with 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ C crème fraiche or sour cream
Make the pepper soup: To roast the peppers, use a long handled fork and char peppers over an open flame until skins are blackened on all sides. Putting them under a broiler will achieve the same result and can be easier unless you have a very hot flame. The goal here is near total carbonization of the exterior. As it heats, the liquid just under the surface converts to steam, forcing the skin outwards and away from the flesh. This small area of air and water vapor just under the skin insulates the flesh underneath, preventing it from burning.

Roasting the peppers. They should be almost totally black when done
After the peppers are completely blackened, transfer to a bowl, cover with saran 10-15 minutes. The loosened peel slips right off, leaving the flesh clean and un-charred, but infused with deep smoky flavor from the blackened skin. Avoid using water to remove the peel, as it will dilute the wonderful flavor of the roasted pepper. Seed and coarsely chop the peppers.
The charred skin should just fall off

In a heavy saucepan cook the shallots, thyme, salt and pepper to taste in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until shallots are soft but not browned. Add the coarse chopped peppers and broth and simmer the mixture, covered, for 12-15 minutes, or until the peppers are very soft.  
Juicy, roasted peppers ready for making a puree
In a blender puree the soup in batches until it is smooth, forcing it as it is pureed through a fine sieve set over a pan. Alternatively, one could use a food mill as I have done and bypass the sieve part. 
Food mill. See below for a pic of how it works
Food mills were popular with our grandmothers but were pushed aside as electric food processors and blenders appeared on the scene. Yet neither of those fancy contraptions can perform quite like a food mill, which is a cross between a food processor and a sieve. You turn the handle and an angled blade presses the contents of the mill through a perforated disk, keeping any pesky remnants like seeds or skin safely out of your puree. Unlike a food processor or blender, however, a food mill does not incorporate air into the puree, thereby altering its texture. The result is a denser puree. Once done, whisk in the cream, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
The Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup
Make the tomato soup: Spread the tomatoes, skin side down, in one layer in 2 foil-lined jelly roll pans, add the garlic to one of the pans, and bake the tomatoes and garlic in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 min to 1 hour, or until tomatoes are very soft and their skin is brown. Let the tomatoes and garlic cool. 
Spread the tomatoes skin side down
Roasted tomatoes
In a heavy saucepan, cook the shallots and oregano in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until shallots are soft but not browned. Add the tomatoes, garlic (skins discarded), and broth and simmer the mixture, covered for 15 minutes. Proceed as above for pepper soup using a blender and sieve or food mill. 
Food mill at work. Note husband dutifully turning the crank.
Once done, whisk in cream and lemon juice, and the salt and pepper to taste. Both soups should have the same consistency. Add additional broth to achieve that. Both soups can be made one day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated before serving.
The Roasted Tomato Soup
Make the Serrano cream: In a blender, blend together the chilies, the garlic paste and the crème fraiche until the mixture is combined well. Be careful to not over blend or the cream may curdle. Force the mixture through a fine sieve set over a bowl.  The Serrano cream may be made one day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and brought to room temperature before serving.
Removing seeds from the chili
To serve the soup: For each serving, ladle ½ C of each soup into 2 glass measuring cups, pour the soups simultaneously into a shallow soup bowl from opposite sides of the bowl, and drizzle some of the Serrano cream over each serving. Feel free to get decorative in the addition of the Serrano cream….we served this last on St. Patrick’s Day…hence the picture. Many thanks to Kerri for her help in these pics.
Kerri adding a St. Pattie's Serrano cream sauce
Plan ahead – remember to make an easy entrée – and make the soups the day before…then this is very doable and will make quite the impression at your next dinner party. You will love the vibrant flavors of the peppers, tomatoes with a hint of heat from the chilies. It’s an amazing taste combo worthy of the gorgeous presentation.

Bon Appetit