Tuesday, February 23, 2010

1, 2, 3, 4 Alarm Chili

I found a basic template for a chili recipe and decided to give it a go based on our personal tastes and usual pantry/fridge/freezer items. I've actually never made chili before, as odd as that may seem. Family and friends regularly make chili, and all have awesome recipes (Allegra, John, Carla, etc.). But Matt's response to my first chili was so overwhelming, and then his insistence that I blog it to share with the world....well, that's why you are getting this recipe.

You can make it as many alarms as you want. We decided that my version was a 4 alarm chili. To be eaten with plenty of sour cream and a refreshing beer and only by serious heat-lovers. At 4 alarms, you get the all-over heat buzz from your sinuses to your toes. However, by lowering the amount of ground chipotle, you can gauge the heat level to you or family's desired level of heat. So, sour cream as a topping...not so healthy. We use 0% greek yogurt instead of sour cream all the time. High in protein, low in fat, great calcium intake and I dare you to tell the difference, and if you can, I dare you to admit that the greek yogurt isn't better. You have to try it to believe it.

Although toppings make the chili more festive, it is super delicious on its own as well.

This recipe makes about 8 bowl-sized servings.

  • 1 pound ground beef (I used a pound of Great Brook Farm whole cow ground beef I had in the freezer, but if you don't have access to Walpole, NH I suggest you procure a local, all natural sustainable beef where you are)
  • 2 red bell pepper, chopped into half inch chunks
  • 1 really large onion, chopped into half inch chunks
  • 1 zucchini, chopped into half inch chunks
  • 5 fat cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2  cups corn (frozen is fine!)
  • 1/2 tsp -1 TBS ground chipotle (use 1 TBS for 4 alarm, 1/2 TBS for 3 alarm, 1 tsp 2 alarm, 1/2 tsp for 1 alarm- good for kids who don't like spicy)
  • 1 1/2 TBS dried Mexican Oregano (you could use standard Turkish oregano though)
  • 1 TBS, generous, ground cumin
  • 2 15-16 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 28 ounce can Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes (they are a little more expensive, but totally worth it in this chili for the intense smoky flavor they add)
  • 8 ounces beer (something malty and dark. My go-to beer for cooking, that is, if Matt doesn't have something on tap, is Smutty's Old Brown Dog. Buy a bomber (22 ounces) and sip the rest while the chili simmers)
  • Pour a little olive oil into your big pot and brown the beef over medium heat.
  • When browned through, remove beef from pot and set aside.
  • Add red bell pepper, zucchini, onion, garlic and corn to pot.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until softened (about 10 or 15 minutes).
  • Put beef back into pot with vegetables.
  • Add ground chipotle, oregano and cumin. Stir into beef and vegetables until fragrant, about one minute.
  • Add beans.
  • Add the can of tomatoes, rinse can with water until 1/4 full, add liquid.
  • Add beer.
  • Stir together well and keep at a low simmer over low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Serve with "sour cream" (aka 0% greek yogurt), shredded cheese, and if feeling festive, chunks of avocado.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chicken Stock

As promised...here's what you do with the leftover carcass from your roast chicken to make stock/broth.

You'll want a pot that's about 6-8 quarts in capacity. Take all bones (even ones from everyone's plates, you'll be boiling this so don't freak about this not being sanitary), and the whole carcass, and all of the vegetables and aromatics from inside the chicken, and the neck that you saved from the giblet bag and put everything in your big pot. Cover everything with water (if you don't drink your tap water, be sure to use filtered water for this too). Toss in a few peppercorns and a bay leaf.

Slowly bring to a boil. When you've reached a boil for about a minute, lower the heat super low and let pot sit, uncovered at a low simmer for about 2 hours. You can make a light broth within an hour, or if you let it go to 3 hours or 5 hours or 8 hours, nothing bad is going to happen, you'll just have a more concentrated broth of less volume, which you can thin out with water to increase the volume. I like the flavor I get after 2 hours, strong enough to impart flavor, but not too intense. You may like to experiment on your timing and decide what concentration level you like.

When you are done simmering, use a slotted spoon to skim off any film collected on top and discard. Carefully pour contents of pot into a strainer lined with cheese cloth set inside a large bowl or another large pot.

Using a ladle, portion out broth into desired freezer-safe containers. I usually split mine between 1/2 cup containers (good for sauces) and a few 1 qt. containers (good portion for soups or risotto). Let sit on the counter to cool. When broth is cool, place in refrigerator.

When the broth is refrigerator-cold, the fat will separate to the top of the broth and can be easily spooned off and discarded. The next day, spoon off the fat and place containers in freezer. Broth will keep in fridge for a week, or a few months in the freezer. You can put the broth straight into the freezer, once cooled to room temperature, but I find that when I want to defrost the broth quickly in the microwave that separating the fat is more difficult, so that's why I do the multi stage process of counter to fridge to freezer. Also, you shouldn't put hot or warm things in the freezer, so if your broth is still a tad warm (but not hot) and it is time for bed, you can still safely put it in the fridge.

Roasted your chicken for a late dinner and have no energy that night to make stock? You have two options.

1) If you'll be making the stock the next day, throw everything, neck too, into the pot, add some ice cubes and put pot into fridge. The next day, put pot on stove, add water to cover, proceed as normal.
2) If you think it may be a few days before you have time to make stock, toss the carcass, bones, neck and veggies from inside the chicken into a large ziplock and freeze. When ready, thaw them out in the fridge completely and then proceed with the recipe.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Simple Roast Chicken

So I got a message today from our pal Charlie who wanted to know how to roast a chicken for crispy skin. I typed up the following recipe and sent it to him. Then I realized, that my blog readers might want to read it too. All you need is a large cast iron pan, no special equipment required. I put in an optional pan sauce at the end for those who can't get enough of sauces. Have fun!
  • 4 pound chicken (preferably something all natural with no antibiotics or other crap in it)
  • 4 ribs of celery (one broken into a few pieces for inside chicken, 3 for under chicken
  • 1 carrot, broken into a few pieces
  • 1 small onion, cut into quarters
  • parsley- small handful
  • fresh thyme- few sprigs (optional) (more if making pan sauce)
  • a few fat peeled garlic cloves (one extra if making pan sauce)
  • olive oil (at least 1/4 cup)
  • kosher salt (get kosher, don't use table salt)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • butcher's twine (optional)

disclaimer: major food safety thing: have EVERYTHING ready before starting to prepare chicken. ANYTHING you touch after touching the chicken, MUST be cleaned with hot water and soap or anti-everything surface cleaner. Usually, I do wind up washing my hands a half dozen times between steps in order to minimize contamination. But still, have everything prepped before starting in on the chicken.

1. remove and discard giblets from inside of chicken, rinse chicken in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Completely dry. inside and out completely dry. If you plan on making chicken stock or soup, save the neck bone from the giblet bag. Tune in tomorrow for what to do with the neck.

2. season inside of chicken with salt and pepper.

3. stuff the chicken with one rib of celery pieces, the carrot pieces, the onion quarters, the peeled garlic cloves, parsley and fresh thyme (if using).

4. lube up your chicken with the olive oil. I mean lube the chicken up real good, all over. use at least 1/4 cup of olive oil.

5. season outside of chicken all over with freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, about a 2-3 tsps each for all over the chicken. Make sure you use kosher salt, not table salt.

6. in your largest cast iron skillet, put down a few ribs of celery to be a "rack" for your chicken. This is so the chicken's drippings have a place to go. Alternatively, put your chicken in a roasting pan with a roasting rack.

7. using twine, tie drumsticks together. This step isn't necessary, but keeps all the goodness you just stuffed into the chicken, from spilling out everywhere.

8. drizzle one last bit of olive oil over chicken, just for good measure.

9. Put into a 425 degree oven. Roast for an hour.

10. chicken is done when: juices run clear from the thigh. OR (and this is preferable,) use a thermometer and cook until thigh registers 170 degrees. If not done after expected time, check every 5-10 minutes until done.

11. When done, remove from pan and put on to cutting board. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

12. Carve chicken. If you need help on how to carve it without doing a hack job, view
this video from Gourmet.

So, optional step 13 would be to make a pan sauce to have with your chicken. You don't have to make a pan sauce, the chicken will be juicy and flavorful and delicious without it, but some people just love sauces. It is impressive for it seems much more difficult than it actually is.
  • While chicken is resting, remove celery ribs from pan.
  • Drain off excess fat and discard, leaving about a couple tsps in pan.
  • mince up a clove of garlic and put into pan over medium heat. cook for about 30 seconds, stirring.
  • Add a cup of high-quality, malty beer, (Old Brown Dog from Smutty would be ideal), and bring to a boil.
  • scrape up any browned bits from pan and simmer until reduced by half.
  • stir in a couple tsps of chopped fresh thyme.
  • whisk in a TBS or more of mustard.
  • stir in a TBS of butter
If you have leftovers, you can make all kinds of dishes, like chicken salad. Tomorrow I'll put up my instructions for what to do with your chicken carcass to make chicken broth for soups, risotto, and sauces.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cream of Broccoli Soup with No Cream

This is a soup based on my mother's formula for "cream of green" soup. I've been mentioning it to a lot of people lately and there seems to be a lot of interest. The soup is quite healthy, and with a good crusty bread, a hearty winter meal. How is it healthy? No cream! I know, you are probably thinking...no cream? What's the point of a cream soup with no cream? You'll never know it's gone. Trust me and trust Matt. This is making a regular appearance every couple days for us, mostly due to Matt's obsession with broccoli. It's healthy, inexpensive and super delicious. You can also substitute asparagus for the broccoli for a cream of asparagus soup.

Soup for two.

  • 1/2 TBS butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (homemade is best, but if using store bought then be sure to get the low sodium type)
  • one medium crown of broccoli, roughly chopped into 1 inch pieces (florets and stalk)
  • 2-6 TBS milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • salt

  • Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat.
  • Add onion and a pinch salt, cook over medium heat stirring regularly until translucent and slightly golden, but not brown or burnt.
  • Add potato and the broth, so that the potato is covered. If using homemade broth, add a tsp of salt.
  • Simmer until potato is tender, then add broccoli.
  • Simmer until broccoli is tender.
  • Turn off heat and carefully pour everything into a blender.
  • Puree soup in the blender.
  • Pour back into pot, stir in black pepper, nutmeg to taste and a tsp or so more salt, if needed (if using homemade broth, you probably will, if using store bought, probably not).
  • Stir in milk to desired thickness of the soup.

At this point you can eat immediately or let the soup sit in the pot, with the lid on, for an hour or so. When ready to eat, heat slowly over low heat.

You could easily make this soup for 4 or 6 by multiplying, but you may have to blend the soup in a couple batches, depending on the capacity of your blender. Or, if you happen to own an immersion blender, you puree the soup right in the pot.

If healthy soup isn't your goal here, you can also turn this soup into a broccoli cheddar soup by whisking in a few ounces of grated cheddar cheese over low heat until melted.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy! Next time I make this I'll put a picture up!