Beef and Bean Chili

This is a complex chili based on many of the components traditional Texas chili, but with the apostasy of bean added (sorry! but I really like beans both for flavor and texture and as a way to make this more economical). This is a chili that can come together very quickly on a weeknight if you use the short cuts/substitutions (ground beef and canned beans). If you have the time, however, it is worth doing the extra work of chopping meat and soaking beans because they add a real richness to the final product.

Making this as written will result in a medium spicy chili. If you like less spice reduce the jalapenos and/or the spicier chili powder. If you like more spice, just add more of either or both of these ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound steak tips/flap steak OR 1 lb. of lean ground beef

3T. canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large or 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into small dice

1 t. cumin powder

1 T. medium spicy chili powder (my favorite is Oaxacan Adobo from the Teeny Tiny Spice Company)

1 t. chocolate chili (again Teeny Tiny Spice has a wonderful Chocolate Chili powder) OR ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate finely chopped AND 1 t. Ancho or other spicy chili powder (if you have no ancho powder, substitute ¼ or ½ t. cayenne, to taste)

1 t. oregano

2 T. masa harina OR ½ corn tortilla ripped into small pieces OR 2 T. fine cornmeal (polenta or medium or coarse cornmeal will not work)

½ can of beer (almost any ale will work well, but use whatever you have on hand)

1 (14.5 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes (my favorite are San Marzano, but any good brand will work)

½ cup water

2-3 whole dried guajillo or ancho chiles, depending on size

2-3 cups soaked and cooked pinto beans OR 1-2 cans of pinto or kidney beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed (amount depends on how much you like beans). I am a huge fan of Rancho Gordo’s dried beans and of taking the time to soak, cook, and freeze (if not using right away) beans. They make a real difference in a recipe, but they do add time and hassle so feel free to use your favorite canned beans.

Salt to taste.

PREPARATION:

2
  1. If using sirloin tips/flap steak, using a very sharp knife, cut the meat into small pieces (the tip of your pinky or even a bit smaller).
  2. Add 1 T. of the oil to a dutch oven/heavy soup pot or large, heavy fry pan (it needs to be big enough to simmer the finished chili). Heat over medium heat until the oil shimmers.
  3. Add the chopped or ground beef in batches to brown quickly, without overcrowding. Remove the meat to a paper-towel lined bowl to drain. Add more oil if pan is dry but do not scrape up any browned bits that cling to the pan. Continue until all the meat is cooked. There should be a good amount of browned and crusty bits on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped jalapenos, cumin, masa/torn tortilla/cornmeal, oregano, and whichever chili powders you are using to the pot. Lower the heat to medium low and cook for 5-8 minutes stirring often, until the onions are translucent and the mixture is very fragrant. (If the bottom of the pot seems to be burning you can add a small amount of oil and stir to prevent scorching.)
  5. Add the meat, beer, tomatoes, finely chopped chocolate (if using), the water, and salt to taste and stir well to combine. Add the dried guajillo or ancho chiles and push down into the mixture without breaking up the chile.
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour or so. You will know the chili is done when the onions begin to lose a little bit of their definition and the sauce appears a thick dark orange brown. If it starts to seem too dry, add a bit more water.
  7. Remove the whole chiles and discard.
  8. Add the beans and stir gently to combine. Leave on low heat, stirring occasionally and gently, until the mixture is heated through.
  9. Serve over rice or with tortillas chips on the side.

Glazed Pinole Azul Cake (Blue Cornmeal Cake)

I don’t include many recipes that call for a very specialized ingredient, but a gift of Pinole Azul (the basis for a sweet corn drink in Mexico) led to this cake and it is worth seeking out Pinole Azul in order to make it. (It can be ordered directly from Rancho Gordo online). The cake can be served with or without a sauce (in the picture I topped it with a blueberry sauce, but a dark chocolate sauce, or fresh fruit, or even a dollop of lemon curd would also be good).

This makes a moist, slightly dense, single layer cake.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of all purpose flour

½ cup pinole azul

⅔ cup sugar

3 ½ t. baking powder

½ t. salt

1 cup buttermilk

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 large eggs

¾ t. vanilla extract

1 lemon, zested and juice saved (at least 1 t. of zest and 2 T. of juice needed)

1 to 1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment.
  3. Melt the stick of butter in a small pan or bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Combine flour, pinole azul, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring to make certain they are thoroughly combined.
  5. In a separate bowl or large measuring pitcher, combine the buttermilk, eggs, 1 t. lemon zest, and vanilla and whisk to mix.
  6. Pour the melted butter and the buttermilk-egg mixture into the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently fold together until just combined (do not stir or whisk).
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the sides begin to firm up and pull away from the pan just a little.
  8. Remove from oven and run the blade of a table knife around the outside to make sure the cake has released from the pan.
  9. Place a baking rack or plate on top of the cake and with a towel or oven mitts for protection flip the cake over onto to rack and life to pan away. 
  10. Gently peel the parchment from the bottom (now top of the cake).
  11. Place a rack on top of the cake and flip once more so that it is now cooling right side up.
  12. Allow the cake to fully cool to room temperature.
  13. Combine the powdered sugar with 1 T. of the lemon juice and stir vigorously with a small whisk or a fork to a smooth paste. Add as much of the second T. of lemon juice as needed to get a glaze that will ooze (but not run) over the cake.
  14. When the cake is at room temperature, spoon/scrape the glaze into the center of the cake and with a spatula or large spoon swirl to push it outward toward the edge. Some should drip over onto the side at various points.
  15. Cut into wedges. Serve with or without a sauce.

Parmesan Pepper Drop Biscuits

This  recipe is adapted from one on the Serious Eats site that they then, in turn, attribute to Cook’s illustrated. Some of the best recipes come from tinkering with those that went before!

These biscuits are great with dinner or can replace scones for breakfast. The beauty is they come together much quicker than scones and don’t require the chilling time before baking, so they are perfect for a weeknight meal. The cheese and pepper add some character to the biscuits. They also make for a great ham sandwich!

This recipe makes 12 2-3 inch biscuits.

Ingredients:

2 c. all purpose flour

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1 t. sugar

1 scant t. kosher salt

3 T. grated parmesan cheese (make sure it is a good parmesan, like regianno, as the taste will come through)

1/2 t. ground black pepper (or more to taste)

1 c. cold buttermilk (keep in the refrigerator right up until you need to use it)

1 stick of unsalted butter (8 T.) melted and then cooled to close to room temp (but still liquid)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F.
  2. Melt the butter in a small pan over low heat and then set aside to cool.
  3. Line a cookie sheet or sheet pan with parchment paper or Silpat mat.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, parmesan and pepper with a fork until very thoroughly blended.
  5. Pour the cold buttermilk into a bowl or glass measuring cup (at least 2 cups in size, preferably larger) and add 6 T.  (or 3/4) of the melter butter to the buttermilk, reserving the remaining 2 T. (You can eyeball this part rather than measure). Stir with a fork until the butter begins to form clumps or curds.
  6. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined and the dough is beginning to come away from the sides of the bowl.
  7. Grease a 1/4 cup measure (or small scoop or large dinner spoon) with Pam spray or a neutral cooking oil (like canola).
  8. Scoop the biscuit mixture up and drop it onto the prepared pan (you may have to shake a bit to get it to release). The dough should form a mound about 2 inches across and 1 1/2 to 2 inches tall.  You can nudge the edges with your finger if they seem a bit raggedy.
  9. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the remaining melted butter (you may not need it all).
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until tops (and bottoms) are golden.
  11. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Meatloaf

A very similar recipe appears in the Spaghetti and Meatballs post, but this is recipe stands on its own just a bit better, making a very moist and flavorful meatloaf with any leftovers have a great texture for sandwiches.  The key trick is to use both panko bread crumbs and warm water.  The panko keeps the moisture in the meatballs. Please note: this recipe is very forgiving so if you are missing a dried herb or don’t have mustard, either leave it out or substitute something that appeals (oregano for thyme, for example, and sriracha or hot sauce for mustard). Also, the image above is oven ready (not cooked!)

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 lb. lean ground beef

1/3 lb. ground pork

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

3/4 T. dried basil

1/4 t. dried thyme

1/2 t. kosher salt

black pepper to taste

1 t. French mustard (grey poupon style)

1/2 T. fresh lemon juice

2 – 4 T. warm water

2-3 strips of bacon (preferably applewood smoked), if you do not like bacon or eat pork, you can substitute a favorite barbecue sauce or a mixture of ketchup, mustard and brown sugar painted on as a glaze to keep the meatloaf from drying out.

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  2. Dice the onion and the garlic finely and place, along with all the other ingredients EXCEPT the water and the bacon, in a large bowl.
  3. The best way to mix this is with your (clean) hands. If you hate sticking your fingers into raw meat, however, a wooden spoon also works.
  4. Mix the ingredients gently and just until fully combined.
  5. Add water starting with 2 T. and mix, adding more if needed, until you can sense that the mixture has become lighter. Trust me, it goes from feeling quite dense to much easier to mix quite quickly and with just this small amount of water.
  6. Form the mixture into a loaf and place in a baking pan (preferable glass but enamel or aluminum will do). If you want to limit the fat somewhat, you can place the loaf on a rack inside the pan.
  7. Bake the meatloaf for about 1 hour in total. After 30 or so minutes, check that there is not an excess of rendered fat around the meatloaf.  If there is ,carefully spoon as much out as you can.  Do not try to tip the pan to drain it–that is a good way to splatter grease, send the meatloaf flying, and/or burn yourself.
  8. Remove from oven when bacon appears cooked and meatloaf is firm.
  9. Tent with foil and rest for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes.
  10. Slice with a large serrated knife if you have one.

 

 

Smoked Fish Cakes

These fish cakes are lighter than many and taste distinctly of smoked fish and potato.  They can be served with tartar sauce, aioli, or with just a wedge of lemon.  I strongly recommend using smoked haddock from the Boston Smoked Fish Company if you can find it (locally available at the Boston Public Market and often at the twice weekly farmer’s market in Dewey Square, also can be ordered on-line).  If not you can substitute any smoked white flaky fish that you like or smoked salmon or you can use half smoked salmon and half regularly cooked salmon. You can also substitute any cooked flaky white fish that is not smoked but, if you want the smoky taste, you would need to add 2 pieces of well cooked and crumbled bacon.

Makes 8-9 cakes, serving 3-4 people

Ingredients:

3 large Russet potatoes (or 3-4 ups of leftover homemade mashed potatoes–don’t use those made in a store, they are always too salty for this recipe)

2 T. heavy cream or whole milk or melted butter (or in a pinch olive oil)

4 oz. of smoked haddock (or other smoked fish without skin or bones)

1/2 small to medium onion, finely diced

4 T. olive oil (divided into 1 T. and 3 T.)

1/2 t. dried thyme

1/4 c. dry white wine

salt and pepper to taste

1 c. plain panko (Japanese bread crumbs) for dredging

Preparation:

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1″ chunks and place into a large pot of lightly salted boiling water.  Cook until the potatoes are very tender. Drain and allow to sit in the strainer until quite dry (the drier the potatoes the easier to make the fish cakes hold together).
  2. Mash the potatoes until quite smooth (chunks make the cakes more likely to all apart).
  3. Add the 2 T. of cream/milk/melted butter until stir together. [TO THIS STEP, THE RECIPE CAN BE DONE A DAY OR TWO AHEAD]
  4. In a small fry or saute pan, add 1 T. of olive oil and put over medium heat, stirring often until the onion is softened and translucent.  Add the thyme and white wine and bring to a gentle boil.  Boil until the wine is reduced to just 1 T. or so and remove from the heat an allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. To make the cakes, place 3/4 of the mashed potatoes into a large bowl (keep the remainder in reserve in case needed).
  6. Flake or chop the smoked fish into pieces the size of the end of your pinky and mix into the mashed potatoes.
  7. When the wine/onion mixture is cool, add to the mashed potato/fish mixture and stir until well combined.
  8. Place the panko on a large plate or pie pan. Add salt and pepper and mix well.
  9. Form the fish/potato mixture into patties that are about 2 1/2 inches across and 1 inch high. Gently place each patty on the panko and pat a bit.  Sprinkle panko over the top and turn.  Finally, gently roll the patty sides in the panko.  (If the patty falls apart just reform and re-roll, the panko that will have been absorbed will give it a bit more structure.
  10. Place the fish cakes in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (and up to 4 hours) to firm up.
  11. Heat 2 T. (of the remaining 3) olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat.  When the oil is very hot, gently add the patties but do not crowd. You can really only cook 3-4 at a time. Do not disturb the cakes until you see browning on the bottom edges. Gently flip the cakes and cook until deep golden on both sides. Cook in batches adding oil  as needed to keep the cakes from sticking.

 

 

 

 

Apple Pecan Cake

This is a dense cake that is great as a fall dessert or as part of a brunch.  It is chockfull of apple chunks and pecan pieces. It is very dense, really moist and completely addictive.

This is adapted just a bit from the wonderful recipe in the Silver Palate Cookbook and hte high altitude instructions are based on an elevation of 6500 ft.

Ingredients:

1/2 T. unsalted butter (at room temperature)

1 1/2 cups canola oil

2 cups sugar (HIGH ALTITUDE: 2 cups LESS 2T.)

3 large or extra large eggs (HIGH ALTITUDE: Use extra large eggs or, if not available, use 3 1/2 large eggs)

2 cups all-purpose flour (HIGH ALTITUDE: Add 3 more T. of flour)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/8 t. ground cloves (optional)

1 t. baking soda (HIGH ALTITUDE:  use only 1/2 t. baking powder)

3/4 t. salt (rounded up a little if using kosher salt)

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans: 1 cup for cake, 1/2 cup for decoration

3 medium to large apples (preferably Honeycrisp), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

Glaze :

4 T. unsalted butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature

2 T. brown sugar

6 T. granulated sugar

3 T. Calvados or other apple brandy (or substitute 2 T. brandy and increase cider below to 5 T.,  or just use 8 T. cider if brandy is not available)

4 T. apple cider (see notes above)

2 T. orange juice

2 T. heavy cream

Preparation:

  1. Grease a 10 inch round cake pan  with the softened butter (1/2 T.).
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (high altitude 350 degrees)
  3. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the all-purpose flour with the spices then add the baking soda, salt, and whole wheat flour and again stir (using a fork if necessary) to thoroughly combine.
  4. Put the canola oil and the sugar in a large bowl and beat with a whisk until thick and pale (they will not combine the way butter does with sugar, but should be as emulsified as you can get in 3 or so minutes of beating).
  5. Add the flour mixture to the oil/sugar emulsion, and stir with a wooden spoon until it is fully blended.
  6. Add the Calvados and stir briefly.
  7. Add the apples and pecans and stir until they are distributed throughout.
  8. Scrape the cake into the greased pan.
  9. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly (this can be anywhere between 1 hour and 1 hour and 40 minutes depending on your oven. Begin checking at 1 hour). When cooked the top will appear a little cracked and craggy.
  10. Cool on a rack  until you can handle the pan (but it is still warm).
  11. Run a thin knife around the outside of the cake several times to loosen it (even with a buttered pan, this cake likes to hang on). Then place a plate or rack over the top of the pan and invert so the cake comes loose.
  12. Turn the cake back over to finish cooling.
  13. Make the glaze by melting the butter in a small pan and then adding all other ingredients and bringing to a simmer and cooking for 5 or so minutes.
  14. Cool the glaze until it just begins to thicken (this may require a little refrigeration).
  15. When cake is cool, pour glaze over the top and then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.

 

 

 

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

I looked at a number of recipes for an Indian style curry using sweet potatoes and spinach.  Most either used a lot of fat (I was hoping for a light, vegetarian or vegan dish) or had a Thai spin (good, but not what I was craving). Drawing a little from this one and a little from that, I put together this quick and pretty healthy version.  It is terrific served over basmati (or even jasmine) rice.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion

2 T. of canola or vegetable oil (olive oil can be used but adds its own flavor)

pinch of sugar

salt and pepper

2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

1/2 knob of fresh ginger, finely minced or grated

2 T of garam masala (mild curry powder)

1 T of vindaloo seasoning (hot curry powder)

1/2 T of cumin

1/2 t. crushed red pepper (or more to taste)

2 medium sweet potatoes

1  15 oz. can of chickpeas, preferable no salt added (if not, rinse very well)

1 bag or plastic container (not family-size) of baby spinach

1/2  or so of 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

PREPARATION:

  1. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes of about 1 inch.
  2. Place into a steamer and cook just until barely tender. Set aside.
  3. Wash the spinach and remove any long stems from the leaves.
  4. Place 2 t. of oil in a large sauté or fry pan with a cover and heat over medium low heat.
  5. Add the spinach (it is fine if there are still drops of water clinging to the leaves) and cover.  Steam the spinach until just wilted.  Remove from pan and cool.
  6. Thoroughly drain the chickpeas and set aside.
  7. Slice the onion very thinly.
  8. Place remaining 1+ T. of oil in a fry pan over low heat, add the sliced onions and cover until the onion is wilted.
  9. Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium-high and add a pinch of big pinch of salt and a big pinch of sugar and stir.  Watch the onion, stirring often, until it is just beginning to caramelize.
  10. Lower the heat to medium and add the minced garlic and ginger to the onion, and the garam masala, vindaloo, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Stir to thoroughly combine all ingredients and sauté for a minute or two until the mixture is very fragrant.  Turn off the heat.
  11. Squeeze the cooled spinach in your hands over a sink to extract as much excess water as possible.  Place the clumped spinach on a plate or cutting board and use two forks to tease it apart.
  12. Add the sweet potatoes, chick peas, and the half can of crushed tomatoes to the onion and spice mixture and gently stir to combine, then add the spinach last and warm over low heat just until hot.  Check seasonings and add more salt, pepper, garam or vindaloo if needed.