A Giant Kinda Night

One of the (10,000 bazillion) reasons Chris and I work so well together is that we play to each other’s strengths, we complement one another. For example, when we plan vacations, I like to hop around to tons of places, he likes visit 1-2 spots and really hone in on them. We usually compromise at 2-3. When we painted our kitchen together a few weeks ago (notice the teal in the back?), I agreed to do the tedious taping of the trim and mind-numbingly boring detail work, as long as he promised to do the big areas of rolling and lots of the cleanup. When I make dinner, he (usually) does the dishes. I drive, he navigates.

You get the point, right?

And when major holidays or events roll around, he likes to stick to tradition, and keep things as they usually are. I’m fine with that, as long as there’s good food involved, which there always is. For July 4th, we always make burgers. These are still one of my favorites. For Thanksgiving, we don’t do anything crazy with the turkey, and we can’t change the stuffing, but I have free reign over most of the other dishes (which even I, Miss I-Hate-To-Make-Things-More-Than-Once, usually only rotate out the green veggie dish and keep the rest the same, too). There is usually a time of the year that we find a reason to make pulled pork (like watching a season of The Walking Dead. Get it – pulled pork?! shredded meat?! bwa ha ha), and there’s always another holiday, like Memorial Day perhaps, where we just plain ol’ grill.

Let there be no doubt in your mind that Super Bowl Sunday is its’ own holiday, too. And when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, it’s chili time – 20 degree weather outside or not.

Mind you, a move West hasn’t changed a single one of these traditions – somehow we manage to really gravitate towards the same type of people no matter where we live – the ones that like to eat, drink, and have a shit-load of fun together. And as per usual, we have no issue with hosting, again playing to the “as long as we get to make good food” mantra.

This time around, instead of making 1 chili for everyone to eat, we made 2 different chili recipes – watch out! The recipe below is adapted from a Texas-style all-beef chili. For you Texans-to-the-core out there, don’t hate, but I put beans in it, too (!). I won’t be caught walking an alley of Texas alone (does Texas have alleys?), that’s for sure, because I’m about to let ya’ll know that this girl LOVES beans in chili. Plus, even though we doubled mostly everything in the original recipe, I couldn’t quite bring myself to dump 8 lbs of beef into a pot, but by all means, if you prefer beef to the beans, go for it. I liked the additional texture of pinto beans, and clearly I need just a little more ammo in my nightly “Dutch ovens“, so there you have it ;).

The other recipe satisfied the gluten-free and white-meat-only eaters out there, and was another tasty concoction – a white bean and chicken chili, with loads of chili powder. Maybe I’ll share that one a little later on.

And of course, there’s no such thing as chili without some cornbread, and we all know how much I love cornbread, right?! No pics of it, and no leftovers either. Sad faces.

But when it came to the chili, we were happy to eat it for another couple of nights. Happy faces!

Oh, and GO, Bears! 49-ers? Ok, ok, YAY GIANTS!

 

Beef & Pinto Bean Chili with Ancho, Mole, and Cumin
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2009 via Epicurious; serves 12-16

I should add here, that the serving sizes are NOT generous (maybe 1 cup each). They’re based on the fact that this chili was eaten after tons of other snacks were consumed, so ginormous bowls of chili were not had. If you’re making this chili for dinner, I’d guess that this exact recipe yields closer to 10-12 servings. But it’s hearty, so consider yourself forewarned!

printable version

time commitment: at least 4 1/2 hours, most of which is inactive

ingredients
chili
2 T cumin seeds
8 bacon slices, chopped
1 4-pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
2 large onions, chopped (about 4 c)
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
7 c beef broth, divided, possibly more
1/4 c pure ancho chile powder
1/4 c chili powder
2 T mole paste
1 T salt
4 t apple cider vinegar
1 T dried oregano
1 bottle of stout beer
4 15-oz cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c masa (corn tortilla mix)
1/4 t cayenne pepper

garnishes
Chopped green onions
Queso fresco
Sliced fresh  jalapeño chiles
Tortilla chips

instructions
Toast cumin seeds in heavy small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool; grind finely in spice mill or in mortar with pestle.

Meanwhile, sauté bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to large bowl. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Working in 3 batches, sauté beef in drippings in pot until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer beef and most drippings to bowl with bacon. Add onion and garlic to pot. Sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 c broth to pot. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Return beef, bacon, and any accumulated juices to pot. Mix in ancho chile powder, chili powder, mole paste, salt, vinegar, oregano, and cumin. Add 6 cups broth, stout, and pinto beans; bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer gently uncovered until beef is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls if chili is dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Mix in masa by teaspoonfuls to thicken chili or add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin. Season chili with salt, pepper, and cayenne, if desired.

Chili can be made up to 3 days ahead (and making it ahead does give flavors time to meld, so try to make it at least a day in advance). Let cool at stovetop for an hour, then refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.

Set out garnishes as desired. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

The New Staple

There comes a time in all of our lives that we eventually have to grow up and start fending for ourselves. Specifically, we have to feed ourselves; the days of coming home to mom and dad’s fresh-baked meatloaf, fried chicken, and steak n’ potatoes fade into the past, quickly becoming memories as opposed to everyday life.

For many of us, we have college as a “buffer” from the inevitable days of reality. We have the dining halls serving up lukewarm pizza, cereal in bins with pitchers of warm milk at the adjacent counter, and last but certainly not least – yesterday’s leftover fruit, usually a lot of honeydew melon and grapes. And let’s not forget the $.10 ‘oodles of noodles’ (chicken flavor! Oriental flavor!) that saved me from ordering Gumby’s pizza on many the occasion.

Eventually, the dining halls also fade into the background as we are forced to get “real jobs” and become part of a functioning society. Takeout still serves its purpose, but there becomes a point sometime after college that the pounds start to pack on a little more quickly, and walking from the dorm to lecture hall no longer constitutes the requirement of exercise. Oof.

Despite what some of you might believe, my time in the kitchen was not always spent with perma-grin. I was not “born to cook”, and I didn’t grow up begging to wash dishes, or wait impatiently in hopes of being allowed to add paprika to the deviled eggs at Thanksgiving. I didn’t even want to learn how to make my gramma’s pound cake – as long as she had one waiting for me every Sunday I was as happy as a pig in pooh.

But even so, I had a “go to” dish – spaghetti. I’d get home and quickly throw some noodles into a pot of boiling water, and I’d cook those noodles until they nearly fell apart (I didn’t have a freakin’ clue what al dente meant until probably 4 years ago). Usually, I’d have a jar of Newman’s Own marinara sauce in the pantry and I’d toss some into the microwave and dump it atop my pasta with a nice hefty shake or two of the Kraft “parmesan”. If I was feeling fancy, I’d put some red pepper flakes in the sauce, but otherwise that was it.

I’ll bet you have your go to dish as well. My problem, if you can call it a problem, is that I don’t have that go to recipe anymore. I make a dish once usually, twice if it’s really good and it’s posted here (which means I still have the recipe), and then I’m finished with it. I can’t seem to shake the habit, but maybe it’s just because I’ve never found a replacement for the spaghetti dish from years ago.

Until now. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for weeks (remember the curry meatballs?) – weeks! I never read through it, and I simply assumed it would take a long time and we haven’t had any nights where I had a long time to cook in the last month or so. But this past weekend, I picked up the book again and went straight to the page of this dish. It looked easy! It sounded amazing, as it always has, and I knew I’d be giving it a try. All I needed to do was procure some amchur (dried mango powder – duh) and I was set.

I promise you – it took me 30 minutes, and there is limited prep, limited chopping, and lots of goodness. Honestly, it tastes just as good as the restaurant versions. For serious. It’s gonna get made a whole helluva lot around here, now that I’ve realized these facts. And the only problem with this new plan? I’ll have to find another staple dish to order when we want Indian takeout, because I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to pay $10 for a dish I can make in 30 minutes, with 4 servings, for much less than that. Something tells me that isn’t much of a problem either, though.

 

Chana Masala
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking; serves 4 as a meal

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
3 T coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 t cumin seeds
1 large onion, diced
1/4 t g cinnamon
1/4 t g nutmeg
1/4 t g cloves
1 t g coriander
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t grated ginger
4 T tomato paste
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cans chickpeas (save ~ 4-5 T of liquid)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon amchur*
1 c uncooked basmati rice
garlic naan, for serving
cilantro, for garnish

instructions
Heat coconut oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and once they begin to darken (will happen quickly), add onion. Saute until starting to brown (about 8 minutes).

Turn heat to low and add cinnamon through coriander. Mix together, then add garlic and ginger. Turn heat up a little and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes.

Add chickpeas and the saved liquid. Add salt, cayenne, and amchur. Mix well, cover, and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir gently every couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, cook basmati rice and warm garlic naan in the oven. Once chana masala is cooked, garlic with cilantro and serve atop some rice and with naan.

 

*amchur (or amchoor) is available at Indian markets and here. Jaffrey says you can sub in 1 T lemon juice if you can’t locate it.