Category Archives: Meat

Ma’s Italian Beef

I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus for some time… With the loss of a good friend who is dearly missed, my creative inspiration has been a little weak lately. Well, one thing that makes me feel better is some good ‘ol comfort food, the kind like my mom used to make. This last weekend, I made my Mom’s Italian beef recipe to pick my spirits up. The smell alone can heal just about anything, filling the air with memories of family holidays and gatherings of friends. That was when I realized that I needed to share this little piece of culinary cure-all. So to get the blog rolling again, here is something a little dressed up by me, but the roots are still with Ma, and the memories are always good ones.

Chicago style Italian beef is a sandwich you can find at little stands all over Illinois. The variations are vast: from the beef being sliced or shredded, cheese or no cheese, sweet bell peppers or giardiniera (pickled peppers) on top, or even having the whole damn thing dunked in it’s own au jus. Regardless, you need slow roasted beef chuck, a good chewy Italian loaf of bread and A LOT of oregano…

3-4 lb chuck roast

1 jar of pepperoncinis

5 cloves garlic smashed

32 oz beef stock

1 cup water

4 Tbls oregano

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp pepper

Good melting cheese of your choice (provolone for me)

Italian sandwich bread (this recipe makes 4 to 6 big sandwiches)

Prepared horseradish

Mayo

Take the roast out of the fridge an hour before you start. Preheat oven to 375 and get out your heavy dutch oven. Heat a tablespoon of oil (or BACON FAT) over medium high in the dutch oven. Pat the roast dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear the roast on all sides until nice and brown. While all that browning is going on, cut the tops off of all  the pepperoncinis except 6 of them. Throw the now topless peppers in the pot with the roast, dump in the beef broth, water, oregano, garlic and a 1/4 cup of the juice from the pepperoncinis. Bring it all to a boil, put a lid on it and place in the oven.  Roast at 375 for an hour, then turn down to 325 and roast for at least 2 more hours (3 or 4 would be better, but I bet you can’t overcome the smell). After however long you manage to hold off, take the roast out, check to see if it needs more salt and shred it up using tongs. Put the pot on a low heat to keep it all hot while you get the rest ready.

Horseradish Mayo- Not rocket science

Stir together mayo and horseradish sauce on a 2:1 ratio. 2 tablespoons mayo to 1 tablespoon horseradish should be enough for 4 sandwiches. Dice up the remaining pepperoncinis to garnish. Split the rolls down one side, but not all of the way through so the bread has a “hinge”.  Put sliced cheese on one side of the bread and throw them in the oven to melt the cheese. Take rolls out, spread mayo on the other side and load up with shredded beef. Ladle out some of the au jus from the pot for dipping and be happy.


5 Star Dinner on a 1 Star Budget

It is cheap, it is easy, it is fun to improvise with and best of all, it tastes great! If you can manage to sear meat and dump a bottle of wine in a pot, you can do this. It does take time, so this may be a weekender…

Told ya.

I have discovered that the taste-to-price ratio of beef short-ribs is off the freakin’ chart. These things are like 5 bucks a pound and after 3 hours of braising in the oven, you would pay a million dollars for them again, or worse… Now, braising sounds like one of those fancy French words (and it is), but don’t be skeered, it only means to cook meat in a liquid for a long time. The liquid can be just about anything. From water to wine to stock or even beer. The choices are endless depending on how you want your dish to taste. With beef, in particular beef short-ribs, I go with 50/50 red wine and beef stock. After you are done cooking (braising) the meat, you can reduce the liquid even further to make a “gravy” that is worthy of being put in an I.V. bag and carried around on a pole.

When getting ready to braise your short-ribs, you should get a good sear on all sides of the meat. Some people that get paid to write this kind of stuff will tell you it “seals in the juices”. This, is a bunch of crap. You are searing for the flavor on the outside, not to mention “fond”, another fancy French word which is the brown stuff on the bottom of your pan that does add a whole bunch of flavor once you dissolve it. To get a good sear, make sure the meat is dry and the pot is hot. DO NOT overcrowd the pot when searing. Everything will steam instead of sear, so do this in batches if your pot is too small.

As far as the wine I braise with… You should want to drink it. I have mentioned “cooking wine” before. It does not deserve to have the words “cooking” or “wine” associated with it in any way. There is actually a reason why an 8 year old can buy it at the stupermarket without a fake i.d., it is dyed red salt water, who the heck wants that?!? Since that is cleared up, just go buy yourself a $10 bottle of red (unless you are under 21), have a glass and get ready to dump the rest in the pot.

Ingredients for Braised Beef Short-Ribs: For 4

8 Beef short-ribs at room temp, dried with a paper towel

2 Tbls unsalted butter

Salt/Pepper

2 stalks celery- chopped in 3 inch chunks

1 yellow onion- quartered

2 carrots- 3 inch chunks

5 cloves of garlic

1/2 Cup tomato paste

1 tsp dried thyme

28 oz beef stock

1 bottle red wine (minus 1 glass for yourself)

Heat oven to 325

In a large heavy bottomed pot (dutch oven), melt butter over medium high heat. Pat ribs dry with paper towel, coat liberally with salt and pepper. Once butter is melted and done foaming, place ribs in the pot and sear on all sides (3-4 minutes per side). While ribs are searing, put garlic, celery, onion and carrot in a food processor and blend until a paste forms. Remove ribs and set on a plate. Add puree’d vegetables to the pot and brown while stirring constantly. Once veggies are browned (5 minutes), add tomato paste and thyme, stir to combine. Cook tomato paste 5 more minutes then add beef broth and wine. Scrape up all of the “fond” from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and bring your-now-braising-liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, put ribs back in the pot and cover. Place in the oven for 3 hours. After 3 hours, carefully remove the ribs to a plate and cover with foil. Pour braising liquid through a sieve (metal screen) into a saucepan to filter out the veggies. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce by half, season to taste with salt and pepper.

You now have finished short-ribs and a great sauce to go with them. I usually serve them on top of garlic mashed potatoes, however, buttered egg noodles are pretty darn fantastic too (saute’ some pearl onions and mushrooms to go on top). This is a great dish for entertaining since once it is in the oven, you don’t really have much to do for 3 hours. If you forget about it and 4 hours go by, it will probably be even better.


Wit what?

The perfect sandwich. Juicy steak, melty cheese, fried onions and a soft-yet-chewy roll. Screw the mushrooms, the peppers, and even the pizza sauce. Yes, this is a Philly Cheesesteak if you know what you’re talking about…

Now, I have spent plenty o’ days in Philly standing in line at Jim’s, Pat’s and Geno’s practicing how I’m gonna order: wit whiz or not, prov or sauce…all to keep the cashier from making it: wit spit. Despite the lingo, all of these establishments have been around forever and have very respectful “steaks” in their own right; but they market to the masses. And when I say masses, we’re talking about thousands of people a day. The cheese steak has turned into the quintessential fast-food of Philly, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to feeding the thousands of drunks and tourists. Hours of standing in line for what I see as “drunk food with potential” has led me to make a better, and more personal Philly. And to be brutally honest, the best cheese steak that I have had, and did not personally make, was in Baltimore. No lines, no freaking out if you don’t know how to order, just good cheesesteaks.  Now before I get my house burned down or cat thrown in the ring by Michael Vick, I will at least say that it was a Philly themed bar (owned by residents of Philadelphia) in Baltimore, McGerks, and they don’t have any dogs. I digress…

Cheesesteak Vegas #1

Cheesesteak Vegas #2

To go ahead and cut in line and just make your own isn’t all that hard. Most stupermarkets sell beef rib eye that is “sandwich cut”, and if not, you need a meat slicer. The bread or “roll” is a hit or miss conundrum, which plays a very important “roll” (heh heh)  in this situation.  I am lucky,  my nearby bakery sells fresh hoagie rolls. A note to my friends from the mid-west reading this that have no idea what the hell a hoagie is: find a foot-long Italian sub loaf of bread instead. Regardless, fresh bread is a must, and you shall seek it out for cheesesteak’s sake. The cheese is up to you, just make sure that it melts good, isn’t wrapped in plastic in slices, or is in liquid form at room temperature (whiz), which by the way is not normal, but tasty. Now go get your thin sliced steak, grill it up nice and slow on a flat top and toss it together with abnormal cheese and sautéed onions. Throw it in a chewy roll and thank your lucky stars that you aren’t standing in line with the drunks in Philly, especially if the “Birds” or “Phils”  lost that night.

Recipe for two Philly Cheesesteaks for when the “Birds” are playing:
1 lb beef rib eye sliced thin, partially freeze it to cut it thin with a knife if you are one of those “losers” without a meat slicer
1/2 yellow onion diced
1/2 lb sliced, aged provolone or cheese sauce
2 hoagie rolls cut down the middle
1 Tbl vegetable oil
salt/pepper/onion powder

Heat skillet or griddle over medium low heat with vegetable oil. Saute’ onions until softened (5 minutes). Season steak with onion powder, salt and pepper. Put the rolls in the microwave for 20 seconds to warm them up. Add meat to the onions and toss together constantly to cook the slices of meat evenly. Once the meat is medium rare (pink left in the middle) form in into two long sandwich shaped piles and place the sliced cheese (or drizzle whiz) on top. Once the cheese has melted into the meat, scoop it up and pile it in the warm rolls. Consume immediately.


Your steak has already been killed.

This post isn’t going to have some silly story to start it off with. The purpose of this post is to prevent something that happens all of the time from happening again…killing dead meat. I’m sure I will catch some flak from some vegans out there, but if you like a good steak, you will read on.

It looks even better on the inside.

The first and foremost problem is heat control. The whole process of bringing something from the temperature of your refrigerator to an edible and safe temperature can be a daunting task I know, but we’ll get through this together. These steps apply to just about any cut of meat that doesn’t take 4 hours of roasting to tenderize. Filet mignon, ribeye, New York strip, flank, etc… It should also be noted that these rules cover thick cut pork chops too, just cook them to at least 145 degrees (the FDA just lowered the safe temp on pork).

Step 1: Buy good steaks. Ask the butcher to cut what you want, since what he cut yesterday and  is already in the case isn’t quite thick/thin enough. Sure, they will cost some good coin, but it will still be half the cost of an fancy place that sounds like Roofs Christ, which is essentially overpriced meat with a stick of butter.

Step 2: Bring the meat to room temperature. Let it sit out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes (turn a bowl over on it if you’re worried about bugs or whatever getting to it). This will prevent having a raw center and a well done outer layer of the steak. You should be able to get medium-rare the whole way through.

Step 3: Dry off the meat with paper towels and season just before cooking. This helps make a good sear. When seasoning, take the thickness of the cut into account. The thicker the cut, the more salt/seasoning it needs. Seasoning is a personal preference, however I do stay away from the pre-mixed spice concoctions as a steak should taste like meat.

Step 4: Use a fat or oil with a high smoke point (no olive oil). I use bacon grease or canola oil.

Step 5: For thick cuts (over an inch thick) I sear over high heat and then oven roast in a cold pan at 300 degrees until I achieve the correct doneness. Putting the steak in a cold pan before the oven prevents overcooking one side of the steak. For thinner cuts, I use medium pan heat and only turn it over once, no oven.

Step 6: After you have made this long journey to greatness, let the steak take a break before you eat it (5-10 minutes). This will prevent the juiciness from running all over you plate. Besides, it was killed, cut, burned and is about to be eaten… Let it have a rested farewell.

DO NOT poke the steak with anything other than a thermometer while cooking, only use a thermometer if you don’t know how to test doneness by touching the steak. There is a way to compare the firmness of your palm to the steak to tell doneness. I recommend using a thermometer first, and practicing the “firmness test” to get it right.

DO NOT smash the steak down with a spatula, brick or anything for that matter. Just let the thing cook would ya?

DO NOT cook a filet well-done, I will personally tell your butcher to stop wasting good meat on you.

DO NOT do this in a non-stick pan. The high heat you need is too high for Teflon and it will turn into a gas that will make you sick. Use either stainless, anodized, or cast iron cookware. These types of pans also encourage the development of “fond”. Fond is the French term for the browned bits you get in the pan by searing a steak, which help add a lot of flavor to sauces.

The recipe for this post is one of my favorites and is my usual go-to for having people over. It is spicy, but the port sauce adds a sweetness to it that keeps everybody eating. Have plenty of red wine to wash it all down. The only downside to the recipe is that it creates a hell of a lot of smoke while you are essentially burning peppercorns, so if you don’t have a good exhaust fan, open some windows- stat.

Drum roll please…. Recipe for: Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon with a Port Cream reduction (for 4 lucky people).

Ingredients:

4 Filet Mignon steaks around 8-10 ounces each or about 2 inches thick

1 Tbls bacon fat

1 Tbls whole black peppercorns lightly crushed in a bag with a rolling pin or buzzed in a coffee mill

Salt/Onion Powder/Garlic Powder

1 Cup Port Wine (I use Fonseca Bin 27)

1/4 Cup heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to 300. You should have taken the steaks out of the fridge already, like half an hour ago, did you!? If the steaks are wrapped in bacon, remove the bacon and cook it over medium heat to render out the fat in a stainless skillet large enough to fit all of your meat. Leave the fat in the pan and eat the bacon when nobody is looking.

Season the steaks liberally with salt, onion powder and garlic. Put the crushed peppercorns on a small plate and shake the plate to make an even layer. Press the steaks gently into the peppercorns so they stick to the meat. Heat the skillet with the bacon fat to high heat until it is just barely smoking.

Turn on your fans, place the steaks in the hot pan and sear for two minutes per side (do this in two batches if your skillet isn’t big enough). Remove steaks and put them in another cold, oven safe pan. Pour off any excess grease from the skillet, but leave any burnt bits or peppercorns in there, then return the skillet to medium heat. If you have a splatter screen, now is the time to use it… Pour in the Port, it will steam, hiss and scare the pets, this is ok. If you have gas burners you may want to turn off the flame to avoid it igniting and melting the door of your microwave off. Once it calms down, using a whisk, break up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and bring it to a light boil to reduce.

Place the steaks in the oven and bake until an internal temperature of 125 degrees is reached; it should be about 10 minutes, but use your thermometer. While the steaks are in the oven keep an eye on your sauce, making sure you maintain a high simmer whisking occasionally, as the liquid reduces, you will need less heat and it will burn easily. Once the wine has reduced by half, you will see the bubbles start stacking up on each other; when you whisk it, you will start seeing the bottom of your pan. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the cream. Taste it. Does it need salt? Is it too runny and it needs to reduce more? Is it too thick and you need to add more wine? Figure it out. Keep it on low heat until the steaks are done (which this takes about 10 minutes, oddly about the same time it takes to bake the steaks).

Once you have reached 125 degrees, remove steaks from oven and wrap in foil and DO NOT touch them for 10 minutes. The temperature will coast up to a perfect medium rare and I will not tell you how to cook filet to any other temperature, sorry.

Pour your sauce onto four plates, unwrap steaks and set them in your little puddle of sauce. Any juices accumulated in the foil can be poured over the top of the steaks or sopped up with a dinner roll. Cut into your steak, show your friends and bask in glory. If you have any unfortunate souls with you that want their steak cooked more, show them how to use the microwave ruin the steak and don’t have them over ever again.


Dos Pollo Enchiladas, Por Favor

Dos Amigos!

If you have read this blog so far you may have noticed a combination of staple dishes from different cuisines. Truth be told, Italian is my favorite to cook, but “Tex-Mex” is in close second. As Jim Gaffigan says: “Mexican food is all the same- tortilla, cheese, meat or vegetables. You just cook it in different ways.” The only flaw with this bit is that he should refer to it as Tex-Mex. Now I don’t know about you, but the above mentioned ingredients are pretty much my favorite things, regardless of how simple the combinations of them can be.

One good thing about Tex-Mex is that you can make it at home on a weekenight, contrary to true Mexican food. REAL Mexican food (not what you get at “The Bell”)  involves things like mole’ that has 20 ingredients in it, takes hours to make and years to perfect. And when was the last time you roasted a quail? Hmmm? When have you made a tres leches cake?  We Americans have actually created so many shortcuts for Mexican food that it, well, is easy. Not to say that this is a bad thing- just different.

I have been making this enchilada recipe for quite some time. I make my own enchilada sauce, and you should too; just remember to get good spices as mentioned in a previous post. Other than that, it pretty much involves throwing the whole thing together and baking it, or you can split up the batch and freeze them (for 2 people, this recipe is perfect for 2 dinners). Another bonus is that I use one of those rotisserie chickens from my local stupermarket.  You can use the breast meat for the enchiladas and the dark meat for say, chicken salad, or just snack while you cook…

Chicken enchiladas: Enough to feed 4

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, breast meat removed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 4 oz can of chopped green chiles
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 8 taco size flour tortillas (8 inchers)
  • 8 oz block of cheddar shredded
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • fresh cillantro for garnish
  • sour cream for garnish 

For the enchilada sauce:

  • 3 Tbls vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbls chili powder
  • 2 Tbls flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth

Method:

Preheat oven to 425. In a skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium low heat. Cook diced onion and green chiles with a pinch of salt and pepper until the onion is slightly softened. Turn the heat off and add the chopped chicken. Stir to combine and set aside to cool.

For the sauce: In a small saucepot, heat oil over medium heat, add in all of the spices and flour at once (pre-measure into a seperate bowl). Stir constantly for 1 minute, the spice/flour mixture will resemble a dark paste. Dump in the chicken broth and whisk until everything combines and there isn’t any lumps of spices. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to maintain a rapid simmer. Reduce the sauce until it slightly thickens (about 10-15 minutes), then remove from heat.

Assembly: Lay out a tortilla and spread a small small spoonful of the sauce right down the middle. Add some of the chicken/onion/chile mixture next, then the beans and finally some of the cheese. Roll up the enchilada and place it seam side down in a lightly greased 9 X 13 baking dish (I use glass). Continue this until you get about 8 enchiladas. You should have sauce and cheese leftover. Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray (this makes the tortillas crispy). Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lower the heat to 350. Drizzle the leftover sauce all over the top of the enchiladas and top with more cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges are slightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh cillantro and sour cream.


Why yes, you do need a meat slicer.

Roast beef, cheddar and horseradish mayo

There you are with a little ticket in your hand with the number 962. You look up at the “Now Serving” sign, 843. Yes, you are at the deli counter of pretty much any stupermarket around. You notice that all of those oval shaped meat products (shapes unlike any animal I’ve ever seen, besides my cat)  in the case are somewhere between 9 and 14 dollars a pound. Then you read about sodium, nitrates, nitrites, blah blah blah. What are you doing here!?! Why are you standing in line for something that costs so much and is bad for you? Convenience.  Now trust me, I can relate on many levels of wanting to do things easier, but deli meat isn’t one of them.  With the right tools, you can create your own sandwiches in no time. I’m not saying you need to go buy one of those 10 inch blade chrome model meat slicers. I got mine for 80 bucks, and it works great for cheese (cheaper in block form), slicing vegetables for pizzas or slaw, and raw beef-ribeye for cheese steaks. Other than the slicer, you need a probe thermometer (15 bucks) and a syringe of some sort. The syringe can come in the form of a “flavor injector” from an unmentioned kitchen store for 30 bucks, or a large gauge hypodermic from, say, medical personnel you may know (for free).

Now, I know what you are thinking….Where the HE** am I going to PUT a meat slicer? Well, the bread machine can go. The smoothie machine parked next to a perfectly good blender can go. The 5 boxes of Ho-Hos can go. The margarita machine can go…..no wait, keep that. You get the point. I have figured that my slicer paid for itself within the first couple of months of having it. Just watch out for when beef round roasts go on sale for like 1.99 a pound or when whole turkey breasts are 7 bucks for a 3 pounder. I’m not hanging up whole hog legs in the basement (yet) but if you want ham, it is still cheaper to get it whole than pre-sliced. You can cut it as thick or thin as you want and then freeze it in “however many sandwiches you make a day portions”.

Recipe for: Deli rare roast beef

Shopping List:
2 1/2 - 3 lb Eye of round roast
Vegetable oil
For the brine:
1 Cup low sodium beef broth
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp pepper

This will only hurt for a second

Take the roast out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking so it will come to room temp. In a small saucepan, combine the broth and spices over low heat until the salt dissolves and you can smell the other spices. Using a syringe, pump the brine into the roast in multiple locations. Some of the brine will squirt out in various directions, so you may want to do this in the sink. Dry off the roast with paper towels, rub it with vegetable oil and then season the outside liberally with additional salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic.

Roasting with a probe thermometer

Preheat oven to 500 (if you haven’t cleaned your oven lately, you are about to). Place roast in a rack and bake at 500 for 20 minutes to get a nice crust on the outside. Take the roast out and lower oven temp to 225 leaving the door open to let the high heat out. Wrap the roast tightly in 3 layers of foil, insert a probe thermometer and bake until an internal temp of 120 degrees is reached which will be somewhere around 1 1/2 hours depending on your oven and size of roast. Take the roast out of the oven and leave it wrapped up in the foil and the temp will coast up to around 130 (medium rare). Do not unwrap it until the temp goes below 100 degrees. Put it in the fridge overnight and slice the next day (I know, this is tough).

My favorite sandwich using this roast beef  is a beef and cheddar with horseradish mayo. Just stir in a teaspoon of prepared horseradish into a 1/4 cup of mayo. Spread mayo on 2 pieces of bread, pile roast beef high and throw a couple of slices of thin sliced cheddar on it. Butter the outsides of the sandwich and grill until browned and the cheese melts.

Take that deli counter!


Seasoning Lesson #1

Some of my favorites.

The reason for this post is that I get very frustrated about this subject and I want to help you be healthier, save money and have tastier food. Here we go…

Number one - 90% of the people I know still buy spices and dried herbs at the grocery store. Why is this so bad you might ask? Well, what you are buying in your local grocery store has probably already been sitting on the shelves for 6 months. You should throw out ground spices after 6 months, and whole spices after a year.  The selling price of these seasonings are 3 times the cost of what they are worth!  Then once you take them home, you have to use 3 times the amount to get the flavor you want (not to mention they use fillers and stabilizers).

Number two - Pre-mixed seasonings are, for the most part, a complete rip off. I’m talking about your “Turkey Lurkey Grillin’ Spice” or “Rub It All Over Everything Spice”. I once saw a grilling spice from a certain kitchen store (that will not be mentioned) with a price tag of 16 dollars for 4 ounces of the stuff. What was the first ingredient? Salt. Salt is 4 dollars a pound! So my future to becoming a millionaire is to come up with a spice concoction and have it sold at that very unmentioned kitchen store.

So what is the solution to my rants and raves? Buy spices and herbs from a spice dealer. Reputation is on the line for them; if the product you get is not fresh, you won’t be back. You can also buy the spices you use the most in bulk (not buying a container every time). This saves us money and is earth friendly.  Your route to do this is to find either a local specialty store or buy online. I am fortunate enough to have a Penzey’s store only 2 miles up the road. Penzey’s is neat because you can walk in and “sniff around” and their prices can’t be beat. Penzey’s also has an online business too, which my Mom uses very regularly.

And as far as the pre-mixed conundrum….You know what flavors and spice mixtures you like, so why not make them yourself?  Without the cost, the extra salt, the maltodextrin or silicon dioxide- need I say more?  I am going to give you a recipe for my super secret bbq rub that I use for both brisket and ribs. I hope you use it to win bbq cook offs and then just go ahead and send me the check :) 

In my second seasoning lesson I will discuss grinding, storing, and what kind of spices mingle together with others.

Ingredients for super secret spice rub: Makes plenty for at least 1 roast or a rack of ribs. It is easy to multiply so make extra! 

2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

2 teaspoons toasted onion powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt (see where I’m coming from)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (buy a good mill, NOW)

1 teaspoon ground chipotle (my personal favorite)

Put it all in a canning jar and shake to mix together.  If the brown sugar is making it too clumpy, stir it up with a knife or ideally, a blade type coffee grinder. Punch holes in the lid to make a giant shaker, and then stack another lid on top of that to seal it up when not in use (thank you Alton Brown). Cover ribs or brisket liberally at least 3 hours before cooking, or up to 3 days if you have the time (trust me, you want to have the time).


Chili and Football, that’s what Dave does…

Stir it up!

The summer is coming to a close, vacations are over and it is now game time! I may not know every player’s name, who won last week, or the ridiculous stats of how many touchdowns the combined Manning brothers have, but I do know one thing… It is time to start cooking chili, and the odds are that a big pot will be stewing alongside beers and friends on any given Sunday at my place.

I can already visualize what the shopping cart looks like, colorful peppers, large quantities of meat along with all of the toppings. I’ve been making this chili for so long that I don’t even open up my notes anymore; practice and good ingredients makes perfect.  If you have been to my place to watch football, you have probably had my chili.

So next time you are having people over to watch Da Bears, Eagles or COLTS, start an hour early and get this together. I guarantee it will be gone by the end of the game, and if not, make chili dogs the next day. On second thought, hide some to make chili dogs anyway…

 

Chili with the fixins'

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shopping list for 1 gallon of chili (about 4 people).
1 Lb Ground beef 80/20 (or if you have a meat grinder coarsely grind 1 lb of  sirloin)
1 Lb Hot breakfast sausage, Tennessee Pride or Jimmy Dean's works great
1 large yellow onion diced
1 of each: green, yellow and red pepper seeded and diced
1 entire small bottle of green Tabasco, the green is milder than the others, NO substitutions
4-5 cloves garlic minced
1 28 oz can of whole/peeled tomatoes, if you can find San Marzanos, use them
2 16 oz cans of dark red kidney beans drained
1 square of "Bakers" brand UNSWEETENED chocolate, once again, NO substitutions
Salt/Pepper
1 Tbl. Good chili powder (go to penzeys.com) blog post on spices coming soon..
2 tsp. cumin
1-11/2 tsp. ground cayenne, depending on how hot you like it
1-3 mystery ingredients no one will ever know (sorry)                                       
Toppings:  Raw diced onion, shredded cheddar, sour cream, pasta, etc.

In a large stock pot brown the beef and sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spatula as it cooks (add a little vegetable oil if it is sticking real bad). In the meantime, dice all of your peppers and onion and throw them in the pot as you go. Once meat is browned and the veggies have softened, drain off any excess grease using a colander (do not rinse). Return to pot over medium heat and stir in minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic add in the Tabasco, tomatoes (juice and all) and the drained beans. Smash the whole tomatoes with your spatula to get that good juice and pulp out and to get everything else all mixed together. Increase heat to a boil for 5 minutes, bury the square of chocolate in the middle, reduce heat to medium-low and put a lid on it. Ignore for 20 minutes and have a beer.

Remove lid, stir everything up and distribute the now melted chocolate. Add all of the spices listed except salt and pepper. Adjust heat if needed to maintain a slow simmer. Put the lid back on, have another beer and get your toppings ready (chop onion, grate cheese, etc.) another 20 minutes.

Remove lid, stir it up and add pepper to suit your heat level. Salt to taste since depending on the sausage you buy and the tomatoes you use it can be different every time however, 2 teaspoons is usually a good starting point.

By this point, you should be almost full from trying the chili every 5 minutes, not to mention the buzz from the beers. Just put out the bowls along with the condiments, leave the pot on the stove over low heat all day long, and let people make their own bowls as they wish.

 
                                                           

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