Go West Young Girl, Go West!

Monday, December 21st, 2015

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Chili is a dish I have recently revisited. As a Chef you spend most of your waking hours in a professional kitchen dreaming up innovative, new dishes. Testing out new products, curating ingredients, perfecting techniques. It is easy to overlook certain comfort foods. Its not that we write them off, but when things feel dated you tend to avoid them. But often times, innovation is in fact inspired by history and memories. To embrace the food we grow up eating and to create a well balanced homage using current techniques and good ingredients, that is when a Chef can really shine.

Chili takes me West. Where I grew up, and often a place I long for. It takes me to imaginary desert vistas, cattle drives, and campfires. Chili is an icon of the American West but its roots clearly lie somewhere further south. At its most basic incarnation it is meat cooked down in chiles, onions, and garlic. This is the start of many iconic Mexican dishes. Its personality morphs as you travel through the American Southwest and no other states claims it quite so triumphantly as Texas. You like beans in your chili? Well Texans do not. Head over to New Mexico and it will be easy to find that deep ruddy red you know so well to be replaced by green, thanks to the popular local hatch chile. In a bowl or on a pile of fries, at its core its comfort food and one I love.

The recipe below is a great starter chili, designed for the home cook. I like to dress up a bowl with a pile of cheese, sour cream, and corn bread. This dish is ever interchangeable. Pick your protein: beef, lamb, pork, goat, turkey, or beans. Add more heat or throw in a few different chile powders: chipotle morita, arbol, dried jalapeno. This recipe is designed to resemble the chili’s of my childhood and as it should be, in creating this recipe I am inspired to find a way to make chili into my next great restaurant dish.

Enjoy!

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Turkey Chili

Yields about 5 quarts

4 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds organic ground turkey
1 onion small dice
4 cloves garlic minced, around 2 tablespoons
2 jalapenos, deseeded and small dice, around 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 chipotles in adobo, minced
1 tablespoon of adobo sauce (from the canned chipotles)
4 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon Chimayo*
1 28 oz can small dice tomatoes
1 cup of beer, dos equis amber
4 cups of chicken stock
4 cups cooked black beans

In a heavy bottom large pot heat 3 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Add in the ground turkey. Cook until lightly browned, around 6 minutes. Remove the turkey from the pot and set aside. Add in your remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Heat pot over low heat. Add in onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Sweat down until the onion is translucent, around 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium. Add in tomato paste, cumin, sweet paprika, oregano, Chimayo, chipotles, and adobo sauce. Sauté for one minute, stirring to coat the vegetables in the tomato paste. Add in beer and stir. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add in canned tomatoes, cooked turkey, black beans, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and reduce to low heat. Cook for one hour uncovered. Set aside or serve immediately topped with scallions, sharp cheddar, sour cream, and corn bread.

* Chimayo is a chile variety popular in New Mexico, and I was the recent recipient of a cup of this delicious chile powder. If you can not get your hands on any, feel free to sub out with your favorite. To learn more about Chimayo check out the link below.

Chimayo Chile

 

 

 

Hot Chocolate- A Magical Elixir

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

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Hot Chocolate, the most sacred of beverages, has been suffering from an identity crisis. Everywhere I look, the acceptable version of this beverage has become a watered down version of ifs ancestors. If you order hot chocolate in a restaurant, hotel, or coffee shop you are lucky if you can get a version that is milk and chocolate. At its best I tend to find a thin, milky, over steamed generic tasting cup with spray can (gasp) whipped cream melted over the top. At its worst I find people accepting hot water (no!) and a coco powder mix dissolved into it.

Where did we go wrong! Why are we ok with this? I demand change. Maybe I have watched the movie Chocolat too many times, but I want my mug of hot chocolate to be a spiritual experience, a remedy for cold days and fatigue. I want a mug of chocolate melted into whole milk with exotic spices and a bowl of freshly whipped cream served along side so I can spoon it in as I see fit.

And so I share with you this tale of what hot chocolate should be. My first real taste of the good stuff happened in Paris. On Ile St Louis there is a shop by the name La Charlotte de l’Isle. On the window of this shop are the words “Chocolat Chaud l’Ancienne” which translates to The Old Hot Chocolate. Here, I sat at a table and was served the real deal. Thick, rich, spiced hot chocolate. It was served in what looked like a copper Turkish coffee pot so it would stay warm as I poured it into my mug. There are not words to describe the transformative experience I had. After I drank this magical brew I felt like I could sing, dance, and walk the entire city of Paris in 1 hour. I was a one man musical. My dinning companion, Ben, who had the same magical elixir had the opposite effect. He fell asleep immediately after consuming!

So buyers beware, I cannot presume to tell you what the effects will be. But I can tell you this, a real mug of hot chocolate is hard to find but not hard to make. With a saucepan, good chocolate, and a little care you can make a magical elixir of your own.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a few photos of that magical hot chocolate from Paris. Don’t mind the the old school photo filters!

Hot Chocolate For Two

2 ½ cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon coco powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pinches of ground cayenne pepper
3 ounces of high quality dark chocolate (I like Valrhona)
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat add milk, bay leaf, coco powder, ground cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Heat to a simmer. By heating up the milk slowly, you give the spices time to steep into the milk and create more flavor. While the milk is warming make the whipped cream: in a bowl add heavy cream and powdered sugar and whisk until it can hold soft peaks. Set aside. When the milk is simmering, add in chocolate and brown sugar. Whisk to incorporate. Serve immediately with a side of whipped cream.

*Be creative with you spices and find out what you like. Nutmeg, clove, ground chipotle, and almonds can all be nice additions.

 

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Pozole- My Cold Weather Companion

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

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When winter months roll around I want to hibernate. I want to be in a hot kitchen slow cooking, braising meats, roasting root vegetables, and invariably staying warm. Pozole is a dish that hits the mark on these dark, cold days. It encapsulates everything I love about Mexican cooking. It layers flavors and techniques to create a dish with intense complexity. There is a mild heat from the chiles that warms you balanced with acidic lime juice and rich braised pork shoulder. It is a hearty stew that can be served with an assortment of sides that personalize each bowl: tortillas, radish, avocado, cilantro, shredded cabbage, limes, creama (or sour cream), and cheese. This is a dish I have served many times over the course of my career and has taken on many iterations. Oxtail Pozole at Food & Wine Festival in Atlanta, Green Chile Pozole on Top Chef, and most recently Pozole Rojo, currently my favorite version. This recipe is gold. Print now, make it tomorrow, and thank me later.

Pozole Rojo

Yields 6 quarts

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch sized cubes
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon canola oil
9 gaujillo chiles
3 ancho chiles
2 medium sized tomatoes
2 chipotles in adobo, I like the Embasa brand
1 large white onion, small diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 poblano peppers, deseeded and small diced
1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
3 dried bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
5 cups of cooked and drained hominy, you can use the canned stuff
3 quarts of chicken stock
2 ½ Tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup limejuice
½ cup chopped cilantro

Begin by mixing the pork shoulder with the salt and black pepper. Set aside and gather the rest of the ingredients. Toast the dried guajillo and ancho chiles; I use a cast iron pan for this. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add a few chiles to the pan at a time, keeping them in a single layer touching the pan. Using a metal spatula gently press the chiles flat against the pan, the chiles should puff up slightly and darken in color just a little bit. They should not be charred or smoking, this will make them bitter. It will take about 30 seconds to toast each round of chiles. After the chiles have all been toasted, place them in a container and cover them with hot tap water. Weigh them down with something like a small plate so that they all stay submerged. Soak them for 30 minutes. While the chiles are soaking roast the tomatoes. Heat the same cast iron pan over medium heat. Place the whole tomatoes into the pan and cook for about 7 minutes. You want to get as much of the outside skin charred as possible, rotate the tomatoes as needed to accomplish this. After the chiles have soaked for 30 minutes, remove them from the water and place in a blender along with the roasted tomato, canned chipotle, and about a cup of the chile soaking water. Blend until smooth.

In a large pot heat the canola oil over medium high heat. When pot is ready add in the pork shoulder. Sear the pork until it is well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside. Next carefully pour the chile puree into the pot and cook while stirring for about 3 minutes. This will help concentrate the flavor of the chilies and add more depth to the final product. Next, add in the onion, garlic, and poblano peppers. Cook for 1 minute. Add in the ground cumin, ground coriander, bay leaves, and Mexican oregano. Cook for an additional 3 minutes before adding in the hominy, chicken stock, and the pork shoulder. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for about 1 ½ hours. Remove the bay leaves. To finish the pozole add in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Season with salt to your taste, I used about 2 ½ Tablespoon of salt for mine. Serve along side crispy tortillas, shredded cabbage, radish, sour cream, and cheese.

*If you have the chance, make this a day before serving. I love how the flavors marry and become even more delicious overnight.