Wednesday, February 24, 2010


If you're familiar with the Brooklyn bakery, Baked, you know they've made headlines with Oprah's favorite brownie among other retro and creative desserts.  If you live nowhere near NYC, check out their cookbook, Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliftio.

I have so many cookbooks I now check out a cookbook from the library, test 4-5 recipes and then decide if I still need to buy it.  This one has made the cut.  A little food porn below, a snow day baking project...blondies with malt powder, chocolate chunks and malted milk balls.  Hello, lover.

Brewer's Blondies  from Baked

Hot and Cold

We've had a little snow here on the East Coast, in case you haven't heard.  For the record, I'm over it.  I can't wait for spring.  I'm dreaming of asparagus and rhubarb and ramps and fiddlehead ferns...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The one thing I'll give winter is the colder it gets, the hotter I like my food.  From November-March I braise and stew and make hearty, soul warming soups.  This week I made a fiery, beefy all-meat chili. It's definitely got a kick but if you're shivering or have the winter blues, you might like a little fire in your belly.

If you can find dried, whole chiles, toasting and grinding them makes a real difference.  I love New Mexico chiles, they have a fruitiness that I love.  If you can't find whole chiles, you can substitute chile powder.

Chili Con Carne
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
 Serves 8

8 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4lbs. Chuck Roast, fat trimmed, cut in 1-inch cubes
*3 dried New Mexico Chiles
*3 dried Ancho Chiles
(Or substitute 3T of New Mexico chile powder and 3T of regular chile powder )
3T Cumin
2t Garlic Powder
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans of tomato sauce
7 1/2 cups of water, divided
1t Sugar
3T cornstarch
1-2 Chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime

1. Toast chiles in a cast iron pan on stovetop until they begin to smoke and feel brittle.  Let cool, tear into pieces and grind to powder in spice or coffee grinder.
2. Mix in cumin and garlic powder and 1/2 cup of water to form a thick paste.  Set aside.
3. Cube chuck roast and add 1T of kosher salt, toss to combine.
4. In a dutch oven, saute bacon until fat is rendered and bacon crisps. Reserve bacon and pour all but 2 teaspoons of bacon fat in a bowl.
5. Saute the beef cubes in bacon fat, approximately 5 minutes.  Do this in 3 batches so the meat is not crowded.  It needs space to sear and get browned.  Your looking for some nice carmelization on the meat.  Remove meat and continue with remaining batches, adding 2 more teaspoons of reserved bacon fat per batch.
6. Set seared beef aside.  Add remaining bacon fat to pot and saute diced onion and garlic.  Do not let the garlic brown.  You just want the onion and garlic softened, 2-3 minutes. 
7.  Add the chile powder/spice paste and sugar.  Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
8.  Add seared beef back into pot along with the tomato sauce and 7 cups of water.
9.  Add minced chipotle.  Start small, you can always add more if you want it spicier, but you can't take it away once it's in there!
10.  Simmer, uncovered,  for 2 hours until dark in color and starting to thicken. The meat should now be tender.
11.  Mix cornstarch with 3T of water and add to chili.  Let simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add cooked bacon back in.
12. Squeeze in lime juice before serving.

Serve with shredded cheese, diced onion, cilantro and sour cream.

*If your chile powders have a strong bitterness, you can add more sugar and tomato sauce to balance out the flavors.  You can also sub chicken broth or beer for some of the water but I think the water gives it a purer flavor.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I Heart You

If you're thinking of buying that certain someone some chocolate for Valentine's Day, consider my favorite obsession right now... Chuao Firecracker Bar.


Did you see the ingredient list? Chocolate with chipotle, salt and POP ROCKS!   I've seen this sold at Whole Foods, chocolate stores and even Pier 1.  It might be the perfect thing for an adventurous Valentine.  And just for the record...Mikey of Life cereal fame did not die from eating Pop Rocks and Coke.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Power to the People

My kids are pretty good eaters, yet we still have our issues.  Does this sound familiar?
Kids: What's for dinner?
Parent: (Insert any dinner menu here).
Kids:  Ugh! Groan! Oh, the horror!

I decided to return the power to the people.  Each kid is now in charge of planning one dinner a week.  They have full access to any of my cookbooks, food magazines or anything their imaginations come up with.  We have two rules:  The meal has to include at least one vegetable course and no one is allowed to complain about the chosen menu.  The chef du jour writes up the grocery list and helps with all the prep and cooking that they can handle.

The 7-year-old's menu:
Indonesian Grilled Swordfish
Creamy Cheddar Grits
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

The 5-year-old's menu:
Sole Meuniere
Confetti Corn & Raw Carrot Sticks

The verdict? THIS IS AWESOME, PEOPLE!!!  My kids love this.  They are chopping, stirring and tasting which leaves very little time for complaining and groaning.  They are choosing foods that surely would have been panned if I had served them and they are EATING THEM.  They are starting to understand the planning and work that goes into getting a meal on the table.  And they take it very personally if someone does not like what they've made.

This will definitely be a tradition we will continue for years to come.  I'd love to hear from you if you try this at home and what menus your kids come up with!