But still, there we will be, with children too small to yet hunt, forage and gather for themselves, perpetually wanting to eat, particularly around dinner time, day after day after day.
Although mine are not.
At first I could not remember what I cooked for dinner last week, except for a pot roast which reappeared in various forms. Slowly it came back to me. It was a very beefy week. Sunday was the pot roast with potatoes, onions, carrots and butternut squash. Monday was avgolemono soup with pita bread. There was supposed to have been a Greek salad that didn’t happen. Tuesday was a last minute switch to blueberry pancakes, bacon and bananas after I waited too late to get started. Wednesday was smothered cube steak with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. Thursday was roast beef po’boys with an avocado salad. Friday was leftovers. Not too shabby, especially considering that I have a ton of freelance work, a paper almost ready to submit, and managed to exercise five out of those six days.
This week we should eat less beef, but I making a big pot of chili today (the first of the season!) and planning to serve it over cheese enchiladas later in the week. I haven’t tried any new recipes in a while — this Thai Butternut Squash Soup sounds really good. I’ll likely pick up some chicken sate from the Thai restaurant by my office to go with it. I’ve been craving Indian food and we could use some fish in our diet. I just order a pricey bottle of Bengali Five Spice (times like this I love Amazon Prime) which should arrive on Wednesday so I can make this Bengali-style Fish Stew. I would dearly love to know how to pronounce its real name — Maacher Jhol. I am guessing that at some point in the week, there will be a clamor for “American food” and I’ll be feeling lazy so we can have sliders, beans and slaw (so much for eating less beef). The child who complains most loudly gets to cook this one.
The Super Bowl is tomorrow and lots of my friends are getting all geared and up and cooking up a storm. We’re not much into football around here so if we venture out to a party it will only be for the food. I mentioned to a friend at my Celebration of Chinese New Year Dim Sum Brunch today that I had a kick-butt chili recipe. This is for you Adam.
I make a lot of different kinds of chili in the winter, but this pork chili will always be my favorite. My recipe evolved from one I found in Bon Appetit magazine many years ago — it now bears little resemblance to the original. The pork cooks to tender perfection, the gravy is just the right consistency, and the toppings of cheese, red onion, cilantro and avocado add textural contrast that is divine.
Kick Booty Pork Chili
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, 1/4 inch dice
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 pounds boneless country-style spareribs, cut into 1-inch cubes and excess fat discarded
1/3 cup masa harina
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
1/4 cup good quality chili powder
2 large jalapeño chilies, minced
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce
1 cup beef broth
2 16-ounce cans chili beans with sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine
Grated Colby-jack cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped red onions
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, using a slotted spoon.
Add the pork to the Dutch oven in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes per batch.
Add all the pork and accumulated juices back to the pot. Sprinkle with the masa harina, stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Return the onion mixture to the Dutch oven. Add the tomatoes with liquid, chili powder, jalapeños, cumin, coriander, oregano, Cholula and beef broth. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover Dutch oven and simmer until pork is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
Add the chili beans with sauce and red wine to the chili.
Simmer uncovered until the pork is tender and the chili thickens, about 45 minutes.
Adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese, cilantro, red onions and avocado.
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 2 1/2 – 3 hours
The spiciness of the chili depends on the heat in your chili powder and jalapeños. The Cholula adds flavor without adding a lot of heat.Whatever kind of chili powder (and cumin) you use, make sure it is fresh. Good quality spices can make a huge difference in flavor but standard grocery store buys are fine as long as they’ve been recently opened.
Often the jalapeños I buy at the grocery during the winter are not very hot so I use the whole jalapeño– seeds and all. Other options for bumping up the heat a bit are adding a small amount of chipotle in adobo or chipotle chili powder. Not too much! I like my chili hot and spicy but chipotle is fiery stuff. Add a little, taste, then add more if you still want more heat.
Rare snow has fallen in various places around the South today. My Facebook feed has been full of pictures of empty grocery store shelves in Columbia, South Carolina, Rhonda Faye’s weather updates from Raceland, Louisiana, and stories of friends making the best of it by scraping together enough snow for a snowball fight and sliding down hills on plastic garbage can lids. A less fortunate one tells of sliding down icy stairs and losing his glasses. Two of my favorite posts have been about “light sneaux” in south Louisiana and no snow in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina according to a friend who posted this adorable pic of his sandman. Mostly my friends are writing about being toasty and cozy at home with mugs of coffee and hot chocolate. I hope they all embrace my snow day tradition of getting out the dutch oven and filling it with something warm, delicious and comforting.
This Beef, Root Vegetable & Barley Soup is perfect for cold winter nights. I made a big pot last week when my friend Jan drove down from Philly to visit for a few days. Given her penchant for beef pot pies, I knew she’d love it. The broth has an incredibly deep, soul-soothing flavor that will warm you up and fill you with contentment. Magic stuff!
Beef, Root Vegetable & Barley Soup
4 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
8-10 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
8-10 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 medium parsnips, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 ribs celery, halved and cut into 1/4 slices
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
8 ounces Crimini mushrooms, sliced into 1/3 inch slices
1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup pearl barley
Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
Pour enough oil into a large heavy-bottom dutch oven to coat the bottom. Heat the oil until it is hot, but not smoking.
Add a single layer of meat to the pot and brown over medium heat, turning often, for 4-5 minutes. Do not add too much meat at one time or it will stew rather than brown.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the browned meat from the oil and transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat until all the meat is browned.
When the last batch is browned, add the meat back to the pot and stir in the garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until the garlic is golden.
Add 8 cups of beef stock, Worcestershire, soy sauce, pepper and thyme sprigs. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
While the meat is cooking, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the carrots, parsnips, celery and onion. Sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet, turn the heat up to high and add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside, separately from the other vegetables.
After the meat has cooked for 1 1/2 hours, add the sautéed onion, carrot, parsnips and celery along with the potato and barley. Add more beef stock if needed.
Bring to a simmer and cook until the barley and meat are tender, about 45-60 minutes. Add the sautéed mushrooms to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes more.
Cooler weather is on its way to the High Country. It is still warm enough to grill and eat on the deck, but I packed away my summer clothes tonight and have the hot tub cranked up and ready to go for the first really chilly night. And we are slowly transitioning from “summer food” to “fall food”. One of our fall favorites is this Smoked Chicken and Paprika Brunswick Stew. It goes together quickly, makes great leftovers and gets a satisfying serving of vegetables into the boys.
Smoked Chicken and PaprikaBrunswick Stew
2 cups (3/4-inch) cubed Yukon gold potato
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced yellow onion
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 cup frozen baby lima beans
3/4 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
3 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it renders some fat, then add the onions and cook until soft and just beginning to brown.
Add the potatoes, corn, lima beans, tomato sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a gentle boil.
Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the chicken, paprika, salt, red pepper and black pepper. Simmer for another15 minutes.
Taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Brunswick stew is a traditional southern dish, with both Georgia and Virginia laying claim to its origins. The only time I recall eating it growing up in Mississippi, my Delta-based grandmother Mimi prepared it with squirrel meat. I am thinking that that is the only time I’ve eaten squirrel. Smoky paprika is clearly not a traditional ingredient, but I love the flavor that it adds.
This stew is based on one published a number of years ago in Cooking Light. The biggest, and most important, difference between my version and Cooking Light’s is that I use smoked chicken. When whole chickens are on sale, weather permitting, I buy several and throw them on the smoker, then debone and freeze the meat. I’ve also moved the smoker box on to a corner of the grate and smoked the chicken on the gas grill. With smoked chicken in the freezer, I typically have all the ingredients to throw this together on hand. Corn bread muffins are the perfect side.