Chili for Fifty

February 7, 2009

So they’re all coming to your house for dinner … Don’t panic. Chili for fifty is just like chili for six—you just use more cans.

PS Chili won’t taste right at first. You have to give it time for the flavors to meld. Let it simmer for an hour; then taste it. You might want more salt, chili powder, or cumin.

¾ cup olive oil
6 large onions, finely chopped (6 cups)
6 large green bell peppers, seeded and chopped (6 cups)
¾ cup chili powder or to taste
¼ cup ground cumin
10 pounds ground beef
12 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
6 (10-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
6 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
½ cup dry sherry
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, chopped green onions for garnish

In a very large skillet or large Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the onion and bell pepper in the oil until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the beef, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the beef browns. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, sherry, and sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Garnish with sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, or chopped green onions or other chili toppings.
Makes 50 servings.

Steamed Brown Bread

February 3, 2009

When you need something to warm your heart and bones, try my sister’s brown bread. Yes, you can steam it in a soup can, and, yes, it is deliciously rich and wonderfully good for you. Slather on some cream cheese and you’ll have a sumptuous breakfast.

PS Soup-can brown bread makes a delightful gift-from-the-kitchen.

1 ½ cups white cornmeal
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup dark molasses
2 cups dark raisins
2 cups buttermilk

In a large mixing bowl, mix the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, white flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the molasses, raisins, and buttermilk. Spray one 1-quart mold and two to three 10 ¾-ounce soup cans with cooking spray. Fill all containers two-thirds full of batter. With kitchen twine, tie aluminum foil tightly around the tops. Place the mold and cans on racks in Dutch ovens. Fill the Dutch ovens with water halfway up the sides of the containers. Heat to boiling, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours 30 minutes. Add water as needed.

Carefully remove the mold and cans from the Dutch ovens. Remove the foil tops. If the bread is still wet, bake at 250 degrees F for 15 to 30 minutes. Turn out the bread to cool on a wire rack.
Makes one 1-quart mold and 2 to 3 soup cans.

From All-American Comfort Food

Sausage-Cheese Balls

February 1, 2009

Need a super-fast, last-minute snack for a super occasion—maybe like the Super Bowl? Quick! Grab some sausage and cheese and your emergency box of biscuit mix. (Admit it! Every smart cook has a box of biscuit mix tucked away in the pantry.) You’ll have the guys in the barca-loungers kissing your feet in no time!

1 pound hot bulk sausage
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
3 cups biscuit mix

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

In a hot skillet, crumble the sausage and cook until lightly browned. Drain the fat. Reduce the heat to low, add the cheese, and stir until melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the biscuit mix. Roll into 3/4-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot.
Makes 42 balls.

From All-American Comfort Food

Potato Gnocchi

January 22, 2009

Potato dough is surprisingly easy to stir together … and gnocchi are the perfect cold weather comfort food. Serve these with everything from marinara sauce to pesto to fine olive oil and feta.

1 pound new potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (2 ounces/50 grams)
1 tablespoon corn meal
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup tomato-basil sauce
grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for garnish

In a saucepan or stockpot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, cool, and peel the potatoes and put through a ricer on the smallest disk. Add the egg, flour, cornmeal, and oil and stir with a pastry fork until mixture forms a ball. Turn onto a floured surface and with a bench knife cut into quarters. Roll each quarter into a snake 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into half-inch disks. In a large stockpot or chef’s pan, bring to a boil 3 quarts of salted water. One by one, drop the gnocchi into the water. When all rise to the top, skim them off and place in a warm bowl. Toss immediately with tomato sauce and serve sprinkled with Parmesan and parsley.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Lentil Epiphany Soup

January 6, 2009

A creamy and comforting celebration in a bowl … Try to find Puy lentils or at least use small, gray or green French lentils. They are much superior to the larger, softer gray variety. Don’t use red lentils. They’re more Biblical—Esau sold his birthright for porridge made of red lentils—but red lentils dissolve entirely and lack the comforting heft of green lentils.

1 cup dried Puy lentils
3 cups cold water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds onions (2 large), thinly sliced and divided
3/4 pound new potatoes (3 medium)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water, divided
1 bay leaf tied with 4 (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup instant polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and place in a stockpot with 3 cups cold water and 1 slice onion. The onion helps the lentils hold their shape. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic.

Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the remaining onions in 1 tablespoon oil, covered, until translucent, not brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucier, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and chop roughly. Peel the potatoes if you like, but it’s not necessary.

In the chef’s pan over medium heat, combine the lentil mixture, onions, potatoes, 1 cup stock, 1 tablespoon oil, bay leaf, thyme, and sherry and bring to a simmer, uncovered.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to very low heat and cook until creamy, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir into the soup

Simmer the soup, uncovered, until creamy and reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. It tends to stick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf and thyme. Serve with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche, or cream.
Makes about 2 quarts.

Potato Cabbage Gratin

January 2, 2009

Here’s a great way to warm your family on a cold winter’s night … It’s also easy to make. You can steam the cabbage while you simmer the potatoes. Buy a firm, fresh head and sprinkle it with lemon juice before you steam it to avoid the cabbage smell.

1 pound waxy potatoes (4 medium)
1 1/2 pounds cabbage (1 1/2 head)
juice of 1 lemon
1 pound onions (2 medium large)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 ounces log chèvre
4 ounces water
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
grated whole nutmeg to taste
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

In the bottom of a 3- or 4-quart steamer pan, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Slice the cabbage into 2-inch wedges, place in the steamer basket and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes for the cabbage, 20 to 25 minutes for the potatoes. Drain, cool, and roughly chop each and set aside.

Slice the onions, thinly. In a large chef’s pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add the onions. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and sweat until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a shallow 1 1/2-quart gratin and set aside.

In a small saucier over extremely low heat, combine the chèvre, water, and bay leaf. Stir with a whisk until melted.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, cabbage, and onions. Fold in the chèvre mixture and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.  Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Turn into the prepared gratin and top with the remaining breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon oil.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until browned.
Makes 4 servings.

Vin Chaud [Hot Wine]

December 30, 2008

In France in cold weather you can order vin chaud at any café or brasserie. This spicy punch is perfect for New Year’s celebrations. Simmering the wine cooks away much of the alcohol, making it very easy to drink.

2 quarts red table wine
2 whole oranges, cleaned, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 whole lemons, cleaned, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 sticks cinnamon
12 whole cloves
1 large bay leaf
2 tablespoons honey
Whole grated nutmeg to taste

In a large chef’s pan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, combine the wine, oranges, lemons, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, and honey. Simmer for 30 minutes or longer, if desired. DO NOT BOIL. Serve hot in glasses with slices of orange and lemon garnished with freshly grated nutmeg.
Makes 16 4-ounce glasses.

TIP: To sanitize the whole oranges and lemons, scrub them with white vinegar and water.