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

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.


March 13, 2008

Some cooks bake gingerbread just for the smell! SAM

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan on the bottom only and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the sugar, butter, water, molasses, and egg. Stir just to blend and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
Makes 9 servings.

Adapted from Emily’s cookbook All-American Comfort Food.

Lentils with Italian Sausage

January 17, 2008

A very simple lentil dish with all the punch of New Orleans Red Beans and Rice. This one, though, is lentils, which have more protein than beef, and sausage, a fine and tasty indulgence. Enjoy! SAM

2 1/2 cups dried green or gray lentils
4 1/2 cups water
3 medium onions, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
4 small waxy potatoes, quartered
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, cooked and cut into 2-inch pieces

Rinse the lentils, place them in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, and cover them with water. Add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer. Add the potatoes and sausage. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Makes 8 servings.

Sour Cream Spice Cake

January 12, 2008

An easy loaf cake full of spice and zest. It’s really lovely. SAM

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream (1 cup)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Lemon Butter Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degreesF. Grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamon, and allspice. Stir in the orange and lemon zest. With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Beating at a low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Remove the beaters and stir in the walnuts by hand. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on the wire rack. Ice with Lemon Butter Icing.
Makes 8 servings.

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Chives

January 11, 2008

Many foods get better with double cooking, refried beans, for instance, and biscotti. But Twice-Baked Potatoes are my favorite! They’re so creamy and smooth and warm. The perfect comfort food! SAM

PS Michael’s photo? It’s a chive blossom.

2 large baking potatoes
Olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried or fresh snipped chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Rub the potatoes thoroughly with oil, place on the oven rack, and bake at 400 degrees F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. Cut off the top of each potato lengthwise and scoop out the insides, leaving 1/4 inch shell against the skin. Press the insides through a potato ricer into a small bowl or beat with an electric mixer, and add the butter, ricotta, cream, bread crumbs, chives, parsley, paprika, 1 tablespoon Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
Stuff the potato mixture into the empty shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon Parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees for an additional 20 minutes.
Makes 2 servings.