Chili. Smoky, savory, hot peppery…or not…your call.

I told you about our butcher who smokes his own meats in my recipe for Smoked Balsamic & Rosemary Pork Chops, well, here comes another recipe that uses both his smoked andouille sausage and his ground beef/pork blend.  Of course, any recipe can be made with meat that is not smoked and will be just fine, but if you like the added depth of flavor that smoking brings, these recipes are for you.chili2

Now chili is one of my favorite things to make, for oh-so-many-reasons.  Let me count the ways….Chili … (1) can be made a thousand different ways and still be great, seriously, at least, a thousand; (2) is a fantastic it’s-time-to-clean-out-the-refrigerator-and-pantry dish; (3) it freezes for a convenient ready-made meal; (4) it’s relatively healthy; and (5) it can be served with almost any starch: potatoes, rice, pasta, polenta, fries, tortilla chips, crackers, bread,  whatever you have!

With reason #’s 2 and 3 above in mind, here is my ingredient list for this smoked chili.  Watch for cook notes and remember above all else, this chili recipe is more about technique than it is the individual ingredients.  The “how it’s done” does matter.  So I will try to explain the whys and I’ll make ingredient suggestions/substitutions along the way.

OH – and beans really are optional, but I happen to like them.  I used black beans in this recipe but feel free to mix it up with Kidney beans, cannelloni beans, garbanzo beans, whatever you like is perfect.

Ingredients (optional ingredients in italics)

2 lbs. ground beef/pork mix

1 lb. smoked andouille sausage, casing removed,  chopped

29 oz. can of tomato puree

14.5 oz. can of petite cut diced tomatoes

1 large cooking onion

1 green bell pepper

1/3 c. Balsamic Vinegar

8 garlic cloves, chopped

3-5 dried chiles of your choice, depending on how hot you like your chili.  I used 3 Thai red and 2 ancho chiles. ***See preparation instructions below.

2 Tbsp. chili powder

2 Tbsp. cumin (more or less to taste)

2 Tbsp. Better Than Boullion (or your favorite brand) Beef Base (I suggest this brand to keep the dish gluten free)

2-4 Tbsp. Agave Syrup (to taste)

1/2 c. frozen corn (or fresh, if it’s in season)

1 lime

2 cans of black beans,  drained and rinsed, or whatever kind of bean you like/have in your pantry.  Of course, some folks don’t like beans in their chili so this is optional.  I think they add nice body and are a great protein source, so mine has lots of beans.  And I like them.  Oh, I might have mentioned that already.

Toppings, Mix/Match & Optional, but highly  Suggested!

Sour Cream

Cilantro, chopped

Fresh jalapeno

Cheddar or Colby Jack Cheese, shredded

Scallions, chopped

The Dance, I mean, Instructions

If you have a Dutch oven, I suggest using it.  I use my 6-quart for this recipe and if I had a bigger one, I must might us that instead.

  1.  Heat your Dutch oven over medium heat and allow it to fully come to temperature.  Add your ground meat and let it cook, stirring often.  I do not add oil as I don’t want oil in my finished chili.  Letting the meat cook in its own fat avoids the need, but keep the temperature at medium or medium low.  You want to cook, but not crisp-brown, the meat. NOTE:  If your meat begins to brown too quickly, give it a good stir and add about 1/4 c. of water, stir again, cover and let it steam for a few minutes.  The water will evaporate out over time and cause no harm whatsoever.
  2. While the meat is cooking, heat your oven to 250 degrees and put the dried chile peppers, if using, on a metal pie plate and roast for 5-6 minutes.  Remove from over, put in warm water and allow to soak for 10 minutes.  Remove stems and seeds, chop and set aside until you reach step 6.
  3. When the meat is fully cooked through, add the balsamic vinegar, stir, and allow it to cook until there is no more liquid in the pot, maybe 7-10 minutes or so.  Sounds odd, yes, but it gives a hint of sweetness while not imparting any vinegar flavor to the final chili.  Trust me.  Add the beef bouillon.  Stir.
  4. Remove the casing from the andouille sausage and chop it.  Add it to the meat, stir, remove from the pot and cover.  Do not drain the fat.
  5. Add the chopped onion and green pepper to the pot and allow to cook only until it begins to soften.
  6. Add the garlic and the chile peppers (if using) and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Do not brown or burn the garlic, it will make your chili bitter.
  7. Return the meat to the pan, stir to incorporate the vegetables with the meat, and sprinkle with the chili powder and cumin.  Stir and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add both cans of tomatoes.  Stir, cover with a lid, reduce heat to a very low simmer and allow to slowly cook for 2 hours, or more if you’re busy.  No harm will be done.
  9. Drain and rinse the beans, add to the chili when it is finished simmering, along with the corn and the juice from 1 lime.  Stir, cover and allow to rest for a few hours.
  10. Done.  Freeze some, enjoy some, give a little to the neighbors, whatever.  You have a great pot of chili.
  11. Top with any combination of the following:  Sour cream, cilantro, shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese, sliced jalapenos, more lime, scallions, tortilla chips….whatever you like.

 

 

Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion Bisque with Creme Fraiche and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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My favorite time of the year for cooking and eating is Autumn.  Our gardens have produced their crops and the fall gourds are in season.  This recipe combines sweet butternut squash, the crisp tart-sweet apple and onion into a rich creamy – and quick – soup that can be ready for the table with relative ease and only about 15 minutes of prep time.  Top with a bit of Creme Fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds, sit out on your lawn and enjoy it while watching the crisp leaves fall from the brightly colored fall trees.

Ingredients

2 packages of pre-cut butter nut squash, about 3-3.5 pounds total at room temperature

2 apples of your choice – I like Cortland in this recipe, cored, peeled and rough chopped

1 small cooking onion, chopped

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

2″ fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 1/2 c. apple cider (or a cider beer)

2 1/2 c. chicken stock

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 c. heavy cream

1/2 c. pumpkin seeds

1 Tbsp pumpkin seed oil

Kosher Salt

Fresh Cracked Pepper

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 2 Tbsp. of butter.  Place the cut butternut squash in a large bowl, pour 2 tbsp. of butter over the squash and mix.  It is important that the squash is at room temperature, if the squash is cold, the butter will not coat it properly.  Place the butter coated squash on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 1 hour or until fork-tender.  Remove from oven and reserve.

In a heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  As soon as the butter is melted, add the onion and ginger and gently cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the apple and cook until the apple is thoroughly warmed and the ingredients have combined, another 3 minutes.  Add the roasted butternut squash and the apple cider or cider beer and bring to a simmer.   Add chicken stock and again bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender, put it in the pot and thoroughly blend all of the ingredients right in the pot.  Add the cream and stir to incorporate.  Salt and Pepper to taste.

To serve, top the soup with Creme Fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds.

TO ROAST THE PUMPKIN SEEDS

Heat oven to 250 degrees

In a small bowl, combine the seeds with the pumpkin seed oil.

Spread the oil coated seeds on a parchment lined baking sheet and salt with Kosher salt – give the space to roast, no crowding please.

Roast for 15-20 minutes or until you begin to smell the seeds and they dry a bit in the oven.

Remove and enjoy.  Store in a jar with a paper towel on the bottom to keep the seeds fresh.