Chicken and Clams

Nothing goes together like chicken and clams.  Nevermind…

Surf and turf they call it.  Long associated with stained red lobster claws and tails, a hunk of juicy aged steak butter and potatoes.  Nothing says steak house like good ol’ drawn butter a bib and meat.   I like the flavor that clams and other seafood creatures lend to land critters when thrown together in a pot.  Just when I thought I was cooking for two, I then found out that I would be welcoming a third, so I decided to head down to my local seafood monger and bought some clams.   As I tasted the broth I knew that clams would be a great addition, not only would it stretch my meal but it would also give the braise additional broth when the clams open.

There is a heavy Italian influence here.  The kitchen staples to work, aromatics to start with and creating an inviting and aromatic dish.  This recipe allows the avid home cook to gain access to cooking a basic and delicious nonchalant dinner.  From this simple dish you can add olives, lemons, different meats,  different herbs.  Allow yourself to experiment with other root vegetables, as well as spices,  as well as using canned verses fresh tomatoes.

The marjoram and fresh herbs in this dish as well as the freshness of the tiny plum tomatoes sweeten and freshen the braise.  Instead of a braise it becomes a juicy stew, and thus is lighter than a thick and unctuous sauce.   Served over rice, or over pasta, maybe cous-cous, and even polenta it creates a delicious dinner for a mildly breezy summer night.

My pantry needs, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Lemons, Onions, Garlic, eggs, herbs, and canned tomatoes.  If I have that I can make and create a dinner in no time.  .

Chicken and Clam Stew w/Plum Tomatoes and Herbs over fresh Tagliarini
Serves 2-4
 
3-4 Chicken Legs
12-16 Manila Clams
1 C. Red Wine
1/4 C. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Medium Yellow Onion
1 C. Carrots
3 Cloves Garlic
1 T Each – Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme
Capers
1 1/2 C. Plum or Cherry Tomatoes
Olive Oil 
Salt 
 
You will need a pot that could go from stovetop to oven.   Salt and pepper chicken, let sit, pay dry.  Heat pan, add Olive Oil.  Add chicken and brown well.  
Remove chicken when skin side is well seared and browned.  Remove some fat from pan.  Add a bit more olive oil, and add onions and garlic and salt.  After about 4 minutes, add red wine, vinegar scrape pan.  Add herbs, carrots, tomatoes and 1 C. of water-cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes till tomatoes blister and pop.   Assist the popping by puncturing the tomatoes with a fork if needed.  Add Chicken, capers continue to cook for another 20 in a 375° oven. Take out of oven and add clams, place back into oven for another 10 min or so just enough until the clams pop open.  
 
Place atop fresh pasta and drizzle with some young olive oil. Yum.
 
 
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Bright

Continuing from the last post lets introduce 3 recipes from adventures in my kitchen that will brighten up any day or evening light. Citrus- the last post was originally only about the color orange but, how can you think of that color without thinking about the bulbuous, plump and fragrant fruits? Also included are 2 savory recipes.

Heres an introduction to a few ingredients; Baccalla, Mandarinquats, and Limequats, some otherworldly items that some of you might not have seen or even heard of before. Baccala is a magnificent piece of fileted cod that is heavily salted and preserved fully dried. It can be quite smelly however when soaked, the flavor is delicate and the flesh quite hearty. During the soaking process I completely submerge the fish in water and periodically change the water, and surprisingly the fishy aroma is close to nonexistent.

The mandarinquat is a hybrid of a mandarin and a kumquat and yes you can eat these whole! They look like a rotund little gourd, their skins resembling a satsuma and flavor resembling the kumquat and mandarin. The limequat is another miracle. It is a wonderous little yellow thin skinned kumquat shaped hybrid of a lime and a kumquat, it’s tart sweet with a hint of lime. Both crossbreeds have a super sour flesh, a sweetly lined and fragrant shell, and both are edible whole.

As a little girl my mother would saute up tomatoes, garlic and onions – simple, and delicious- sweet sugar and tangy vinegar tingled my nostrils as they simmered together. I remember whole fish coming out of the oven – still steaming with their skins still intact, the crispy brown and golden skin just looked so magical. Still hot, she then spooned this sauce over the fish. This sauce- this delicious well balanced sauce has wonderful layers of sweet and sour – the savory aromas that filled the air are still so hypnotizing. Here is my rendition of it. This dish translates to sweet and sour salt cod.

Sweet and sour doesn’t sound as appealing, but when I add a bit of european flair to the name it somewhat gives it more elegance. In my research I also found that this recipe is very similar to other Roman recipes which also include the sweet and sour elements.

And Salt cod – my beloved baccala- if you can get ahold of this pantry item be sure to adore it as much as I do. A friend of mine named Morgan Scholfield made the best croquettes while I was in New York. They were rich and creamy and salty -an addictive quality with its crisp fried exterior and ultra creamy interior. I am still salivating. Baccala is great when certain fresh white fleshed fish would not fare well to this type of stew, because of the cooking time.

Baccala in Agrodolce

1/3 lb. Baccala (Salt Cod) soaked and rinsed about 2+ days
1 Medium Onion – Cut into Coins about 1/4 inch think
2 C. Yukon Gold Potatoes or German Butterball – Unevenly cut into large chunks about the same size as the Salt cod. (*as the potatoes break down in the sauce it is important that they are irregularly cut enough to cream the sauce yet some remaining intact.)
2 C. Diced Tomatoes
2 T. Garlic – Sliced
1 C. Orange Juice
1/8 C. Sugar
1/4 C. White Wine
1/4 C. Red Wine or Champagne Vinegar
2 T. Hungarian Paprika
1 T. Pimente D’espelette
Salt
Pepper
*May I highly suggest a enameled cast iron pot for this dish or a beautiful earthenware pot because the dish needs to go from stove top to oven.
Sweat onions and garlic with both spices, and 1 tsp. salt- sweat till onions are soft 8 minutes-add sugar. Add Potatoes, toss well. Add 1/2 the white wine, orange juice and vinegar. Simmer for 20 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 375º.
Cut baccala into 1 inch cubes. Lightly dredge your baccala in flour. Bring separate pan to temp and add olive oil- lightly brown. Add baccala to pot of simmering sauce. – DE-glaze pan with the rest of the white wine and add to pot. Season to taste. Simmer in oven covered for an additional 20-30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and eat with crusty bread.

Fennel and Parsley Salad w/ Limequats and Red Onions.

2 C. Shaved Fennel
1 C. Flat Leaf Parsley- picked- leaves and very little stem.
1 C. Red Onion – Thinly sliced
1/2 C. Limequats -de-seeded Sliced in coins –
Scant 1/4 C. Champagne Vinegar
Salt
Olive Oil – Fresh pressed is best for this recipe
Thinly slice and de-seed your Limequats. Thinly slice the red onion. Place ingredients into a bowl. Add Salt to taste, Champagne vinegar and 2 T. of Olive Oil. Add shaved fennel coat well and toss with more olive oil about 1/4 C.
Add Parsley and toss. Goes well with EVERYTHING – would pair well with fresh mozzarella or fresh ricotta as well as most meats.

Mandarinquat Marmalade

3 C. Mandarinquats – de-seeded, and sliced into thin coins
2 C. Cane Sugar
2 C. Water
Combine water and Sugar till syrup dissolves. Place fruit into syrup and bring to boil reduce heat. Let sit overnight to cool. Cook – simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes occasionally stirring to make sure that the fruit does not stick at the bottom. Reduce and watch carefully. You can put a few spoons in the freezer to test if the batch will gel, but I usually eyeball my jams and make sure that the consistency is to a very well at a half reduced stage. There is so much pectin in the citrus that natural reduction will ensure a properly thick jam. Of course you can also put a spoon in the freezer and test if the gelling of your marmalade or jam is to your liking.
For my home recipe I introduced 2 blood-red oranges sliced thinly which yielded me about 1.5 cups to my 2 Cups of Limequats. The result was beautiful the saturated red and orange were beautiful as the taste was explosive and bright, the flesh of the blood orange worked really well with the delicate mandarinquat. To keep he integrity and freshness of the fruit I do not fuss much with my jams and preserves.

Rosemary Fried Chicken with Orange Marmelade Glaze.

For the chicken:
4-6 Chicken Thighs – Deboned
1 Sprig Rosemary – minced
2 C. Buttermilk
Salt
Pepper
2 C. Peanut Oil
Dredging Flour:
2 C. A.P Flour
1 T. Smoked Paprika
Salt
Pepper
For the Glaze:
1/2 C. Orange marmalade or any type of Citrus marmalade.
Juice of Half an orange
1/4 C. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 T. Chili Flakes
1/4 C. Shallots
Salt
Olive Oil
Saute Shallots in Olive oil till shallots become translucent add 1/4 tsp of salt. Add Chili flakes, apple cider, orange juice and marmalade. Reduce till thicken (this won’t take long because the pectin from the marmalade is already so thick that you just really want to merge the acidity from the vinegar into the jam – with a bit of the liquid cooking off)
Pat Chicken Thighs Dry and Lay Flat – Season Liberally with salt pepper and rosemary. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Because the chicken is de-boned you have lessened the time that it takes to fully season the meat, and that every nook and cranny will be well seasoned
In a flat baking dish or pan pour your buttermilk into the vessel and place thigh meat into buttermilk. Let soak for another 30. Meanwhile, make the dredging flour – Incorporate all ingredients together – Flour, Paprika, Salt, Pepper.
-Chicken- Shake off excess buttermilk and place in flour covering both sides- for thicker coating do two times.
Let sit for another 30 minutes for the flour and buttermilk to become a batter instead of the two separate ingredients. It also yields a crisper and more uniform dredging for the home cook. Or, if you are impatient thats fine too go ahead and fry but you can definitely see a difference. Heat oil heavy cast iron skillet – you know when the oil is ready when you sprinkle a little flour into your pan and it rapidly bubbles. If the oil is too hot that flour will also burn. Cook till crisp, golden and brown on both sides. Immediately drizzle with sauce.

Bloom

I do this thing…

I have had a few interviews…

So I do this thing when the interviewer asks me why do I cook and I begin to tell my story… my throat starts to tense up – my voice starts to  shake –  shivers and a slight tremble of excitement trickle throughout  my posture leans forward and my eyes start to water and words get elongated.  It’s a bit of a trance.  It always frustrates me and I feel completely crazy when I do this but I just can’t help it.  I love cooking.  As a small child my earliest memories were food related. Running through the park with a carton of Donald Duck orange juice, as a todder there was a story of me walking out of a grocery store with cookies and ice cream unpaid for, my mother had to run back in. Baking cakes from a Betty Crocker box, squatting down on the kitchen floor helping my mother pick herbs and other greens, cutting up chicken livers next to my Hello Kitty Stickers.

I always wanted to cook, it lasted into Elementary school into my teenage years into college into well…now.   It fell into my lap but I had to make it happen and I just let it.  Now how am I gonna make a living outta this?

The other night a girlfriend and I (the beautiful Mia) had a farewell dinner at Zuni Cafe.  We sat down ordered wine and I left her at the table for moment to rush down to greet the kitchen crew.   I felt an instant rush of nostalgia and I knew that I would be missing all the people in this kitchen.  We were of course like some sort of family and a team!  Not to mention some of the nicest people whom I have met.

I stepped down to see another cook getting trained on the station where I work, and felt a bit of sadness as I knew that I was easily replaced. Feelings of separation really hit.   However, no ill feelings.  We…I just gotta go.  However, I have gained a slew of passionate and driven cooks that I can now call my friends.  I said my hello’s and went back upstairs to continue to my dinner.

I glanced down into the kitchen.  Our table overlooked the oven and the grill as well as the rest of the downstairs dining room. No regrets. It was magical.  I was able to sit and have a bottle of wine with her enjoying our delicious meal.  The meal as well as atmosphere really solidified why I loved working there.  Even the times well when…nevermind.

Photo: Daniel Dent

But what kept me there?  What inspired me? Learning…and maybe it was the freshness and quality of the produce and ingredients that peaked my interest.  Maybe it was the dedicated few that lasted beyond my comprehension.  Maybe it was Judy who constantly walked through the kitchen – hers,  a look of concentration – with the folds of her forehead working with her eyes to portray the inner workings of her mind- every –single– detail from food to dust thoroughly examined over relentlessly.   I’ve worked the station watching her trying to extract what I can from her unyielding quest for high quality and standards.

Maybe it was my naïve / romantic notion of what cooking  gives someone when they button up that white jacket, “CHEF”, but like I said, a person learns how easily they can lose patience and in the same moment gain patience.   The good bad and everything in between.

My palate grew, my cooking evolved, I developed more ideas, and I am inspired to do more.  Whatever happened it’s happening and will continue…is this too much? Stop me now.

Roasted Poblano Peppers Stuffed w/ Chicken Shrimp and Black Trumpets- w/ Braised Chayote

4 Large Poblano Peppers
1/2 lb of Ground Chicken
4-6 Medium sized Tiger Shrimp – Pounded to a Chunky Paste
1/2 C. Fine Diced Yellow Onion
1/2 C. Shredded Carrot
1/2 Chopped Black Trumpets
1/4 C. Roughly Chopped Cilantro
1 Leek Sliced at a Bias 1/2 Inch think
1/2 C. Cubed Chayote
1 C. Chicken Stock
1 Serranno Chili
1/4 C. White Wine
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 T. salt
1 tsp. Vietnamese Anchovy Sauce (you can omit this)
10 Grinds of Black Pepper
Prep:  Place in a bowl the chicken meat -Using the side of a heavy knife pound down and out on the shrimp – then roughly and carefully seperate the shrimp by going over once or twice with your knife. Be careful of the knife slipping.
Clean and grate a carrot – Fine dice a yellow onion – Roughly chop the Cilantro- Roughly chop the Black Trumpets- COMBINE Salt – sugar and the above ingredients in the same bowl as the chicken – mix well.
De-vein the poblanos by first cutting off the top.  Remove seeds and veins- Do the same with the Serranno and fine dice Peel and cut the Chayote to 1/2 inch cubes-  Clean and Cut the leeks into 1/2 inch slight biased cuts. Carefully fill cavity of with mixture – Heat up a pan , add olive oil – Carefully add poblanos and pan char. Remove.
Add leeks to give slight color, deglaze with white wine – add chicken stock- turn heat down- add Serrano & fish sauce &  Chayote. Season w/ salt.
Add the ingredients from the sauté pan into the roasting pan.  Place the stuffed poblanos on top.  Set Oven to 375° bake for 30 Minutes.  Finish with A good douse of Olive Oil.   When Serving slice on a bias and pour juices and ingredients from pan on top.

Cooking shenanigans will continue…

This Little Turkey..

Photo: Daniel Dent

I was off my feet for at least 2 weeks due to some foot issues and I can say that it has handsomely made me rate my time on the line and the look into the possibilities that await a cook.  This Little Turkey needs to slow down…

We spent the weekend out in Bodega Bay at a friends vacation rental and even though I wasn’t supposed to stand on my feet I just had to cook.  Sometimes I think that cooking is the only ability that I have to connect with another human being.  It really does consume my thoughts.  So as usual Holiday fare included a turkey; which was actually a roulade  of one butterflied breast rolled with a de-boned thigh, seasoned with Dijon mustard, rosemary, thyme, Apple Butter salt and pepper.   YUM.  The dinner wasn’t complete without the usual suspects of stuffing, and other sides from sweet potatoes, sautéed Lacinato Kale, roasted potatoes, and a stuffing.  The recipe for the the Kale was simply the same recipe from this post of Slow Cooked Greens w/ Apples and Bacon from Dec 2009.

Thanksgiving came up at just the right time.  The Autumn weather changes ever so slightly as we make our move into the winter, gloves seem to appear, parkas are strategically placed as if strewn messily on the couch, the smell of parsnips and turkey in the air, cloves and other Fall/Winter spices permeate the kitchen, the atmosphere around us changes as light goes into hibernation.  Colors of orange, browns, muted colors…the sights and sounds of each season are quite distinct, and of course this would not be a food blog without the mention of the flavors that enliven ones senses during this holiday season.

For me, it’s the taste of turkey,  gravy, sweet potatoes, foods that are rich, hearty or that have the ability to soothe and comfort someones Winter cravings.  OH AND SAGE!! How did I forget.  I just love Sage.  It is soft, smells so sweet and earthy and is such a subtle yet meaty herb.

Today I have two recipes that I would like to share with you.  One is a delicious Smashed Sweet Potato side dish and another is an overwhelmingly delicious Root Vegetable soup made with an exciting flavorful Turkey stock.

Sweet Potato Smash with Browned Butter Pecans and Sage.

4 Medium Sized Sweet Potatoes  or 8 Cups of Sweet potatoes.
1/4 C. Of Sage
1 C. Pecans
1/2 C. Butter
3/4 C. Buttermilk
3/4 C. Brown Sugar
Salt
Pepper

Boil the Potatoes as you would regular potatoes for mashed potatoes.  Until they are fork tender.  Chiffonade your sage, but give it a bit of width (not too skinny). Roughly chop your Pecans.

When sweet potatoes are finished cooking, drain. In a separate pot or pan, turn heat to medium.  Add your butter and melt, then continue to add your sage and pecans till the smells bloom into the air.

Add your potatoes into a bowl and begin to mash w/ a potato masher (if tender enough even a fork will work it just takes a bit more effort).  Add heavy cream, 1/2 T Salt and Pepper, the Brown Sugar and the Pecan/butter/Sage mixture.  Incorporate all ingredients and set in a casserole. Be sure to not smooth out the top and just lightly make pockets for the next step.

Add about 1/2 C. of Heavy cream on the top allowing the cream to flow into the basins of mashed sweet potatoes.  Add a nice sprinkle of brown sugar.  Bake till top is golden.

Photo: Daniel Dent
AUTUMN VEGETABLE SOUP
For the Stock:
3 Fresh Bay Leaves
1 Onion
1 Carrot
Carcass of 1 Turkey.  (Here I used the uncooked  cavity f a 16 lb Turkey; including 2 wings, 1 neck and 1 bone from a de-boned thigh.)
Place ingredients into a stock pot. Cover with water.  Turn on to Boil.  Skim off what comes to the surface.  Turn off and set to a low simmer and cook for 3- 7 hours.
I like to cook my stock until the bones and completely collapsed and the gelatin in the joints become ultra soft and gooey. Doing so ensures that all the flavors within the meat and bones will be released.
After the allotted time allow stock to cool slightly and strain.  I like to use a bit of Cheesecloth as well as a strainer,  making sure that my stock is a clean liquid w/out the chunks.
For the Soup:
6 C. Stock
Photo: Daniel Dent
3/4 C. Celery Root
3/4. Parsnip
3/4 Carrots
1 C. Butternut Squash
1 C. Onion
1 Shallot
2 T. Chives
2 T. Sage
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper
Cut all root vegetables into 1/2 inch dices.  Except for the carrot,  I like to roll cut my carrots into similar sized cuts. Roll Cutting means that as you cut your carrot you are “rolling” it about a 1/4 of the way around then cutting to ever so slightly to obtain each rustic cut. When this is done.
Add Olive Oil  a pan that has been heated to medium and begin to sweat onions.
Add all the root vegetables and toss till onions are thoroughly tossed through.  Add Stock (cover to about 1-2 inches of stock) and continue to cook from medium heat to simmer. 40 Minutes.  At the last-minute season with the Salt and pepper,  Add the Chives and Sage.  Serve.  Enjoy.

You can use also purée this soup to make it into a smooth soup, but I like my soups chunky but still really rich with the stock.  If you do purée just remember to add the herbs after you have your desired smoothness or consistency.

AND IF YOU ARE STILL Reading and wondering what happened to the rest of the turkey we roasted and made the other breast into roasted turkey for sandwiches.  Which I highly seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning, and Fresh Rosemary and loads of Cracked Black Pepper.

AND IF YOU ARE STILL reading this…please feel free to pass this blog along to your friends and family.  I would really love to get more responses as well as to know who my readers are.  Thank you ♥

Baby Blue…

Baby blue I don’t know what to do…

It’s late. I just got of work…tonight: Salmon and Pork Chops.  I still feel the bits of charcoal on my face…as if it were unnecessary speckles and chunks of un-crushed blush and bread crumbs on my skin.  Work has become an internal struggle…I started this profession later but not so much later in my life, and as my early 30’s begin to creep on closer and closer I wonder what are my options as a cook.  Burns, knicks and cuts…I really just love cooking.

I still need a shower.

I just can’t stop listening to Ms. Martina Topley Bird.  I love her voice, her sensual soft feminine voice.  Tonight as I worked I hummed Ms. Bird…I kept my sanity on the line.  Good thing it wasn’t TOOO busy.

&

Overall..I like this journey…

My spark was really reignited when I got to work with a friend and food loving chef (culinaryknitting.blogspot.com).  Valerie made a really amazing chicken leg that was deboned and stuffed with Red Russian Kale and Shitake Mushrooms in a Puntanescan style tomato sauce…Here was this week’s Menu.

Menu For this Monday:

Meal 1:
Side: Spiced Fall Butternut Squash Soup simmered with Yogurt.
Entree: Lamb Cooked in a Green Zebra Stripe Tomato Sauce w/ Onions Salt Cured Olives, and Whey.
Meal 2:
Side: sautéed Brussel Sprouts w/Heirloom Carrot, Shallots and White wine
Entree: Chicken Leg Stuffed with Red Russian Kale and Shitake Mushrooms: Atop a Simmered Stew of Tomatoes, Preserved Lemons, Olives, Currants and Fingerling Potatoes
Meal 3:
Side: Spicy Vietnamese Style Slaw: W. Savoy Cabbage, Persimmon, Asian Pear and Fresh Herbs.
Entree: Vietnamese Style Fish Porridge Topped with Purslane, Wild Prawns Braised w/Garlic & Black Pepper.
Meal 4:
Side: Saute of Turnips, Carrots, Sweet Corn, And Baby Broccolli w/ Cumin and Coriander.
Entree: Slow Cooked Sea Bream Cooked with a Spiced Apple Butter.

Sardines!

In homage to my new haircut and the crisp seas I’d like to try out a new and delicious fish dish that is O so easy to prepare withno fuss ingredients.

So lets start by admitting that everyone  absolutely loves small flavorful plates! Tapas style plates are delicious smaller morsels of food that are easily shared and enjoyed by a party of friends.

The idea for this flavor combustion of ingredients came from my experience as a little girl eating tin cans of sardines in a tomato sauce with lots of black pepper with translucent slivers of onions and aromatic garlic.  The oily and meaty Sardine can be a hard thing for people to consider eating, especially canned ones.  Good sardines can give a lively yet flavorful bounty of fish flavor without the horrible smell or taste so often associated with overripe fish. They aren’t bad, in fact they smell and taste rather clean and not very salty.  It’s a great item to have in your pantry.  I love them!  This became an extremely quick-lunch today. I served this along some long slivers of sweet carrots and fennel tossed simply with olive oil and a bit of sea salt, it was a perfect and extremely tasty meal for 2.  Can serve 3-4 as an appetizer.

Sardine in salsa di pomodori con i fagioli bianchi e le erbe (Translates into Sardines with tomatoes and white beans with herbs)

1 Tin Can Sardines packed in Olive Oil  (drained)
1/2 Yellow Onion (sliced in wedges along the grain 1/3 of an inch thick.)
2 med cloves garlic
1 T Parsley chopped
5 medium leaves of Basil (rough chopped)
2 round slices from a lemon
Toasted rustic loaf slices
1/2 can white beans
1/2 cup white wine
2 med tomatoes (roughly diced)
7-8 Kalamata olives (pitted and rough chopped)
1 tsp.Cayenne
1 tsp. Paprika
salt
pepper
Olive Oil

Directions:

Heat up pan on high and sweat the onions and garlic 3-4 minutes turn down heat to medium.  Add the tomatoes, the cayenne and paprika.  Add the white wine and simmer.

Add 1/2 a cup of water.  Add your drained sardines and olives.  Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the lemon and simmer for 10 minutes then add beans. Do not over stir, just to heat beans through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Softly simmer for another 6-8 minutes.  Toast some nice 1/2″ slices of a rustic white bread.  Lay bread nicely on a platter and douse with a flavorful olive oil.  Pour the Sardines and tomato sauce over the bread and sprinkle with the rough chopped herbs.  You can remove the large rounds or coins of lemons but its nice to see them on the plate. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.

I can already tell that Sardines will continue to be a part of my diet for years to come.  This version is a bit of a change from the childhood sardines that I am normally used to.  I incorporated the creamy body of the beans along the savory zing of the olives and lemons for a bit of brightness.

I remember one lovely afternoon while watching the waves while all bundled up at the beach, my pastry chef reintroduced me to those wonderful meaty chunks reminding me how lovely preserved items can be.

And one of my all time favorite songs!

Sharpest pencil in the box…

Last year I officially bought my first 8 inch chef’s knife.  It was beautiful.  I was walking hazily through downtown and strolled into a cutlery shop by a French soul food house and had an impulse to buy my first real knife for my first real kitchen gig. $120 later I had purchased my first knife. I had purchased a WU, I had never heard of the name before, but felt a sudden connection with the shiny sharp object.

Cayenne and Cumin

A chef told me a story about how Samurai’s never picked their swords, instead the swords picked them.  Same story with chefs, and how when you grip a knife you will immediately know “the one” he said.  One after another I softly yet firmly wrapped my 5 fingers around the many handles.  I envisioned  what the perfect knife would grip like, chop like, slice like, and dice like within my grasp.  Really…really when I held on to that light wooden handle I knew that this would be my knife…THE KNIFE.   It was perfect.  The weight,  the way my hand gripped the handle, along with the beautiful Japanese aesthetic mixed with the western rocking motion of a knife.  I carried it with me in its box nearly everywhere I went in my black leather purse.

In the next couple of months  I learned that having an extremely sharp knife is completely addictive, not to mention useful and essential. I learned to love to slice green onions, celery and just about anything in my grasp.  My favorite is probably hearing the crisp and smooth crackle of cutting through the skin and flesh of certain vegetables and nuts.

So I continue to cook.

The other day Daniel asked me if I could think of an idea for him to bring to a work potluck…CHILI I exclaimed.  It’s pretty hearty and delicious and very easy.  SO here it is… MY RECIPE!!

Hearty Stout Chili’

This Chili is great because it packs the right amount of heat and has a great spice medley that works with the bold and rich quality of the meat and stout.  It’s texture is not too soupy but also not too thick but is also extremely hearty…just right in my book.

2 lbs Ground Chuck
1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bottle of Guinness or hearty Stout
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 Can tomato paste
2 cans Kidney beans
6-7 leaves of Fresh Sage
3 T. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 /4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 T Salt (adjust as needed)
Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil

SPICE MIXTURE
A. 1 T Cumin
B. 1 T Smoked Paprika
C. 1 T Chili Powder
D. 1 T Cayenne

Prep: Dice onions to ¼ inch dices.  Rough chop garlic.
With a pot at medium heat add Olive oil when oil is rippled and heated through begin to add the aromatics: onions and garlic, let the onions sweat a bit till slightly translucent.  Add ground beef and roughly break apart (Do not aggressively break down the meat because as it cooks it will break down itself.).  Brown beef slightly and add all of the spice mixture and let it bloom.
After 5-10 minutes and sides are slightly browned and caramelized add the bottle of stout.  Bring to boil and add enough water to cover aforementioned ingredients about ¾ of an inch.
Now add the tomato paste, the can of crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, the 3 Tablespoons of Apple Cider vinegar and brown sugar.  Bring to boil turn down heat and let simmer.  30-40 minutes.
Chiffonade the Sage leaves and roughly chop those into smaller pieces.   Stir this to the Chili before serving.

I really like this recipe so enjoy.