Tag Archives: stew

Sunday Meals with Framily

I am delighted to find a way to offset the dreaded Sunday blues I have been feeling by having a “framily” dinner – a dinner with friends who are like my family.

This Sunday sadness is an odd phenomenon for me.  For many years I thought it was because on Sunday afternoon I remembered I had to go to work on Monday to a job I hated. As time passed and I changed jobs, then changed jobs again, I was in a series of long-term relationships with men who lived out of the City. Sundays meant either they left to go home, or I did, and there again leaving me feeling lonely at dinner and facing an evening of dread anticipating work.

Osso Bucco dinner

Work got better but I was always seemed to end up alone Sunday night and in my societally-programmed brain Sundays are meant to be spent with family or friends, with a well anticipated family meal capping off the weekend’s adventures with each other, or hopefully, at the minimum, the successful completion of chores that inevitably pile up. But that is not my life, and now that I am single and even without a cat roommate I find the sorrow and loneliness is sometimes overwhelming. Some Sundays I even spent watching Hallmark Channel movies and dabbing at the eyes with tissue, such a deplorable state in which to find oneself.  The Hallmark Channel!!

Last weekend however, I invited friends over for dinner and we had such a nice evening together, full of laughter, silliness and great food, even if it is a challenge to cook in my tiny kitchen astride a scooter. I realized, even after they went home, that I didn’t feel as lonely as I usually do, and this is because my dear friends are my family and that this simple family meal felt right and true and I felt like a member of a family, a family of friends, my “framily”.

I spoke honestly about my feelings over that dinner and found that some of my friends feel the same way.  Either they’re not in a relationship right now, or their partner lives far away like mine used to, or the child custody arrangements mean half of the Sundays they say goodbye to their children and go home alone.  I have proposed a standing Sunday dinner or midday supper going forward where we gather and relax and enjoy.  I know it can’t happen every weekend but I hope it will.

This weekend, despite the 6.1 earthquake that rocked the Bay Area and severely damaged the town of Napa, we in SF were in good shape, a little shaken but not stirred, if you know what I mean.  Saturday, before all of the excitement, I prepared an osso bucco with a large format beef shank from my amazing local butcher, 4505 Meats.  I love making osso bucco and it is very nostalgic for me and I haven’t made it for four years.

Osso Bucco dinner

I made a variation of my usual osso bucco and added shitakes and some local bell peppers, just because I had them, and used a bunch of whole carrots scattered across the top.  Everything cooked away in the oven while I practiced crutching around the apartment.

I was so proud of myself for using crutches almost the entire day, except when I made myself a sandwich for dinner.  It was quite a gourmet sandwich made from leftover smoked beef brisket but once I had made it I couldn’t figure out how to transport it to my dining table.  I tried wrapping it in a paper towel but couldn’t hang onto it while holding onto the crutches and it fell on the floor, happily still wrapped up.  Then I put it in waxed paper and tried sticking inside my tee shirt, but it fell out!  So much for passing the pencil test then, I chuckled to myself.  Then I put it in a ziplock baggie and held it in my teeth, like a dog.  Utterly hilarious.

When my sandwich was done, so was the osso bucco and I let it cool a bit on the stove before packing it up for my friend’s place.

On Sunday, D___  made a gorgeous pot of polenta with lots of butter and cheese, and we reheated the sauce first to thicken it a bit then added the meat and carrots to warm up. While it was heating I chopped up a huge mound of gremolata, the magical mixture of garlic, lemon zest and parsley that is scattered over the top of the osso bucco and livens up the dish.

Osso Bucco dinner
(once you make gremolata you will want to put it on everything)

Another friend made a beautiful salad of avocados and ripe tomatoes and brought some tomato basil bisque to start.

Osso Bucco dinner

Osso Bucco dinner
(from the Unsafeway, delicious!)

We sipped on Prosecco then rose, while the young man in the house enjoyed his milk in a wine glass.

Osso Bucco dinner
Osso Bucco dinner
(there is a huge mound of cheese-laden polenta under that sugo!)

There was a moment during dinner where the conversation just halted and we all felt so replete and blissed out.  Having a luxurious and hearty mid-day meal on Sunday was so pleasant and relaxing, it was the perfect moment.  Afterwards we chatted and played games and I knitted a bit while the sun streamed in the window while the room was chilled by the Pacific breezes.  We all felt really happy!  Mission accomplished!

 

Next weekend, tacos!

Recipe:  Overnight Osso Bucco

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Morocco In My Kitchen: Lamb Tagine

Fickle Spring is here, some days it feels like pure summer, some days it feels like the wind has icy teeth. With the fog bank lurking out of sight behind the horizon despite the mild days as soon as the sun sets it is chilly and I have been indulging myself with rich flavors that are yet lean in calories. My latest kitchen gadget, the beautiful tagine from one of my bosses, fit the bill perfectly for the night I decided to make a Moroccan lamb tagine.

The recipe is inspired by a fellow cook on a Facebook recipe swap forum. Debbie Maizel used apricots and nuts in her dish, which I omitted for annoying allergy reasons, but I used what I had in my kitchen and it was quite versatile. As I am trying to be budget conscious and use what is in my pantry and freezer, such as this generous lamb chop from 4505 Meat’s monthly butcher bag, I like recipes that are more method than a strict requirement of ingredients.

What made this tagine special is the spicing of the meat. Exotic and yet familiar, the use of ras al hanout and harissa gave the dish great flavor and some spiciness and elevated the lean lamb to a richness that made a small portion feel quite grand. In hindsight I will leave out the chile as the harissa was spicy enough for my wimpy tolerance.

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Lamb Tagine
1 lamb shoulder chop, bone in, ~ 1.5 pounds
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1″ piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 pound of carrots, cut into small pieces
1/2 a cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1 cup frozen petite peas
3 T ras al hanout*
1 tsp Harissa paste*
1 Seranno chile, seeded and minced (this chile was in the jar with the preserved lemons and was moderately spicy with a nice vinegar kick)
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt
1 3/4 cups of beef broth
1/4 c dry white wine
1/4 c chopped parsley

cooked couscous, tossed with chopped green onion

* I obtained these spices from a new organic spice store in San Francisco, Spicely.

In the base of my tagine I heated the olive oil and while it was heating, I generously seasoned the lamb chop with salt and pepper and then browned it to a dark golden brown on all sides of the chop. I set the chop aside and added the onion, garlic and ginger to the tagine and stirred the fragrant mixture over medium heat until the onion was soft and tender. Then, I added the spice mixtures, the preserved lemon, bell pepper, chile pepper, and the vegetables and cooked this for 5-8 minutes. Then, I added in the broth and the white wine and stirred to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the tagine, tasted for salt and then snuggled in the browned lamb chop into the mixture. On went the tagine lid and I turned down the heat to low and simmered it for 45 minutes, then turned the lamb and simmered for another 40 minutes until the lamb was tender and falling off the bone. About 10 minutes before the end I strewed over the top of the stew a few handfuls of frozen peas that I had thawed in a strainer in the sink.

Again I was out of parsley, but I did have a bit of cilantro that was about to go off, so I added a few leaves of what was viable to the stew.

I scooped out a cup of cooked couscous and ladled on a good dollop of stew, and sat down at my little table to watch the sunset and savor spoonfuls of this rich and spicy stew. I sipped red wine until the light grew purple and felt quite content with life.
Urban heure de violette

 

(printer-friendly recipe)

My First Tagine – Chicken with Preserved Lemon

A beautiful Emil Henry tagine found its way to my home and I was so excited to wash it up and begin my maiden voyage of Moroccan tagine cooking.

My apartment is so tiny and I have enough kitchen equipment to stock several large homes, so my new tagine gets to live under the antique Japanese slat table I use as a coffee table. It’s such a gorgeous color, it looks like sculpture nestled under the bench.

My new tagine, which gets to live under my coffee table. #cityliving

The tagine gets to keep my vintage Taylor and Ng chicken roaster company along with my massive Irish cut crystal ice bucket that currently houses yarn.

Tagine and Chicken, good neighbors :)

This lovely gift also included a jar of preserved lemons from Tunisia, a large jar of saffron from Spain and some fancy couscous. I started with browning the chicken in some deep green olive oil from Lodi.

Heating the deep green olive oil.

The base of the tagine holds 6 cups of stew and is larger than my Caphalon searing pan. It did a tremendous job slowly browning the chicken to the perfect golden hue.

This tagine is amazing for browning chicken. I'm smitten.

(My, what big thighs!)

I used a 5 pound 6 ounce chicken, on sale from the Unsafeway for $6.00. What a whopper of a bird! I could have fit in all of the parts at once but I didn’t want to crowd the pan. While the chicken was searing, I chopped up some onions, garlic and ginger. I fished out three preserved lemons from its jar of brine and rinsed them a little. Then I cut the lemons into quarters and removed the pulp, and finely shredded the rind. Preserved lemons, if you aren’t familiar with them, are simply lemons preserved in coarse salt and a touch of water, and jarred until the salt completely melts into a brine. The lemons have a unique flavor, lemony but mellowed, and are essential to the recipe. You can make your own like Anna and I did one day.

Making chicken tagine for lunch today!
Three large onions and all of the aromatics and the saffron threads went into the tagine base until soft and gently browned. The aroma was heady. I have adopted Molly Katzen’s dogma that if you don’t know what to make for dinner, start by sauteing an onion. The scent will inspire you.

Sautéing onion, garlic, ginger in Lodi olive oile
The vegetables had softened and were golden so I added in the browned chicken, some artichoke hearts in lieu of olives, water, the preserved lemons and artichoke hearts.  I used artichoke hearts because I had them and did not have green olives, which are the traditional accompaniment to this dish.  I really don’t care for the flavor cooked olives, however, and the brininess they add to stews but that is just my preference, and it was my lunch, so I went with what worked for me.

I also added a splash of wine, it may not be authentic but the spirits moved me! On went the adorable cone lid and I relaxed for half an hour while it gently simmered.

My tagine's maiden voyage.

(Ready to simmer, and it already smells great)

After 30 minutes, I flipped over the chicken pieces, basted everything a little, tasted for salt and pepper and added pinches of each, and a good squeeze of fresh Meyer lemon juice and let the tagine cook for another 15 minutes.

I also started water boiling to make the couscous. Couscous is a fine pasta that is shaped into small grains. Traditionally one makes the couscous in a coucousiere, which I happen to have, and it is steamed and fluffed in the top section of the pot while a stew (or just boiling water) simmers in the base. We are fortunate today to have basically instant couscous that only needs to be added to boiling water, returned to a boil, removed from the heat with the lid on to rest for 15 minutes, and voila! Perfect couscous and no effort. The couscous that I received as part of this gift was particularly cool, larger sized shapes but not as large as Israeli couscous. It was *fancy*.  I let the couscousiere languish and used a 2 quart saucepan instead, super fast and so tasty. Why don’t I make more couscous?

m'hamsa couscous

The timer went off, and it was time for my Moroccan lunch! I heaped my bowl with some couscous, pulled out a tender and moist piece of chicken breast and a rich spoonful of vegetables and sauce. The chicken was gently flavored with lemon with the earthy undertone of the saffron and a zip from the ginger and garlic. I was surprised the chicken was a bit spicy but then remembered the lemons were preserved with some beautiful crimson chile peppers, no doubt the peppers infused the lemons with a bit of their heat. I was supposed to have added parsley or cilantro but did not have any and the dish did not suffer from the lack of it. It was a frigid and moist afternoon but inside I was enveloped in a fantasy of dining under azure skies, feeling cool breezes through twisting stone alleys and buildings, hearing exotic foot traffic behind ornately carved screens and wearing embroidered caftans and leather slippers. I nibbled at my beautiful lunch and sipped some rose wine and felt quite pleased with myself for making a hot cooked lunch on a weekend. And it was so easy!

Chicken tagine complete, I must say it was quite tasty and easy.

When I make this again I will use the fresh baby artichokes, quartered, because the canned and frozen ones really lacked the lovely artichoke flavor I was hoping for but it did add a lovely subtlety to the tagine regardless. I set aside some of the couscous and chicken in small containers for the freezer for dinners on another night, and packaged up the rest to take to work for lunch for the next few days. At my office, reheating the chicken and couscous in the work microwave the aroma of lemons, saffron, ginger and spice filled the kitchen and my coworkers were quite complimentary on my humble repast. I made myself a cup of mint tea and relaxed for a moment at my desk, enjoying my desk-chair visit to Morocco in rainy San Francisco.

(Recipe here)

Menu Planning

I came home from Thanksgiving with my darling parents and found that my refrigerator door was left ajar about 2″. Horrors! The great dumping and clean-out commenced on Monday night after work and then my fridge was sadly empty except pickles, hard cheese and wine. Time to shop and for menu planning!

D___ and I went shopping together this weekend and I discovered a few shops that I must frequent in the future . A terrific butcher shop on Taraval reminded me of our beloved long-gone Quilici’s, and the lovely guys there helped me with grass fed beef stew pieces, nicely marbled and hefty for $7.99 a pound. They also had terrific dried pastas in shapes like lasagnetti and mezze penne.

Next was the wonderfully inexpensive Asian market with perfect, organic produce and Eastern European dry goods and dairy. You have to love a shop that sells Ak Mak, Bulgarian feta, Russian sour cream and my favorite salsa and chips, plus gigantes beans. I splurged on two huge produce crates filled with groceries for $77.00. The clerk insisted I take my haul away in boxes because they were free, never mind that I can’t really carry one box, let alone two, but they were free, and bags cost $.10! One should never argue with the clerks, they’re savvy, budget wise.

Somehow D___ and I staggered into my apartment with everything in one trip. We filled my dining table with food, and I started my menu planning in earnest over a cappuccino.

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Meals For The Week:

  • Beef Bourguignon ~ inspired by Mastering The Art of French Cooking
    1. beef, fresh shiitakes, carrots, onion, celery, tomato sauce, red wine, garlic, leek top bouquet garni, chopped parsley. Served with farrow.
  • Chicken Stew ~ inspired by George Bradshaw
    1. chicken thighs, carrot, onion, fennel, bay leaf, chicken broth, dill, roux, white wine,sour cream. Served with jasmine rice
  • Gigantes Plaki ~ from Modern Greek
    1. Great white beans, onion, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, feta, squirt of lemon at the end. Add shrimp, perhaps?
  • Sautéed Greens
    1. Chard, dino kale, watercress, garlic, lemon olive oil. Serve with quinoa. Breakfast option.
  • Coconut Rice Pudding ~ inspired by Wing Wings
    1. Bomba rice, coconut milk, sugar, sea salt
  • Green Salad
    1. romaine, orange bell pepper, green onion, fennel, avocado, feta, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, Lodi olive oil.
  • Red Beans and Rice ~ inspired by Country Cajun Cooking
    1. Pink beans, andouille sausage, tomato, onion, green onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, Aleppo chile, Sriracha, beef stock, jasmine rice.
  • roasted Corn Salad
    1. Corn, artichoke hearts, edamame, olive oil, lemon juice, tarragon
  • Salsa and Chips ~ post shopping nibbles
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    Lately I have been preferring to eat my main meal at lunchtime and have something lighter when I get home with a glass of wine or tea. Some of these entrees are also destined for the freezer for when I lack the energy to make something simple.

    I also have a few items in the pantry and freezer that need to be slotted in somewhere:

  • pork truffle butter and crackers
  • adjvar and crackers
  • pork rillettes
  • butternut squash
  • As the dishwasher purrs along, I started poaching the chicken and chopping the vegetables for that stew, and realized I’m tired and want a bubble bath. I’m taking a glass with me to the tub while the carrots, onion and fennel simmer slowly. I’ll finish the stew for supper tonight and cook the greens for breakfast.

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    It feels nice to be home with the fridge stocked, good smells perfuming the air and a good meal plan for the next little bit.

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    I’ll make sure the fridge door stays closed!

    P.S. Thanks to Laura of Hey Mom What’s For Dinner for the inspiration to plan a batch of meals

    Perfect Reception

    When I moved into my beloved Russian Hill apartment years ago, my sis gave me some essential cookbooks, one of which has become a go-to favorite. George Bradshaw was an amazing contemporary writer and in the 50’s he began to write about food. His 1969 book, Suppers and Midnight Snacks, became a novel of sorts for me. I would curl up in a quiet corner and imagine myself preparing his suggested menus while holding a martini and dressed in an elegant caftan. It was the 70’s after all, back when Doris Day and Dinah Shore were the penultimate hostesses. An updo, a caftan and a long cigarette holder were the gracious hostess’s costume of choice.

    Over the years I have tried many of George’s recipes and still yearn to try more of them. I especially adore the chapter titled Lonely Pleasures.

    “With any luck, one spends a certain amount of time alone. This means of course that you eat alone, and can indulge any outrageous taste you secretly harbor. The pressures are off, there is no home economist or gourmet looking over your shoulder – unless of course, you have the misfortune to be one yourself – and you can let go.”

    Better words have never been spoken, George, although I secretly wish you had titled this section Solo Pleasures. As one who has the pleasure of indulging meals at home singularly I prefer not to emphasis the lonely aspect.

    His writing is highly amusing, especially where he goes on to describe all the things one can do whilst dining alone, including reading a novel, watching the sun set (obviously he never lived in foggy San Francisco), and telephoning.

    “…I have a friend who calls me up the minute she begins to eat celery – the reception is perfect…”

    Amusingly enough, and coincidentally, I too have a very dear friend who does exactly the same thing. We will be chatting along on various fascinating but mundane topics, and then Crunch, Crunch, Crunch!!!

    “What are you eating, now?” I ask with an underlying chuckle, and think of this book. She will reply, “Celery” or “Tortilla chips with guacamole” or, like yesterday, “Bok choy from the garden. I’m pruning it before the gophers do.”

    I recall to her memory this chapter in the book and we break off into peals of laughter, interspersed with crunching. Naturally.

    In this chapter is a section of cooking one can do during a rainy Saturday to prepare oneself for the week or weeks ahead when, alas, the servants have departed, never to return, and yet one needs a decent meal after a long day.

    George prescribes, and I have frequently followed his sage advice, preparing a variety of entrees that can be cooked and bagged into portions and frozen, but that have panache: crepes, beef stew, and chicken in a veloute with artichokes.

    One of my favorites is what he calls Chop Chops. They are a purée of flavors suspended in gelatin and then frozen, to be added into soups, sauces and sautes for a little como se yama zing.

    My favorite book

    If for no other reason, you must obtain this book, and read this chapter. The story on truffles still has me in stitches. Although it is long out of print, one can find a decent copy on Alibris. And then you can thank me later.

    CHOP CHOPS

    2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
    1 c H2O
    6 cloves of garlic
    3 medium onions (I use white)
    1 bunch of watercress
    10 sprigs of parsley (Italian or flat leaf)
    Juice of a large lemon (or 2 Meyer lemons)

    Special equipment: four mini ice cube trays – if you can find silicon ones that would be ideal, for reasons explained later. They are 1/2″ deep and each makes 90 cubes.

    Melt the gelatin in the cold water, then heat gently to dissolve it. Allow to cool. Peel the garlic and the onions and chop roughly. Cut off the stems of the watercress and the parsley and use the leaves for stock another time.

    Place all ingredients into a blender and purée until you have a beautiful jade-green purée.

    Pour the purée into the mini ice cube trays and freeze overnight or until solid.

    Now comes the tricky part. Unless you have silicon mini ice cube trays, no matter how you flex the trays, apply hot wet towels or curse at them, the cubes will not easily part from the trays. This has to do with the gelatin. However, if you use a very sharp small knife and score around the edge with the tip, then plunge the tip down into the tray the green chop chops cube will pop right out.

    Store immediately in an airtight ziplock bag. You will have enough chop chops to last an entire year, or to share with a friend!

    To use:

    • Add a cube to a saute pan in which you have pan fried chicken breasts or a little piece of filet of sole, add a little white wine for an instant sauce.
    • Do the same but with red wine for sauteed beef medallions.
    • Makes a wonderful sauce allowed to thaw and added to homemade (or store bought) mayonnaise for dipping steamed artichokes or a dressing for asparagus or lightly sauteed fish.
    • Add four cubes to a pot of soup or stew, they will provide almost all the seasoning you need.
    • Melt with butter or olive oil and serve over fresh summer squash or any sauteed vegetable.

    The uses are endless and it is amazing what a great flavor one little cube will add.

    Posole, Chicos!

    Last year or so when visiting Santa Fe, the other city that holds my heart, my dear pal L___ and I visited the farmer’s market. Coming from SF farmers markets are a favorite haunt, but here in SFe they are not common. In fact, this was the first one, ever. Can you imagine? They had a spanking brand new building just for the market, and a new outdoor concrete apron for more stalls, along side the historic tracks of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railway, now used by the Santa Fe Southern line.

    (update: this was the first season of the farmer’s market in their new building. SFe is such a cool place, they have had farmers markets since the ’60s. Thanks, L___, for researching this for me!)

    It was Fall and the few stalls there were bursting with the bounty of the season: apples, potatoes, and corn. One stall in particular was fascinating. A wizened Indian man and his wife were selling their produce. He pulled out his well-worn Buck knife and carved off succulent pieces of his apples, very imperfect apples but so juicy and sweet. They had been planted on his land a long time ago and were nearing their end. We got to chatting, it wasn’t very busy, and I picked up a bag of dried corn. I asked him, “What do you make with this?”, and he looked surprised. “They’re chicos!” he said, as if *everyone* knew this and that explained everything. I smiled and told him I was from SF and we had hominy there but not chicos. He didn’t know about hominy, but after I described it, he smiled and said, “Oh, posole…”.

    (inside the farmer’s market)

    I bought a bag of chicos, and a bunch of apples, and then he told me that the chicos were from corn he grew himself. I munched an apple and listened, enraptured. His farm used water diverted from a tributary of the Rio Grande, he was lucky, he had water most of the year. He planted corn, and when it was ripe he cut it and laid it out in the field to dry a bit. Then, he dug a large pit and filled it with piñon branches and set them alight.

    Piñon is the best smelling wood on the planet and they regularly shed branches in the harsh winters so it seems that everyone has a bounteous supply without killing off the piñon “forests”. It also burns fast and hot, and makes gorgeous glowing embers.

    The farmer then laid sheets of corregated metal over the coals. Then, a layer of burlap went on, and the corn ears on top. More burlap and the whole thing was covered up with earth, like a big corn luau.

    The next day or so, when the coals had burned out, the now dried and smoked corn was unearthed. At his leisure, sitting in some shade over an oilcloth, he would rub the dried cobs against each other to release the kernels from the cob. The cobs were used for fuel and the chicos were ready to be stored. He said this is always how they dried the corn and I just wonder how many generations back this process had been repeated. I had a sudden image of a man like this kind soul, sitting in the shade of a hogan, singing and rubbing corn. New Mexico does things to you, everywhere you look you see the spirits from hundreds of years ago suddenly standing near you, or you sense them from a whiff of smoke from a long extinguished fire.

    I also purchased dried beans, snake beans he called them, I’ve seen something similar here from Rancho Gordo called rattlesnake beans. The farmers wife rummaged around in a box under their folding table and pulled out a little slip of paper with her posole recipe and handed it to me with a smile. “It’s good,” she said, “just simple food.”

    Later during my stay, L___ made me her posole, which was so delicious. We started dinner a bit late and watched silly movies and ate way too many blue corn tortillas with locally made chipotle salsa waiting for the soup to finish. Cooking at high elevations also requires longer cooking times so it must have been 10:00 pm before we had dinner, but what a dinner it was and it was fantastic to slurp such good soup made by a friend.

    Alas, I had to head home. Another souvenir I brought back was an ice cream pint container filled with mild fire-roasted Hatch green chile. I froze it before heading home and triple-wrapped it in plastic and nestled everything in my suitcase. Despite a five hour delay on the way home the chiles were still mostly frozen and had not leaked! I have been rationing them like gold and had just a half-cup left.

    So, yesterday, while rummaging through my pantry I found the chicos and beans and realized I really needed some posole, despite the warming weather. It never really gets all that warm here anyway, with a few rare handful of days, and I enjoy soups and stews any time, even for breakfast!

    Before I went to bed I set the beans and chicos to soak. This morning I drained and rinsed them and popped them into my crockpot. I had also thawed the chiles and two humongous Dakota smoked sausages from Lockeford. Sadly, there was no pork in the freezer but I had chicken breasts.

    I wasn’t exactly following the farmer’s wife’s recipe with the sausage and chicken, and I add a bunch more things to jazz up the posole, so I hope she (and you) forgive me for the embellishments.

    A strong Spanish onion was halved and sliced, a few carrots and celery ribs were dispatched, and the chicken cubed up and added to the pot. The green chile and their gooey juice were poured in, half of one of the humongo sausages and a couple winter tomates were diced for general purposes. The seasonings went in next: garlic, oregano, salt, bay leaf, black pepper. Then 8 cups of chicken broth were poured over all, I put the lid on and remembered to turn the thing on (for a change!) and went for a walk in the balmy sunshine.

    When I came home the posole was coming along but the beans weren’t tender yet so I endured the incredible scents wafting from the kitchen rather ill-humoredly until 7:30 pm when everything was finally ready.

    Everything was meltingly tender, including the chicken, which was not dry, by the way. I ladeled up a bowl, added a handful of cilantro and a diced avocado and dug in. The chiles were just perfectly warm, like sunshine in your mouth. The chicos were chewy and slightly smokey with a distinct corniness. I love these beans too, they retained faint pink spots from their former ruby dappled marks and were so creamy. The broth was divine, the best part, rich and spicy without being hot with the fresh bite of the cilantro and a cool unctous bite of avocado.

    I almost forgot the sounds of the traffic outside and the hissing of the radiator and thought I heard that vast silence of the high desert, silent except for the singsong of coyotes and the loud flapping of the ravens flying overhead. It was a bowl of home, or rather a home I long to have.

    REC: Heather in SF/SFe Posole.

    1/2 c chicos or posole or hominy
    1/2 c dried beans (I used rattlesnake beans but pintos or white beans would be good instead)
    2 T salt
    12 cups of water

    2 chicken breasts, cubed, and 8 oz smoked sausage (kilbasa), sliced
    — or —
    2 boneless pork chops, cubed
    1 T olive oil
    1 Spanish or red onion, halved, then sliced
    3 carrots and 2 celery ribs, halved and sliced
    2 tomatoes, diced
    2 cloves garlic, smashed
    1/2 c Hatch mild green chile, or 1 small can mild Ortega chiles, or hotter chile – to your preference
    1/2 tsp Mexican rubbed oregano
    A few grinds of black pepper (I used ___ lavender pepper)
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp ground cumin
    8 c chicken broth

    1 bunch of cilantro
    2 avocados, halved, seeded, diced then scooped out of the shell with a spoon
    1 lime, cut into sections

    In a large bowl pour in the chicos, beans, salt and water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse.

    In a small skillet sauté chicken breasts in the olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

    In a crock pot, place soaked beans and corn, then meats, vegetables, herbs, spices and broth. Turn on high and cook 4 hours or until beans and corn are tender.

    If you aren’t using a crock pot, then in a soup pot sauté the chicken as above and then remove. Add vegetables and sauté briefly with a bit of salt and pepper. Add herbs and spices, the meats, the beans and corn and broth. Cover and simmer for 60 – 90 minutes or until the beans and corn are tender.

    Ladle the soup into each person’s bowl, top the soup with a handful of cilantro leaves and a mound of avocado. Add a squeeze of lime and serve.

    Serves 6

    If you want more of a stew, increase the beans and corn to 1 cup each. I’m more of a brothy girl myself.

    Technically, posole is both a soup and the ingredient used in the stew, e.g., corn kernels soaked in lye and then dried. Hominy is a Mexican preparation and has a softer consistency. Posole corn can be hard to find outside of New Mexico and I have never seen chicos outside of the Santa Fe farmer’s market, so the dried hominy is a great substitute. But if you ever see posole or chicos for sale, snap them up!

    (the piñon forest, do you see why I miss Santa Fe?)

    Beef Stew with a Twist

    Sometimes we need a little comfort. In my case, a dose of comfort included some hefty nutrition. So I ventured to Costco to buy tons of great food now that I’m over the flu at last. I bought enough stuff to feed a family of six for a week!  I suppose that is the “Costco curse”.

    I was happy to see USDA Choice chuck stew meat, so I bought a 4 pound packet. Then I pounced on a sack of Peru sweet onions from Bland Farms, my family’s favorite purveyor of Vidalia onions. In the blissfully chilly vegetable room I found butternut squash and a tub of crimini mushrooms. Then in the wine bins I chanced upon a very decent Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon at a reasonable $15 (normally $35).

    After a visit to the Rainbow Co-op (coupon day!!) to completely pack my fridge, I started my stew, with a twist.

    In my largest Dutch oven, the gorgeous 7 qt Staub pumpkin, I browned the beef very well on all sides. Four pounds of beef browned in this manner took about 45 minutes.

    Picnik collage - Beef Trio (sprinkle the beef with a little kosher salt before browning, of course)

    Meanwhile, I assembled the rest of the ingredients: Berkshire pork belly, carrots, celery, sweet onions, garlic, mushrooms, squash, Guinness and the Cabernet Sauvignon.
    mis en place

    When the beef was browned and removed, I cooked off the pork belly and reserved it. I added the mushrooms and squash and browned those well, then added everything else, plus salt, pepper, a beautiful bay leaf from Tess from the swap, and some random herbiage.
    browning the mushrooms 2(quartered crimini mushrooms, browning in the pork fat. When they expressed their juice and that was reduced, I added the squash and the rest of the stew ingredients)

    Off it went in the oven at 325 F to simmer gently for 3 hours. Meanwhile, I had a glass of the wine.

    finished stew(yum)

    The beef turned unctuous and tender in the wine and beer. The squash and onion melted in the slow braise, thickening the broth, their sweetness tempering the strong dry red wine. The richness of the Guinness mellows the broth, offsetting the wineyness. The mushrooms, carrots and celery became fork-tender, soft vegetal nuggets, perfect bite size. The broth was thickened a bit with a beurre manie, a paste of soft butter and flour, whisked onto the simmering stew. A handful of parsley at the end brightened up the flavors.

    I am contemplating adding a dollop of mashed potatoes to the bottom of my wide soup plate before ladling in a scoop of rich stew. Would this be overkill, or a perfect foil to this shimmering, beefy fall stew?

    Your thoughts please…