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One of J’s favorite dishes is his father’s chili. It makes more than enough for three meals and a few lunches for us. Like most of our favorite meals, this one gets better the longer it simmers. It looks complicated, but I promise it’s easy and worth it.

Base Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 pounds chili or stew beef (you can also use ground beef if you want)
1 pound pork chop cut up (or you can use ground pork)
2-3 green bell peppers chopped
1-2 onions, chopped

Sauce Ingredients:
1 beer (any kind, cheap is particularly good)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons chili powder (REGULAR chili powder, not ancho, not super, not hot. Trust me)
1 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons ground chipotle (we buy them whole and use a coffee grinder for this)
IMG_6843 3 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic
1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon sugar
1 can rotel or green chiles

Directions:
Brown the meat. Add the chopped bell peppers and onions and cook until desired caramelization. In a separate pot make the sauce by adding the first 11 ingredients and simmering for about 45 minutes until smooth.

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Then add the tomatoes and meat and peppers and onions. Simmer one to two hours.
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Add 1 to 4 tablespoons massa flour to thicken if needed (most of the time we leave this step out).

My opinion: This is delicious with shredded Monterrey jack cheese, lime juice and tortilla chips. J prefers his with corn bread. It’s perfect for a cold winter’s night.

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I know I said this was the best macaroni and cheese recipe, ever, but I was wrong. This one is. I promise. It’s delicious no matter the season and equally good in the dead winter as it is on a hot summer day.

Ingredients:
1 box Elbow macaroni uncooked
1/2 cup Butter (1-stick)
1/4 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper (if you’re feeling adventurous, use white pepper)
1/4 teaspoon Dry mustard (we occasionally add a bit more up to a 1/2 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (we occasionally add a bit more up to a 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups Milk (we use skim)
2 cups Sharp cheddar cheese (8-oz), grated (you can use more, we occasionally use up to 10 ounces, it just becomes cheesier and more delicious)
About 1 cup panko crumbs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling water cook the pasta to al dente. While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour, salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly (this is important or it bubbles over). Boil for about one minute, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in cheese and cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Drain macaroni and gently stir into cheese sauce. (Or pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni (whichever pot is bigger). Just make sure to mix it all together. Pour the entire mixture into ungreased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle panko on top. Bake uncovered until bubbly, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set broiler to low (or high if you’re adventurous!) and broil until the top is a nice golden brown. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

My opinion:
While this looks complicated, it really isn’t and is easy to make for a weeknight meal. We make the whole batch at once and then usually freeze half. It is deceptively filling. If eating for a hot summer (or later summer dinner) let it come to at least room temperature before eating. Winter, eat it hot. Enjoy!

homemade hot and sour soup

J grew up eating the decadent hot and sour soup at King Doh, authentic Peking and Szechuan cuisine. After several years of trial and error, we finally found a recipe that is really close to the original. To celebrate the Chinese New Year last night, we made a big pot.

Ingredients:
2 quarts chicken stock
2 ounces dried black mushrooms (we had trouble finding these and had the must success using fresh shiitake mushrooms)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon red chili paste (in a pinch, we combined Thai chili oil, Sriracha sauce and Hoisin sauce to make a paste)
1 small can bamboo shoots
1 small can water chestnuts (you can buy them already sliced)
1 small can straw mushrooms
18 ounces firm tofu, drained and cubed
three small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons sesame oil
green onion, chopped (to garnish)

Directions:
If using dried mushrooms, reconstitute them in water according to package directions. Heat oil in wok or large pot. When the oil is hot, add ginger, chile paste and chicken, cook for about two-minute. Add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and mushrooms, cook for about a minute. In a bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, salt, pepper and sugar and pour into wok. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes (don’t rush this. The simmering is what seals in the hot and sour flavors). Add tofu and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water and add to soup and cook until thickened (this will make the soup cloudy and thick, but don’t add too much cornstarch or it will gelatinize . Stir soup in one direction to get current going then add beaten egg, it will look feathery. Stir the soup brining the contents from the bottom to the top> Garnish soup with green onion and serve.

My Opinion:
Make sue you leave the soup on low for seconds. The second bowl is always better than the first. The only thing we might add in the future is some shrimp or an onion. The soup is even better the next day!

Here’s a photo of the King Doh version.
King Doh Hot and Sour Soup

This dish originally started as a Thanksgiving side dish, but after the trial run, we decided it was much more suited for breakfast. While Christmas morning usually gets all the hype, these potatoes are perfect for the next morning or for brunch. Super easy, filling and delicious. We found the original recipe here.

Ingredients
4 1/2 pounds russet potatoes rinsed and cut into 2-inch chunks (feel free to peel if you like, we liked the skins)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil (the original recipe called for duck fat, which we didn’t have)
Freshly ground black pepper
12 sprigs thyme (fresh is best!)

Directions
Adjust oven racks to lower and upper position and preheat oven to 500°F. Place potatoes in a large saucepot and cover with cold water by 1-inch. Add 2 tablespoons salt and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until exteriors are tender, about 5 minutes. Potatoes should show a slight resistance when poked with a paring knife or a cake tester. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Oven Roasted Breakfast Potatoes

Add olive oil to bowl with potatoes.

Add oil.

Season with pepper and more salt to taste then toss with a large metal spoon until exteriors are slightly bashed up and coated in a thin layer of potato/fat paste. Divide potatoes evenly between two heavy rimmed baking sheets. Spread thyme sprigs over potatoes.

Add fresh thyme.

Transfer baking sheets to the oven and roast until the bottoms of the potatoes are crisp and golden brown, about 20 minutes total, swapping top the trays top for bottom and rotating them once half way through roasting. Using a thin metal spatula, flip the potatoes and roast until the second side is golden brown, another 15 to 20 minutes.

Oven roasted potatoes, final.

My Opinion
Like I said above, filing, delicious and worth that extra little bit of effort for a great post holiday breakfast.

Jason had been craving this for a solid two weeks before we had a chance to make it from this recipe. Despite the hot oil concerns, it was pretty easy and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided (leave 1 teaspoon for the gravy)
1 3/4 teaspoons black pepper, divided (leave 1 teaspoon for the gravy)
4 (4 ounce) cube steaks
38 saltine crackers, crushed (we used a whole sleeve in a ziplock bag with a rolling-pin. Great for aggression relief!)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1/4 cup is for the gravy)
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 3/4 cups milk, (divided into 4 cups and 3/4 cup)
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups Vegetable Oil (you want enough to cover at least half the coated steaks)

Directions:
Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper evenly over steaks. Set aside. Combine cracker crumbs, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, red pepper, and baking powder into a shallow dish. Whisk together 3/4 cup milk and eggs. Dredge steaks in cracker mixture; dip in milk mixture, and dredge again in cracker mixture. Pour oil into a 12″ skillet; heat to 360 degrees (do not use a nonstick skillet, we used the cast iron skillet). Fry steaks 3-4 minutes.

 

Turn and fry 2-3 minutes or until golden. Remove steak to wire rack over a cookie sheet to let it drain. Keep steaks warm in a 225 degree oven.

Carefully drain hot oil, reserving cooked bits and 1 tablespoon of oil in dripping in skillet. Whisk together remaining 4 cups of milk, 1/4 cup of flour, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper. Add milk mixture to reserved drippings in skillet; cook, whisking constantly, over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, or until thickened. You’ll think this is never going to come together. Keep whisking. After about 5 minutes it should start to come together. Whisk for a few minutes after you think you should stop. Should be a light grey color at first and darken slowly. Serve gravy with steaks.

My opinion:
Disclaimer: Be careful draining the oil. And don’t send it down the sink! Find a metal coffee can or other receptacle to help with this. Obviously, hot oil is hot. Be careful! As for the dish, it’s the right amount of salty and rich. I don’t normally love gravy, but topping the steaks with this gravy makes the dish. It’s even better the next day, though not as crispy.

About Aurora

My father named me after Sleeping Beauty. The princess theme stuck. Unfortunately, the only castle I can claim is the one in Disney Land. These are the musings of a princess without minions, knights or fairy tales. I have to do my own bidding.

The views in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or clients.

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