Chili with Braised Beef and Squash

I had such high hopes for this chili because all of components are awesome in some form or another. It’s a bean-less chili though, which is almost hard for me to call it a chili because I always always always have chili with beans in it. I have no idea what else to call it. It’s sort of like that whole sweetened vs. unsweetened cornbread debacle. Like my affinity for all things cornbread [I’ll eat both types], I’ll eat any type of chili. I have no shame.

I was especially excited at the prospect of using some dried whole chilies to spice this thing up. I usually equate these kinds of peppers in homemade enchilada or hot sauce, but it can absolutely hop into my bowl of chili. I’ll gladly accept. Of course they came in a huge bag, so the remaining ones just sit in the pantry waiting for another day. If someone will point me to a bulk dried chili bin, I would appreciate it. I never want more than a couple. The chili base calls for a blender, which was just another not-so-subtle reminder that I need to call Vitamix about maintenance. I imagine a food processor would work, too.

Squash was the wild card to the recipe. Honestly, the chili was probably just a vehicle for the squash. It drew me in with its siren call. I love squash. I roasted up a whole baking tray of the stuff tonight and it took all my willpower not to just eat it straight from the pan. I may not be huge on sweets most of the time, but the sweetness of squash gets me every.single.time. Unfortunately the sweetness of the squash overpowered the rest of the chili, and maybe that was the point, but it isn’t the flavor profile I usually expect from a chili. I was kind of hoping for a more subtle sweetness—hoping the chilies would dampen it. I still slurped up every drop the next day at work. Don’t worry.

It all came together rather quickly. It was a lazy Sunday project since it takes about an hour depending on how quickly you can cut and peel that dang squash. New Seasons has a bunch of precut stuff in the case right by the door. I’m pretty sure I look at it every time I walk in the store [that and the guacamole…creature of habit]. I embraced my inner over-achiever and toasted some pepitas [or pumpkin seeds]. I sacrificed my hard earned dollars on a mediocre avocado to garnish. I’m such a sucker. Look how pretty it is. It was mostly for looks because that avocado was the epitome of bland.

Beef and Beer Chili

Inspiration: Bon Appétit

Ingredients

  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 dried pasilla chile
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 12oz lager
  • 1 small acorn squash, peeled and cut small
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pepitas
  • salt and pepper
  • Avocado, sliced radishes, green onions, sour cream or cilantro for serving

Preparation

Toast the chilies in a skillet on medium high heat. Press them down to the pan so they get a lot of contact with the heat. They should start to darken after a few minutes. Toast both sides. Fill a bowl with boiling water and add the chilies to it to rehydrate. Soak for 3o minutes. They’ll be falling apart. Remove the stem and transfer the entire thing to a blender [or remove the seeds if that’s your thing]. Blend until smooth.

Put a large pot over high heat. Add one tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Pat the beef dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon of oil and chopped onion and garlic. Stir well break up the remnants of the beef juices that have accumulated. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the cumin and oregano. Stir well so it’s evenly distributed.

Add the beef back to the pot and pour in the beer. Bring to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer for about five minutes. The beer will cook down significantly. Add the chile puree and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the beef in the chile for 20-25 minutes before adding the squash. When the squash is soft, about 15 minutes, taste for additional salt and lime.

Serve in bowls topped with the toasted pepitas and your preferred accouterments.

Carrot Goat Cheese Shepherd’s Pie

I’ve made this shepherd’s pie before. For my friend Emma. We ate it. I forgot to take photos [so typical] and let’s be real — shepherd’s pie really isn’t the most photogenic thing in the world. Yet when I made it again, I wanted a photo so I could tell you about it. No one wants to hear me drone on and on about goat cheese without a photo.

It really is amazing what goat cheese can do to elevate some mashed potatoes. I’d take these over most mashed potatoes almost any day of the week. I’ve seen mashed potatoes with sour cream or creme fraiche for a tangy addition, but the goat cheese trumps it all. The carrots add a hint of sweet but it’s mostly muted but the goat cheese. The color though. That’s what the carrots do more than anything. Or I just have a tendency to have buy the boring bland carrots. Maybe both. Probably both. Making it with the mixture of pork and sirloin is worthwhile. Lamb would be lovely as well. This recipe is perfect for annoying the guys behind the meat counter by asking for small amounts of everything. It’s becoming a favorite pastime of mine. Usually I’m met with disappointment when I only pick up one thing, like a pound of pork, but I make their day for about three seconds when I ask for 1/4 pound of pork after getting the ground sirloin. It’s the little things.

Brussels sprouts are such a good addition to the pie. They’re made deliciously tender and pick up the flavors of the other ingredients. It reminds me of the bubble and squeak at Radar. I would have no shame smothering the pie with gravy. Why isn’t that a thing?

Carrot Goat Cheese Shephards Pie

Inspiration: A Cozy Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 8 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4lb ground pork
  • 1/2lb ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3oz goat cheese
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Place the potatoes and half of the carrots in a pot and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until they are super soft. You should be able to crush them with a fork. It should take about 15-20 minutes. Drain the pot and add the vegetables back to the pot. Add the goat cheese, butter, and whole milk and mash everything together. Taste for salt and pepper and set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling, preheat the oven to 400°. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to medium high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add in the brussels sprouts, the remaining carrots, and onion. Saute. After about five minutes, add in the garlic. Stir often to keep it from burning. Add in the pork, beef, and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Stir to break up the meat. Once it’s browned and cooked through, add the flour and stir to combine. Add in the broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire, and rosemary. Bring the broth to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Simmer for 10-12 minutes so the sauce thickens.

Spread the meat mixture in a 8×8″ pan. Top with the goat cheese mash. Spread it as evenly as possible, covering the meat mixture entirely. Bake for 25 minutes. If the potatoes don’t start to brown, you can place it under a broiler to get some color. Remove from the oven and let the pan cool for 15 minutes before eating.

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars

More pumpkin! Contain your enthusiasm.

Before we get into the awesome that are these cookie-pie-bar-things though, we need to talk about my [new?] favorite pizza in Portland. Tastebud isn’t new by any means, but the restaurant in Multnomah Village is. They had a location years ago on the east side that touted an all-you-can-eat pizza night on Sundays that made me weak in the knees. The pizza [and bagels, don’t forget those bagels] had me hooked. Then the shop disappeared and they focused primarily on their bagels and mobile pizza cart. They would pop up at the Wednesday farmers market by the office office, and I would make sure to get some nearly every week. The wood fired oven makes not only great dough but does magical things to vegetables. I highly suggest veggie pies even if they arent your normal thing.

Now Tastebud is back in brick and mortar fashion. They’re busy on a Sunday not long after they open. We waited about 30 minutes, and it was well worth it. Get the kale salad. The anchovy aioli does magical things to kale and the bagel chips are the perfect crouton substitute. Then pick a pizza. Any pizza. It’s not traditional thin crust, but it’s still on the thinner side and the ends are so pillow soft with a hint of wood fired char. My mouth waters at the thought. The mozzarella is applied liberally but it’s high quality and doesn’t turn into a cheese brick. It’s exceptional pizza. There were no leftovers. I don’t think there will ever be leftovers.

These cookie/pie bars are a hybrid of delicious proportions. They are more than worth the idea of using pumpkin outside of pumpkin season. The Snickerdoodle base comes together easily without cream of tartar or anything fancy. Mix and spread. Easy. The pumpkin pie tastes just like the real thing. I’m sure if pumpkin pies came with a Snickerdoodle crust, they would easily be the best pies of all time. Before eating them all, they came with me to a party because who doesn’t want treats at a party?

Go ahead and leave them in until that toothpick comes out clear. These are a dense, moist bar. I love raw dough as much as the next person, but these are better if you wait it out. The consistency becomes much more sturdy and bar-like.

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars

Inspiration: Plain Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups room temperature butter
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons +1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 can pumpkin puree

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 13×9 pan.

In the bowl of a mixer, add 1 cup of butter, 2 cups brown sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Beat the ingredients together until light and smooth. Stir in 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Don’t over-mix and then spread the base layer into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Clean out the bowl and then beat together the remaining butter and 1 cup sugar. Stir in flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, cinnamon through allspice, and the pumpkin puree. Spread that layer over the cookie layer.

Combine the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of cinnamon, and sprinkle that as evenly as possible. Bake everything for 35-40 minutes. A clean toothpick means you’re in good shape. Let it cool at least 15 minutes before cutting into it so it maintains integrity.

 

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew with Browned Sage

This pumpkin chickpea stew is brought to you by a break in-between study sessions.

Pumpkin in January isn’t that weird, right? You’ll probably have a better time finding cans of it this time of year anyway. Actually, maybe not. Does anyone know where they keep it when it’s not on end-caps or in towering pyramids at the front of the store? I kid. The pumpkin puree ends up being a thickener more than a flavor profile, so take that as it is.

Everything I’ve been making lately tends to fall into the cozy camp — soups, stews, shepherd’s pie, pasta, baked goods. It’s as if it’s been cold and damp or something. There has also been an obscene amount of Thai basil pork being made too, but it’s spicy so that counts towards cozy in my book. My parents gifted me a cast-iron wok for Christmas, so using it coupled with the ease of the recipe means I’m making it a lot.

Is cozy a food group? It should be. It’s a quality I immediately gravitate towards. Salads, unfortunately, have a hard time making the cozy cut, unless they’re warm and nutty like the brown rice salad at Picnic House. Roasted yams, carrots, arugula, asparagus, toasted almonds, and a hazelnut vinaigrette over brown rice. See? Comforting.

The last few recipes made me laugh because they were that bland color, and this really isn’t that much different. There’s more of this color to come, my friends. More pumpkin, too. Apparently I’m a creature of habit.

This stew turned a little soupy on the first round, but thickened considerably upon cooling. By the next day, the liquid was gone and an amalgamation of pumpkin-y chickpeas and orzo remained. Still totally edible. It’s like two different meals for the effort of one. The flavor the browned sage’s earthiness brings nestles right in there with the sweetness of the pumpkin and carrot. Chickpeas seem to serve mostly as protein that matches the consistency of its fellow ingredients. They take on whatever flavor you want them to. The whole thing comes together really quickly, taking up just about as much time as it takes you to chop up the onion and carrot.

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

Inspiration: Food52

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 carrot, chopped evenly [feel free to peel it if that’s your style]
  • 1/2 onion, chopped evenly
  • 6-8 sage leaves, halved
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo or other small pasta

Preparation

In a large sauce pan with high enough walls to hold all of your liquids, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the carrot, onion, and sage. Stir occasionally until the carrot and onion soften and the sage starts to brown, about 5-7 minutes. The smell is heavenly.

Add the chickpeas, pumpkin, and broth. Use your spoon to deglaze any of the onion bits off the bottom of the pan and stir so the pumpkin is broken up into the broth. Bring the broth to a boil before adding the orzo. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the orzo for about 8 minutes. It should be al dente.

Caldo Verde – Portuguese Green Soup

Be still my heart. I miss Portugal. This soup makes me realize just how much I miss it. Travel planning is in full force around here. I don’t want to jinx where we think we’re headed yet, but once I know for sure, you’ll know. I promise.

Sidenote: I’m in love with the idea of making the other soup we had in Porto, papas de sarrabulho, but the odds of me actually cooking with pork entrails and blood are next to none. Maybe the one Portuguese restaurant in Portland will make it one of these days. I would be all over it.

[The brown theme rages on]

Caldo Verde Soup

Inspiration: Food52

Ingredients

  • 2lbs cauliflower florets
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for roasting
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes [more or less depending on your tastes]
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2lb smoked kielbasa, sliced in 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens, rinsed, drained and shredded
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 450° and line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with a olive oil, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper and spread them out in a single even layer on the baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and roast the cauliflower for a good 30-40 minutes. It’ll be tender and starting to char on the outside. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.

In a Dutch oven or your soup pot of choice, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Sauté the onion until it starts to brown. It’ll be soft and translucent at this point. Add the garlic and red chile flake. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds to allow the garlic to get fragrant and brown but not burn. Burned garlic is the worst. Pour in the chicken stock and cauliflower and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the mixture cook for about an hour. The cauliflower will be really tender. Remove from the heat and puree either in a regular blender or in the pot with an immersion one.

Pour the soup back to the pot if you removed it and put it on low heat. Add the sausage and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shredded mustard greens and parsley and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and lemon juice. Taste for additional salt, pepper, and lemon.

Whatever you don’t eat the day of will thicken up considerably when you eat it the next day. It’s almost a glorious stew.