I'm always looking for new things to cook, and I recently ran across the video above, and I immediately decided to make it. It was delicious, deep red and warm and just the thing for a fall night. But I had a couple of issues with the recipe. First off, it was huge, which isn't always a problem, but meant that it was a lot to do on a week night, and had a ton of leftovers. So, in my version below, I've scaled down the size and made a few other changes that I think will help improve the flavor a bit. But if you're looking for a deep, smokey, deliciously filling soup, I recommend this one highly.
Last year, I purchased what has quickly become my favorite kitchen tool: a pressure cooker. It's a simple, cheap aluminum number, and I love it. I have always been a fan of simple recipes like beans and rice, but I have never had any success in making beans from dried. It's a frustrating conundrum. But with the pressure cooker, making a whole pot of delicious, creamy, smokey beans is only about an hour and a half away.
There are a number of guides online for how long to cook beans in a pressure cooker, but I've found that for mine, in my kitchen, they take about fifty minutes once they've come up to pressure. I usually stick with pinto, red beans or black beans. The recipe varies with my mood, and what kind of bean I'm looking for: pinto beans get the whole treatment, with a mix of diced red, jalepeno and poblano peppers, onion, garlic and two 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes. I'll saute the peppers and onions in either a bit of left over bacon fat, or just olive oil if that's what's to hand. Once they're cooked, I'll usually puree a couple cups of beans and liquid to release some starch and thicken them up. Black beans are simpler: four cloves of garlic, a medium onion cut in half, half a carrot, some bay leaves and a tablespoon of cumin. There's really not much you can do wrong with them.
While it's not cooked in the pressure cooker, for the rice, my new trick is dropping in a couple bay leaves, some salt and some dried herbs in when I turn on the rice cooker, then cutting in the juice of one lime once the rice is done. It's seriously delicious, and it's amazing such a small addition makes such a huge difference.
Everyone I try and convince to give pressure cookers a try has had some sort of variation on "oh, those things are scary" or "don't they explode?" All I can say is, mine hasn't exploded yet, and there are a number of pressure valves and safety features that make an exploding pressure cooker vanishingly unlikely. Beyond the fact that (at worst) you'd see the lid gasket break and release the pressure, you're not going to blow yourself up using one.
And while beans have been my go-to for pressure cooking so far, there are a number of different recipes I've tried and absolutely love. Serious eats is a great resource for that, and here are a couple of my favorite recipes that I've tried. The chicken chili verde is especially amazing, and unbelievably easy.
Give it a try some time! The investment is minimal, but the results are incredible.
The basis of this dish is something that my mother made when I was growing up. I always enjoyed it, and I've made it many times myself. My mom usually made it with jarred gravy and boxed mashed potatoes, and when you've worked a full shift and have to feed two small boys, I can understand why you would. But I've been going through the recipes I remember best from my childhood and trying to remake them without processed ingredients. I'm really happy with how this turned out.
The basic recipe is more or less a deconstructed shepard's pie (or cottage pie, really, since it uses beef instead of lamb). That hadn't really ever occured to me until I made it this time. Maybe it makes it a little bit classier? This is still more or less classic midwestern comfort food, but that's what I am usually most at home making.
I'm a pretty poor blogger, and every time I make something, it occurs to me after I've sat down and eaten that I should have taken a few photos. So, the only thing I've got is a cell phone photo of my bowl right before I eat it all. If this at all appeals to you, believe me: it tasted much better than it looked.
Hamburger Gravy and Mashed Potatoes
1 medium onion, diced fine
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 lbs lean ground beef
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
1 lbs frozen peas
In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add ground beef and seasonings and cook until browned. When the meat is browned, sprinkle on the flour and stir until no flour is visible. Add the tomato paste and stir into the meat until it’s combined. Continue to stir until the meat begins to darken and look dry, and the pan begins to develop a layer of brown crust or fond. Pour in generous splash of the stock and begin to scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan, then pour in the rest of the stock. Bring to a boil, add the peas, cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Let simmer for twenty minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
For the mashed potatoes
2 lbs russet baking potatoes, peeled, rinsed and chopped into one inch cubes
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
4 tbsp butter
Salt to taste
Peel, rinse and chop the potatoes, and then put them in a large stock pot, with enough cold water to cover by a couple inches. Put on medium high heat and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for about twenty minutes. When a knife or fork slides easily into the potatoes, they’re done. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Put all of the potatoes through a ricer (or with a masher), add the yogurt, butter and salt and stir to combine. Avoid over stirring, but combine all ingredients into a uniform whole. Check for salt and serve.
I participated in a chili cook off this weekend, and brought two chilis with me: one is just the usual tomato chili I make and have been refining over the last few years. The other was a Cincinnati chili (served over noodles with cheddar cheese, of course) that went over way better than I thought likely, since it's a pretty unusual flavor. But both were very well received, if running out of both is any measure to go by.
My chili recipe has its origins back in Kurdzhali, Bulgaria. I had been cooking for myself during college, of course, but Bulgaria offered me a real opportunity to experiment and try different things. Chili was one of the things that I made once a month or so. I remember making one particularly spicy batch that my friend, a fellow American, and I really enjoyed, but his Bulgarian girlfriend found it a bit too much.
I didn't have a set recipe for chili when I began preparing for the chili cook off, so I had to sit down and type one out and think about my options. It's really a pretty straightforward recipe. I think one of the important tricks to it, though, is to add the spices to the ground meat and saute them for a few minutes, until fond begins to develop on the bottom, then deglaze with red wine. Sauteing the spices in the fat from the meat really helps to open up the flavors. Other than that, the nice thing about chili is that it's forgiving. It's very easy to make changes, try different ratios of meat or veggies, more beans or fewer. It would be easy to adapt it into a vegetarian chili by using seitan or other protein replacements.
For the Cincinnati chili, I used this recipe and doubled it. I also backed off on the cocoa a bit -- I found it to be a little overwhelming the first time I made it. So I would only use one and a quarter tablespoons instead of one and a half. Otherwise, that's a great, simple recipe.
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs salt
1 tbs cumin
½ tbs dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp red pepper flake
½ tsp sugar
1 large onion, diced
2 large red pepper, diced fine
2 large poblano peppers, diced fine
2 jalapenos, diced fine, seeds removed
1 serrano pepper, diced find, seeds removed (optional – this adds some heat)
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 lbs lean ground beef (I usually use 85/15)
1 lbs hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tbs tomato paste
2 cups black beans, drained
2 cups kidney beans, drained
1 cup dry red wine
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock or water
In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil until shimmering and sauté onions until translucent. Add the peppers and sauté until soft. Add garlic. Once vegetables are fragrant, remove them to a bowl and add the beef and sausage. Brown the meat, breaking it up fine as you go. Once all of the meat is browned, five minutes, add the tomato paste and stir until combined. Once the color begins to darken, add the seasonings. Stir until aromatic and bottom of dutch oven begins to develop fond. Add red wine and deglaze until the wine is mostly incorporated. Return the vegetables, add the beans, crushed tomatoes and stock or water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a bare simmer. Add sugar and adjust seasonings to taste. Cover and cook on low for half an hour to an hour, or until the sauce thickens to desired consistency.
My girlfriend introduced me to this dish when were in Bulgaria in the Peace Corps. It's incredibly simple and totally satisfying, and a great week night dish. I can imagine a million variations -- in the photo above, they've got some chorizo links wrapped in bacon. That'd be good, but it's really not necessary. Two eggs and a big mound of rice and I was a very happy camper.
The sauce you wan to be something very simple, with a big emphasis on a fresh tomato flavor -- I love highly seasoned tomato sauces, but for this you want something that will let the unctuousness of the egg yolk shine through. To that end, I've been using Marcella Hazan's simple four ingredient tomato sauce -- a simple dish that lends also lends itself to an almost infinite number of variations. But this is how I did it last night, and I was very pleased.
Cuban rice with fried egg and tomato sauce
For the sauce:
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
5 tbs butter
1 onion, cut in half and peeled
Salt and pepper
a cup steamed rice of your choice per serving
2 eggs with soft yolks per serving
Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small sauce pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the butter when it melts and allow to simmer for half an hour to forty minutes -- basically until the rice and eggs are ready. Discard the onion before serving.
Cook rice however you want -- there are garlic rice recipes that would definitely be more authentic and delicious, but this was more of a week night thing, so I wanted something simple. To that end, I just dumped some medium grain rice in my rice cooker and turned it on. That usually takes about twenty-five minutes, so by the time it was ready, the sauce was ready as well.
For the eggs, again, however you like your eggs done, as long as the yolks are soft. I fried them, but poached or soft-boiled eggs would also be delicious, and a bit healthier. Up to you!
Combine all ingredients on a plate and stir them together to combine the yolk with the tomato sauce and enjoy!