January 23, 2010

Short Rib Chile with Ancho, Chipotle and Creamy Polenta

Filed under: Stews — by Carla

shrot-rib-chile_0551Last weekend my daughter, Jessica, asked me if I had any ideas for a new version of chile. A group of friends were going to hold a chile cook-off and she wanted to bring something to the party that was a little out of the box, but still satisfying in that chile, spicy sort of way. We figured, who doesn’t love short ribs? So after tossing some ideas around, we built a chile recipe using luscious short ribs instead of ground meat. After a good slow cook, the bones give up lots of gelatin for a rich and velvety sauce and the meat is melt in your mouth tender and moist. For the chile quotient, we decided to boost the flavor of store bought chile powder with freshly ground ancho and chipotle peppers, cumin, coriander, paprika, clove and cinnamon. The out of the box part of the recipe is canning the beans (no pun intended) and serving this cold weather staple with creamy polenta. Polenta is an intuitive partner since south of border dishes prominently feature corn. The end result is a smokey, rich and spicy stew with origins to the chile we all grew up with, but with oh, so much more sophistication. If the chile as usual compares to a comfy pair of old jeans, an icy cold beer and a football game, this new version is a cozy cashmere robe, a glass of pinot noir and Philadelphia Story…a still comfy classic which definitely has its place.

short-rib-chile_0561Kitchen Counter Point: It is a good idea to begin making this chile a day or more ahead. It takes a good 3 hours to cook the short ribs to the falling off the bone stage and an overnight in the frig allows the flavors to mellow and balance. I love to serve dishes like this for company or even a busy weekend family dinner because I can focus on the many other facets of hosting or visiting with friends and family instead of slaving to pull dinner together.  If, like my daughter, you’re transporting this dish to someone else’s house for a party and don’t want to stand over the stove for 15 minutes,  turn the polenta into polenta cakes. Just cook the polenta a little longer than the recipe directs and pour it into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Let it cool and firm up then chill. Cut it into 6 squares and brown the polenta cakes in a few tablespoons of butter. Transfer the cakes to a sheet pan and keep at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerate overnight and just reheat in a 350ºF oven when you get to the party. Their crispy outsides and creamy interiors will be sure to sway even the most ardent traditional chile fan.

Serves 6

4 dried ancho chiles, about 2 ounces, seeded, ribbed and torn into pieces (see tip)
1 cup boiling water
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo (see tip)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 15-oz can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes (see tip)
4 slices bacon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 lbs beef short ribs
2 medium onions or 1 large
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
12 oz pale ale or beer
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced

Creamy polenta (recipe follows)

In a medium bowl, soak the ancho chiles in the cup of boiling water for 20 minutes or until softened. Weight the chiles down with a small saucer if the water doesn’t cover.

In a blender jar, add the ancho chiles and liquid, chipotle, tomato paste, honey and balsamic vinegar. Blend until smooth. Add the can of diced tomatoes and reserve.

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until it has rendered its fat and is crispy. Remove the bacon and transfer to a plate.

Pat the short ribs dry and salt and pepper them.  Saute half of them in the bacon fat over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, about 9 minutes. Transfer to a plate and brown the second batch and transfering them to the plate as well . Turn the heat down if the bottom of the pan begins to over brown or turn black.

Pour off all but a few tablespoons of the remaining fat and sauté the onion, red pepper and garlic until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the chile powder, cumin, salt, coriander, paprika, pepper, clove and cinnamon and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chile-tomato mixture and cook for 2 minutes or until it simmers. Add the beer and short ribs and bring back to a simmer again. Cover, reduce the heat and cook at a low simmer for 3 hours or until the ribs are tender and falling off the bone.

When the ribs are done cooking, remove the meat from the braising liquid, cool and tear it into shreds. Discard the bones.

Degrease the sauce in the pan with a large spoon and discard it (there will be lots of grease floating on top). Bring the sauce up to a simmer and cook it for about 5 minutes or until it reduces somewhat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, balsamic, chipotle or honey. Return the meat to the pan and reheat. Serve the chile over creamy polenta and garnish with the cilantro and reserved bacon, crumbled.

Creamy Polenta

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the cornmeal in a steady stream and continue to whisk for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir with a wooden spoon every now and then until thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and pepper and adjust the seasoning to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Tip: Ancho chiles are dried poblano chiles. They are brownish-black and wrinkled (see photo) and should be pliable and leathery. They’re mild to medium-hot and provide a sweet chile flavor to adobo sauce, enchilada sauce and commercial chile powders. The chipotle is a smoked jalapeno which has a medium heat. They can be found dried or canned and packed in adobo which is a spicy, vinegary tomato based sauce in the Mexican section (freeze the remaining peppers to use at another time). Ro-Tel is a diced tomato product with green chiles which you might find in the Mexican section as well. If you can’t locate it, just substitute a similar sized can of Mexican-style diced tomatoes.

January 15, 2010

Five Soups to Savor

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith

Beef and Balsamic Roasted Onion Soup
Combining balsamic vinegar with roasted onions brings out the best elements in both. The sweet, but tart vinegar and flavorful onions made slightly sweet by the roasting process play off the savoriness of the beef beautifully.

Serves 6

1 lb beef stew meat, well trimmed 500g
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil, divided 45 mL
1-1/2 cups red wine 375 mL
1/2 tsp dried thyme 2 mL
6 cups beef broth 1.5 L
6 large onions, cut into 1/4-inch (.5 cm) slices 6
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided 50 mL
3/4 cup cream 175 mL

1. Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, add the meat to the pan, making sure not to overcrowd. Brown the meat well on all sides. Remove the meat and deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bottom to release all the browned bits.
2. Lower the heat and add the beef, thyme and broth to the pot. Simmer for about 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, reserving broth. Discard any fat and gristle and shred the meat into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces.
3. While the beef is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the onions on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast the onions for 45-55 minutes or until deeply browned. Add 3 tbsp (45 mL) balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Continue to roast, stirring occasionally, until the onions are dark brown and glazed.
4. Add the onions to the soup, along with the cream and remaining vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Reseason if necessary with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Creamy Three Onion Soup with Crispy Shallots

Serves 6

3 tbsp butter 45 mL
3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly (white and pale green part only) 3
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly 2
2 garlic cloves, minced 2
4 cups beef broth 1 L
1 cup water 250 mL
4 sprigs thyme 4
1 cup heavy cream 250 mL
2 tbsp red wine vinegar 30 mL
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Crispy Shallots (see below)

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions and garlic. Sauté until they are brown, about 15 minutes. Add the broth, water and thyme and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and process the soup with an immersion blender, food processor or blender until the soup is smooth. Return to the pan and stir in cream, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly, but do not bring to a boil.
Ladle into serving bowls and top with 1 or 2 croutons.

Crispy Shallots
Makes enough to garnish six servings

6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then fry shallots in 2 batches, stirring frequently and being careful not to burn, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove shallots with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt immediately.

Chicken, Pinto Beans and Green Chile Soup

Serves 8

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 (4 ounce) cans diced green chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, oregano, coriander, cumin and cayenne to pan; sauté 2 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes, chicken broth, green chiles, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Add chicken and beans; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Taste and reseason with salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls: top with a little grated cheese and sour cream.

Broccoli, Bacon and Cheddar Chowder
Picture a ski chalet, four feet of fresh powder, brilliant sunshine and lots of hungry skiers. You’re the hero of the day because you’ve made this soul warming soup.
Serves 6
8 slices bacon, chopped 8
2 tbsp unsalted butter 25 mL
1 onion, finely chopped 1
2 tbsp all-purpose flour 25 mL
1/2 tsp salt 2 mL
Dash cayenne pepper Dash
3 cups milk 750 mL
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock 500 mL
12 oz red skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm), diced 375 g
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded 500 mL
1 tbsp all-purpose flour 15 mL
1 tsp hot pepper sauce, if desired 5 mL
2 10 oz (300 g) frozen box chopped broccoli, thawed 2
1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the fat.
2. Add the butter and onion and cook for 6 minutes or until softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes or until foamy.
2. Whisk in the salt, cayenne pepper, milk and chicken stock and cook the mixture until it becomes smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
3. In a bowl, toss the cheddar with the flour to coat.
3. Stir in the cheese, a handful at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. Add in the hot pepper sauce if using. Add the thawed broccoli and stir to heat. Do not boil. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
4. Ladle the soup into heated bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon.
Garden Vegetable Soup
No soup cookbook would be complete without a vegetable soup recipe. That said, we encourage you to forget the recipe and use whatever is in season, on sale, or just hanging out in your fridge. Feel free to make this soup your own, just keep in mind that heartier vegetables should go in first, so they can cook longer, and more tender vegetables should go in last to avoid mushy veggie syndrome.
Serves 6-8
2 tbsp unsalted butter 25 mL
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 15 mL
1 medium onion, chopped 1
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock 1.5 L
1 28 oz (794 g) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick 500 mL
2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces 500g
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced 500 mL
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels 500 mL
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 50 mL
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the stock and tomatoes, carrots and potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the corn and cook for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Ladle into heated serving bowls.
Variation: Light soups like this can be made into more of a meal with the additions of either Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes (page xxx), Meatballs (page xxx) or something as quick and easy as purchased crab cakes.