Happy New Year! Greetings from the Arctic Circle! Well, not really, but it sure feels like it. Yesterday, we had a wild storm that left us with nearly a foot of freshly fallen snow and winds that blew the snow into even higher drifts. Today the sun came out, so everything is beautifully sparkly, but the temperatures are dropping rapidly and tomorrow, we’ll be living with a single digit high and a negative double digit low, not counting the expected wind chill factor. Brrrr!
Cold weather doesn’t keep me inside because the dog must go out. She has a natural fur coat, though the snow piled in her favorite spots and our paths to safe walkways frustrate her.
Inside, it’s comfort food weather. We’ve been eating lots of root vegetables, soup, stew, and bread, stick to your ribs fare. Duck-fat potatoes fits right into that line-up.
This hearty side dish couldn’t be easier. First, diced potatoes are parboiled to hasten the cooking. I didn’t bother to peel them. Then, the potatoes are cooked in a few tablespoons of duck fat. The duck fat I had leftover from the Counterfeit Duck Confit was gorgeous, clear, and golden. The potatoes browned beautifully. Salt them halfway through and stir in a few cloves of minced garlic at the end. Delicious! I also tried them with leftover turkey fat from Thanksgiving. Both the duck and turkey fat add a depth that olive oil just does not.
The potatoes require a little attention, some stirring so they don’t stick to the pan and burn. But your undivided attention is not required, so you can prepare the rest of dinner while the potatoes cook. Roasted chicken parts are a simple accompaniment, or some more counterfeit duck confit.
If you’re on the East Coast, stay warm this weekend. Don’t go out if you don’t have to. While you’re home you might as well bake some cookies and perhaps make a batch of duck-fat potatoes!
I might have mentioned that in December, I participated in Whole Foods “12 Days of Cheese”. Each day, a different cheese was on sale for 50% of its regular price. If you tried all 12 cheeses, the prize was… a cheese platter! For someone who loves cheese as much as I do, how could I not do it? It also required a daily trip to Whole Foods, but I also happen to love grocery shopping, so that wasn’t a hardship.
There were some delicious cheeses available. Some were old favorites (Humboldt Fog, Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche, Epoisses), and now I’ve met some new ones (Truffle Gouda). The only problem was the timing. The cheese platter had to be redeemed before New Year’s Day, when the refrigerator still had blocks of several of the daily selections I purchased uneaten. And the cheeses on the cheese platter were rather pedestrian, not nearly as interesting as the flight of 12 days offered. Regardless, it was a fun food adventure even if I don’t need to eat quite so much cheese…
I always find it curious that one of our favorite hearty meals to bring cold weather comfort is a homonym of the weather: Chili. And, it has been very chilly around here for the past few days. The first few days after last week’s snowstorm were glorious. The sun was shining, and though it was cold, the world was sparkling and bright. Howard and I went snowshoeing in the woods near our house with Bella, who enjoyed romping in the drifting snow.
Now it’s downright arctic with the thermometer reading in the teens and the wind taking things down towards zero. The end is in sight, but it is cold.
Chilly weather cries out for chili. A big giant pot of chili. So that’s what happened in my kitchen. There are so many different variations. I have a handful of different recipes I like making over and over. I like testing out new ones too. I even have a cookbook with just chili recipes. This weekend, I went with a tried-and-true recipe, the one I’ve been making since I had my first apartment.
There’s nothing special about this chili. It has all the expected elements: ground beef, beans, chili powder. It’s easy to prepare, can be on the table in an hour, and always hits the spot. This recipe can be tweaked for your preferences. I use a mild chili powder with some jalapeno. You can easily turn up the heat with a hotter chili powder or more jalapeno. I’ve made this with ground turkey. I’ve also made with half the meat. Any kind of bean works well: red kidney, black, pinto. The following is just this week’s version.
Chili for Chilly Weather
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, finely chopped
3-4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
1 finely minced jalapeno, fresh or pickled (optional)
1 Tbsp crumbled dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup mild chili powder
1-28-oz can whole tomatoes in puree, tomatoes chopped or broken by hand into smaller pieces
1 cup beef broth
1 cup water
Salt & ground pepper
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained or 2 cups cooked kidney beans
Sour cream, lime wedges, and diced avocado to garnish
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil and add the meat. Cook, breaking down the lumps with a spoon as it browns. Add the onions, green pepper, celery, garlic, jalapeno, oregano, bay leaves, cumin and chili powder. Stir to blend well. Add the tomatoes, broth, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook about 20 minutes, stirring often. Add the beans and cook about 10 more minutes.
Serve in bowls over white rice and garnished with sour cream, lime wedges, and diced avocado. Cornbread with honey butter goes well on the side.