Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Tag: food

Chile Recipe 2010

For the past four years, I’ve been making chili for a new year’s day party, a tradition I borrowed from my mom. Every year I’ve varied the recipe a little, and I think this year’s batch was the best yet. I am documenting what I did here.

I’ve always used the Pedernales River Chili recipe as my starting point. This year I also consulted The New Best Recipe, an excellent cookbook with a recipe for Texas-style chili that looks very respectable.

This is a very large recipe. Most chili con carne recipes start with 4 lb of beef, so scale accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 9 lb chuck roast. It should be no surprise that the cut of beef makes a big difference in the quality of the final product. I’ve tried stew meat and it’s nowhere near as good. I also don’t care for chili based on ground beef (leaving aside the potential food-safety issues with that).
  • 2 large onions.
  • 3 cans diced tomato.
  • 18 tbsp chili powder. New Best Recipe observes that 2 tbsp of chili powder per pound of beef seems about right, and I agree. Speaking as someone who likes spicy food and has a reasonably good tolerance for spice, I’d describe the level of spiciness as a mild slap: enough to get your attention, but not enough to slow you down. Central Market has an outstanding selection of chili powder in bulk, and I probably spent 10 minutes sniffing at different jars. I brought home both New Mexico chili powder and House Blend. Gila Flats also seems like a good candidate. I wound up using about 10 tbsp of the New Mexico, 5 of the House Blend, 2 of ancho, and 1 of chipotle.
  • 4 tbsp cumin seed. As per New Best Recipe, I toasted this in a dry pan first. Actually, I only had about 2 tbsp and wound up adding cumin powder to compensate.
  • 4 tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups water. This is a very dry recipe. Partly out of necessity: I was running out of room in my stewpot.

Directions

  • Cube the chuck roast into roughly 1″ chunks.
  • Chop the onion coarsely.
  • In a large stewpot, brown the chuck roast in small batches and set aside.
  • Sautee the onions in the stewpot with the beef fat, adding oil as needed.
  • Add all the spices to the onions and continue sauteing for a minute.
  • Return the beef to the stewpot and add the canned tomato and water. Add a few dashes of hot sauce. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer while covered.
  • After about 2 hours on the stove, the flavor wasn’t didn’t seem properly rounded out, so we added over a tablespoon of salt. That helped but didn’t quite do it either, so we added a tablespoon of cocoa powder, which did the trick. The chocolate turned out to be the magic ingredient.
  • Continue simmering for a couple hours, store the whole pot in refrigerator overnight, reheat the next day for serving. At no point did I skim the fat off.

Smell, Memory

Every year, Gwen makes cookies for a class of first-graders who come trick-or-treating at her office. A couple of nights ago, she made two batches of butter cookies, each using a different recipe—one that her mom used throughout her childhood, and another that she found online . She stored them in tupperware until last night, when we decorated them. I opened the box containing the ones made using the online recipe (which is butterier, and which I liked better) and the escaping aroma instantly transported back to the time when I was in first grade myself, probably the last time I had a Salerno butter cookie. I hadn’t even thought of Salernos in decades, but I instantly remembered the daisy shape, the hole in the middle that I could stick my finger through, the smell, and the taste. We all know that the sense of smell is the sense that evokes memories most strongly, and this was a potent example. It was only that batch that did it for me though—not the other one.

Unsurprisingly, Gwen preferred her mom’s recipe. Because that’s tied to her memories.

Stand mixer showdown

Bosch Concept 7 & Kitchen Aid elevator bowl mixers

Gwen has wanted a stand mixer for a long time. She’s worked in commercial kitchens before, and harbors the frank desire for a gigantic Hobart.

That’s not in the cards. We’ve both been researching stand mixers for a while. Barring a Hobart, Gwen was interested in a traditional Kitchen Aid with an elevator bowl, which basically looks and runs like a tiny Hobart. I had come across the Bosch Concept 7, which is about as unlike a Kitchen Aid as a stand mixer can be. Costco had a special on some 475-watt Kitchen Aids, so we got one of those. We also got a Bosch mail-order. Today, Gwen made a couple of recipes on each, so we could decide which one to keep.

Design

The Kitchen Aid has the traditional design, somewhat like a crane, with the drive on top and a bowl-lifter on the vertical column. It has an old-fashioned Machine Age look to it, and the exterior made entirely of metal, except for a couple of knobs.

The Bosch is a smooth, low-profile wedge with a vaguely iPod aesthetic (or perhaps the iPod has a Bosch aesthetic). It’s entirely plastic except the drive gears. Power is transmitted through a central shaft that runs up through the middle of the mixing bowl.

Part of the appeal of the Bosch is that it is compact enough that it can be stowed pretty easily—and it weighs less than half as much as the Kitchen Aid, so it’s easier to move around, although it feels solidly built, it has suction-cup feet, and of course, all the weight is at the bottom. Another big part of the Bosch’s appeal is that food-processor and blender attachments are available for it. Our kitchen is short on space, so being able to get rid of a blender base and a food processor (which is disproportionately bulky) is an important consideration. The flipside to this is the all-eggs-in-one-basket problem: if that base ever fails, we’re out three appliances.

Operation

The Kitchen Aid comes with three mixing attachments—a dough hook, a whisk, and a cookie-dough paddle; The Bosch comes with a hook and whisks, and we bought paddles separately. The Kitchen Aid drives all three through an epicyclic motion; on the Bosch, the whisk and paddles have two axes of rotation, but the dough hook has only one—it just goes in circles. It turns out that having two degrees of rotation makes the mixing process much more efficient: using the dough hook on the Bosch does work, but to some extent it relies on friction between the dough and the bowl. Although the Kitchen Aid has a lower-power motor, it was more efficient mixing bread dough. Also, given Gwen’s commercial-kitchen background, operating the Kitchen Aid was basically the same as operating a Hobart—as she says “when the dough starts climbing the hook, I know it’s done.” The layout on the Bosch is so different that it just doesn’t work the same way, and she would need to learn new cues.

For different reasons, we observed that the Bosch was also less efficient making cookie dough. In this case, it came up a little short because the paddles don’t graze the bowl’s surface as closely as the paddle on the Kitchen Aid does, so ingredients that are trapped in that dead zone take longer to mix in. Also, because the Bosch’s bowl is half a torus, scraping down the sides with a spatula takes more work, and leaves a blind spot behind the drive column.

We made about six pounds of bread dough in each of the mixers, and in the end, both did a fine job kneading, and making cookie dough. We suspect that the Bosch would really shine on bigger batches.

The Bosch comes with a lid, which has a chute for adding ingredients. Getting ingredients down that chute was awkward—the opening is just too small to tip in a cup of flour (for example), and removing the lid definitely slows things down a bit. It’s possible to operate it without the cover in place, although a bit messier. Even without it, it’s less messy than the Kitchen Aid.

Cleanup

Cleaning the Bosch’s bowl after kneading dough was far and away easier than the Kitchen Aid’s. The Bosch’s bowl is some kind of slick plastic, and the all dough just pulled away from it in one piece. Cleanup after the cookie dough was harder on the Bosch, because that stuff was more liquid and gluey, and tended to get caught in the gear that is built into the top of the bowl. As to the mixers themselves, the Bosch’s lack of surface features makes it much easier to clean.

Verdict

So which one are we going to keep? We haven’t decided yet. The Kitchen Aid is a known quantity for Gwen (who will do the vast majority of cooking with whatever we keep). The Bosch isn’t, and she wants to make another recipe before we decide.

Update

To reach a decision on which mixer to keep, Gwen made two cakes. Using the whisks on both mixers, the Bosch actually did a better job mixing—its batter was visibly smoother than the Kitchen Aid’s, and it got mixed with less spatula intervention. But the bowl is the Bosch’s Achilles’ heel: it is very large (to accommodate the driveshaft running through the middle), and it has no handle or spout—in fact, the lip of the bowl is distinctly ill-designed for pouring, with a notch for the lid to fit into, and a wide edge above that folding back into a sort of “cuff.” This made getting the batter out of the bowl such a mess that Gwen decided it wasn’t worth it. If she’s going to be discouraged from using it, it’s not worth it.

Victory goes to the Kitchen Aid.

Dinner and a show

Gwen resolved (for both of us) that we should see more live music this year. Last night we took a step in that direction by seeing the Golden Hornet Project with the Tosca String Quartet at Lambert’s.

Neither Gwen nor I had been to the current incarnation of Lambert’s (and incarnation is the right word for a “fancy barbecue” joint)—we had been to the old one on South Congress once. So we decided to make an evening of it—we got their early, got seats at a table, and ordered dinner. I had the brisket with a side of mac and cheese; Gwen got the trout with a side of mashed potatoes, and we split a Caesar salad. My brisket was good but not amazing; Gwen said her trout was some of the best fish she ever had. The sides were excellent and decadent, and the salad was also very good.

The show was great. It consisted of alternating numbers by Peter Stopchinski (of Brown Whörnet) and Graham Reynolds (of Golden Arm Trio), performed by Tosca, with the composers sitting in on piano for some of them. Some of this we’d heard before, but most of it was new. Some of it was challenging to listen to—jangly and discordant in spots—some of it was beautiful.

Sacred cows

Submitted for your consideration:

Many religions build up arbitrary dietary rules around them.

Raw-foodism is an arbitrary dietary rule that has built up a religion around it.

Restaurant review: Stortini

El Gringo, the newest member of the eastside food empire run by the El Chile guys, was recently shut down and reconstructed as Stortini, swapping a sort of Mexican/Southern home-cooking menu for Italian. I’m not sure why they made the change—they seemed to be doing a good business in their previous incarnation. Perhaps the Italian menu lets them lower their unit costs, or perhaps the old menu was too hard for people to pigeonhole.

Regardless of why, Gwen and I are a fan of all the El Chile places, and finally got around to trying Stortini on Saturday night.

We started with an appetizer of calamari and a dinner salad. The calamari was somewhat oily and way, way too salty. Even Gwen, a notorious salt fiend, felt it was way too salty. Enoteca Vespaio does a neat trick of serving its calamari in a paper cone, which soaks up some oil. At Stortini, the calamari was in a bowl, swimming in its oil. Every restaurant serving calamari would do well to copy Vespaio’s trick.

The salad had good ingredients, but was waterlogged with dressing. And every table gets a basket of bread with white-bean paste, which was OK.

We wound up waiting unaccountably long for our pasta dishes. I had rigatoni with meatballs, Gwen had papardelle with portobello and three other kinds of mushrooms in a cream sauce (which our waitress volunteered was her favorite thing on the menu). My dinner was fine: a pretty basic kind of dish, competently prepared, with the whole thing being baked after assembly. I did not try Gwen’s (it had at least one mushroom on my can’t-eat list), but she enjoyed it very much.

Gwen also had a glass of wine. Total tab: $42 plus tip. Service was friendly, and apart from the long wait for the main dishes, prompt. Seating was immediate, in contrast with El Chile a block away, where there was a line out into the street. Final verdict: room for improvement. Since it’s right in the neighborhood, we’ll no doubt be seeing whether it does in fact improve.

Update: On our second visit, Gwen, a friend, and myself each had a Caesar’s salad; I had a penne and sausage dish, Gwen had some kind of ravioli with pesto, and our friend had gnocchi with lamb meatballs. The salads were excellent, and had an unusual lemony dressing. The main dishes arrived in a reasonable amount of time and were also quite good.

© 2017 Adam Rice

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑