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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Old School Hot Dog Chili Sauce.

One of the best things to ever happen to a hot dog. Mine, sans mustard.

Hot dogs. Almost as much an American pastime as baseball. Every city has their own way of making them their own, but they all have one option in common: chili. Every chili is as different as the city in which they are created.

But what if you can't get to Boston, Montreal, Cincinnati, New York, or Chicago? Well, some people buy it pre-made (canned.) Me? Not an option, and not just because they don't sell it here. It's too easy to make yourself!

The recipe I came up with is a mix of several good sauces, along with my own touch. It's simple, I love it, and I'm sure you will too!

You'll need:
1 lb, ground beef
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion or 1 shallot, very finely chopped
3 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp onion powder
2-3 tsp your favorite hot sauce (best choice I found - Tobasco or Tapatio)
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp kosher salt

beef stock or broth on hand (1 ltr. box)
(all above measures are subjective - feel free to adjust to your desire.)

Put a little oil in a pot and saute the onion/shallot at low - medium heat until slightly translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add ground beef and brown, stirring to break it down as it cooks.

Once sufficiently browned, add the crushed tomatoes and dry ingredients. If it seems too thick, add some stock - it only adds to the flavor. Add your hot sauce to taste.

Let it simmer on low heat, thinning it if it gets too thick too soon. Taste as you go, add stuff if you want - I do recommend chipotle powder. A little more salt doesn't hurt, either. Once it's thick, it's ready!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jersey Style Marinara Sauce.

In the pot, just bubbling along.
Italian cooking, which is my favorite by far, is also one of the the richest in variety of flavor, despite the same basic components in many dishes. A line like this can be drawn in the various sauces that are used to complement pastas and such.

One particular distinction, and if you've ever lived in New York or New Jersey, you've heard it - sauce vs. gravy. Most of us think, gravy? Isn't that what they put on turkey or mashed potatoes? Nah. Not this time.

From the way it was explained to me, the difference is that gravy is what most would consider to be a meat sauce, with things like pork and veal as the base and cooked with tomatoes and other traditional ingredients all day. So in a way, it kind of is a gravy. A tradition. (I have my own take on that - another day.)

Another tradition is the tomato based marinara. They all pretty much start with the same base: tomato, olive oil, and basil. There are many incarnations of it, as each region, each family  has their own way of doing things. This is mine. I like to use as many fresh tomatoes as possible, even if they're a little overripe. All the better. This marinara is good for a simple pasta, or as a component of things like lasagna or stuffed shells.

For my version, you'll need:

1 large or 2 medium chopped onions
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
4-6 tbsp fresh basil
2-3 lbs. of  chopped fresh tomatoes,
or 1 can each stewed or crushed tomatoes
or a combination of both
1 cup port wine
olive oil
1 tbsp sea or kosher salt
1 bay leaf

(optional: 1 tbsp each fresh chopped oregano and/or parsley)
Also, keep a box of chicken or vegetable broth on hand.

Heat some olive oil (about 2-3 tbsp.) in a stockpot. Add garlic and onions, saute until onions are slightly opaque. Add tomatoes and  wine, cook at low-medium heat until bubbling slightly and tomatoes cook down a bit. Take an immersion blender and blend intermittently, only enough to break the tomatoes down further. Add the bay leaf, salt, and basil. If you're using the optional ingredients, add them now as well.

Simmer for an hour or two, stirring regularly. Let the tomatoes break down into a thick sauce. If it renders too much, add an occasional splash of broth. Don't waste your time with water. If you like, you can also add another tbsp. or two of basil in the last few minutes for additional fragrance and flavor.

My home made stuffed shells with the marinara. Bellissimo!
Make up your favorite pasta dish and add your marinara ( as you can see, I used it in my own take on stuffed shells. Absolutely delicious! )

Friday, November 25, 2016

Home made stock. Nothing gets wasted.

As you can see, I have a little bit of everything going on in this chicken stock.

For a long time I bought stock or broth for my cooking. I still do. But I realized that there's a lot of bits that usually end up thrown away that can make a wonderful stock. Best part is - it doesn't matter if you want to make a seafood, beef, pork, chicken, or vegetable stock,

Scraps are what makes it. No major producer uses good meat, or even the best vegetables. I use everything. Onion ends, wilted celery, tomato pieces, even stems from herbs like rosemary and thyme (they have flavor, but are usually discarded.)

The stock above was a chicken stock, made from the bones left over from de-boning chicken and my frozen accumulation of herbs and veggies.

There are no official ingredients for this, but for a good, rich stock, you'll need:

roughly 3 pounds of uncooked chicken parts, stripped of meat (thigh bones, breast bones, etc.)
equal amount of vegetable and herb scraps
3 tbsp. of kosher salt

Put all the ingredients into a stock pot and add just enough water to pretty much cover them. Cover the pot and put on low - medium heat for two hours, then remove the lid.

The ingredients are blending... it's going to be good.
Put the heat down to low and just let it cook, stirring occasionally. It takes awhile, but it's worth it. The longer it simmers, the richer it is, as the flavor draws out of the marrow and other ingredients. If the water level gets too low, add a little more, or even a splash of white wine. I usually let it go all day, and sometimes I'll let it cool overnight and put it back on the next day. 

When it's done to your satisfaction, it's time to strain it. Use a slotted spoon to remove some of the bigger pieces. Take a sieve and place it over a metal bowl and slowly empty the pot (we usually  ladle it out, so we can discard the solids as the sieve fills up.)

Finished product - amazing flavor!
The picture above is the end result. We used it as a base for our Thanksgiving gravy, along with the turkey drippings. You will not be disappointed.