The Beef Chronicles: Chocolate Chip Chili

Huh? What are these Beef Chronicles? See the bottom of the post for links, recipes and the full story on why we bought a cow.

You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. I know it sounds freaky, and I had my serious doubts, but hear me out.

So there’s Nigella Lawson, who some people love and some people love to hate. Personally, I both adore and admire her and when she says “Chocolate-Chip Chili” I say “Giddiyup”.

There is so much more to this complex chili than just chocolate chips. In fact, they play such a small role in this feature, don’t ask me why they earned a spot in the title instead of just credits; however, the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘chili’ in the same sentence got your attention, admit it!

Big bold flavors in Nigella’s chili include chorizo, cumin and cinnamon–not sure what she was thinking with the alliteration (yes there is even cardamom & chilies) but it works. It really works.

This hearty one-pot wonder comes together looking like a mess, but after 4-5 hours in a slow oven, and overnight chill in the fridge, it collects itself and the final result is remarkably presentable!

In short. We loved it.

This recipe offers everything we love about chili, but is a welcoming change from the usual Super Bowl sludge. It has plenty of textures, thanks to the beef cubes used instead of ground beef, and is completely satisfying and the most substantial way.
And for the chocolate-chips? They added another dimension of flavor and complement the chilies superbly.

If you are a fan of batch cooking, this chili freezes beautifully and I might even go as far as to say it improves with age.

Chocolate Chip Chili

In keeping with the “C” theme, I topped my chili with cilantro. Avocado is great too, as are tortilla chips, and sour cream is essential.

550g chorizo sausages (not the salami sort), to give 10 sausages or 5 linked pairs
1.5kg boneless shin of beef, cut into 1.5cm cubes
500g onions (about 3), peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 fresh long red chili, de-seeded ( I used less, you know, for the kiddo’s sake)
4 x 15ml tablespoons vegetable oil
seeds from 3 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried crushed chillies
4 x 15ml tablespoons tomato purée
4 x 15ml tablespoons tomato ketchup
4 x 400g cans red kidney beans, drained
3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
50g dark chocolate chips
250ml water (swilled out in one of the chopped tomato cans)

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F

Finely chop, or process the onion, garlic and chili.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan (with lid) or flameproof casserole and fry the onion, garlic and chili until soft, on low for about 10 minutes, then add the cardamom seeds, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and dried chillies.

Stir the onion-y spiced mixture together and then add the chorizo sliced into 1/4″(5mm) coins, letting them ooze their paprika-orange oil.

Drop in the cubes of beef, turning them in the pan with the chorizo and onion mix to brown the meat.

Stir in the tomato purée, ketchup, drained kidney beans and chopped tomatoes. Add the water and bring the chili to a boil.

Once it’s started bubbling, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the chili and give it a good stir. Put on a lid and transfer to the oven.

Cook at this low heat for 3 hours. Stirring occasionally. Chili will taste mighty firey, but the heat will mellow out overnight.

Once cooked it is best left overnight to improve the flavour. Enjoy!

More Beef Chronicles:

In Which we Buy A Cow

An Introduction

Rib Steak With Red-Wine Butter

Rosemary-Garlic Marinated T-Bone

Cumin-Scented Kebabs

Sesame-Beef Lettuce Wraps

Beef Tacos with Salsa Cruda

Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Purée

Steak au Poivre & Sweet Potato Fries

Ossobuco in Bianco

The Beef Chronicles: Ossobuco in Bianco

January is always dubbed The Budget Month, as people tighten their belts after weeks of holiday extravagance, and turn to pantry staples for their dinners. I’m all for that, believing there is a time and a season for everything, so I don’t expect anyone to rush out and purchase a brown paper package of fresh veal shanks upon reading this recipe.

But you should. Oh, trust me, it would be the best thing you’ve done all year.

Now before I lead you to think that we have thrown frugality to the winds at Under the High Chair, let me assure you, we are eating basic home cooking along with the rest of you this month. This particular Ossobuco feast was enjoyed back in December; in fact, it rather kicked off a slew of dinner parties that lasted for two weeks straight and only came to a screeching halt as we said adieu to 2009.

What a shame.

It may or may not surprise you that I have never prepared ossobuco before, well from scratch, anyway. Sure I served about 87 plates of it during my One Night With Rocco (DiSpirito), but that was merely a heat n’ shave truffles n’ serve kind of deal, as he flew the ossobuco in from NYC already cooked (no comment).

Ever since we purchased a calf (and the Beef Chronicles were born), I’ve had the lovely veal shanks in my freezer, just waiting to fulfill their destiny and give me a chance to make ossobuco.
Of course, rebellious me didn’t want to go the traditional route with tomatoes & red wine, but instead chose a recipe from my beloved River Cafe Cookbook for a ‘White’ ossobuco that uses anchovies, white wine and celery instead.

We loved every morsel. I served it with the traditional Risotto Milanese (that had been perfumed with fresh-bought saffron) and we were in carnivore heaven.

Sure, the bank account is a lot less padded after the holidays, but you may just want to start a change jar labeled ‘Ossobuco Fund’. At least, that’s the best idea I’ve got. There’s no more shank in my freezer and I DO have to try the traditional way now, right?

Ossobuco in Bianco

From the River Cafe Cook Book
Serves 6

8 or more veal or beef ossobuco bones, at least 2 inches across
75g plain flour
salt and fresh ground pepper
120g butter
2 tbs of olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 celery sticks, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
9 salted anchovies
½ bottle dry white wine

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300F

Dust each piece of ossoebuco meat with flour and salt and pepper.
In a large, heavy bottomed casserole dish or pot (I used a Dutch oven) melt half the butter and the oil and seal the ossobuco on each side.

Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.Pour the fat away for the pot, then add remaining butter and gently fry the celery and onion until they are soft but not too brown.

Add garlic and anchovies to the onion mixture and mash them together for a minute or 2 with a fork. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil and reduce a bit.
Carefully put the ossobuco back in the big pot, arranging the shanks to that they make on layer in the bottom of the pot. Scoop some of the celery/onion mixture on their tops.

Cut a circle out of parchment paper the size of the pot and cover ossobuco with it. Cover pot with lid and place in oven

Cook for at least 2 – 2.1/2 hours. Liquid will reduce and veal will become quite tender.

Mean while, prepare gremolata by stirring together the finely chopped garlic, lemon zest and chopped parsley.
Carefully transfer ossobuco to a serving platter and sprinkle with gremolata.
Serve with Risotto Milanese.

More Beef Chronicles:

In Which we Buy A Cow

An Introduction

Rib Steak With Red-Wine Butter

Rosemary-Garlic Marinated T-Bone

Cumin-Scented Kebabs

Sesame-Beef Lettuce Wraps

Beef Tacos with Salsa Cruda

Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Purée

Steak au Poivre & Sweet Potato Fries

The Beef Chronicles: Steak au Poivre & Sweet Potato Fries

Now that we are in our new home, every meal feels like a celebration: the dreaded move is over, Christmas is coming and we feel very blessed with where we find ourselves. We have so much to be thankful for! Practically speaking, I’m grateful we have an actual dining room now. No longer do I have to share my kitchen with the family table, the new workspace is all mine. We can now enjoy meals in a dining room where the view out the patio doors shows snow falling on our Narnia-like forest.

Said forest has already been the source of much adventure for the boys. The very first morning after the move, Noah was out slaying invisible dragons amidst the trees with his sword and shortly after, we were watching ducks from the nearby river bank. Growing up rurally myself, nothing gives me greater joy than to nurture that love of nature in my own children.

With such a regal view from where we are seated for dinner and elbow room around the table for a change, it’s no wonder there is cause for celebration every time we break bread.This ‘Steak au Poivre’ or Pepper Steak, is the perfect fare for such occasions.

Perhaps Pepper Steak feels special because it is reminiscent of a restaurant dish. I’ve spotted it on menus countless times, yet this was my first attempt to recreate it at home. Thanks to the Beef Chronicles and the various cuts of steak in my freezer, I challenged myself to try something new and thanks to the clear (if not a tad wry) directions from Anthony Bourdain, the dish was a hit.

The sauce for Steak au Poivre is killer, there is no messing around with peppercorns and make no mistake – it’s HOT. Fortunately I paired the steak with some oven roasted sweet potato fries, and their sweetness was the perfect complement to the heat.

You may want to hold the sauce for the kiddos and don’ be surprised if they request ketchup with their sweet potato fries, they are kids after all.

Anthony Bourdain’s Steak au Poivre

Recipe (and all extra comments) courtesy of Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, Bloomsbury

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS 4 8-ounce steaks of your choice. (I, Aimee, used flank steak)
2 ounces olive oil
2 ounces freshly cracked peppercorns (crushed but not ground to powder!)

4 ounces sweet butter

1 ounce good Cognac

4 ounces strong, dark veal stock (something to keep in your freezer)

Salt and pepper

EQUIPMENT Heavy skillet, Kitchen tongs, Wooden spoon, Serving platter.


1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Moisten the meat very slightly with oil, then dredge each of the steaks in the crushed peppercorns to thoroughly coat. Don’t be shy with the pepper.

2. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add 2 ounces, which is half of the butter. Place the steaks in the pan and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side.
3. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until desired doneness, about 5 to 7 minutes for rare, 10 minutes for medium rare, and so on. Remove from the oven and remove the steaks from the pan to rest. Have I told you yet to always rest your meat after cooking? I’ve told you now.


1. Return the skillet to the stovetop and carefully stir in the Cognac. As much fun as it is to create a column of flame as you add flammable material to an incredibly hot pan, it’s not really desirable or necessary — especially in a home kitchen. Unless you’re a pyromaniac, I recommend carefully adding the Cognac to the still-hot pan off the flame, stirring and scraping with the wooden spoon to get every scrap, every peppercorn, every rumor of flavor clinging to the bottom of the pan.

2. Now place the pan on the flame again and cook it down a bit, by about half. Stir in the veal stock and reduce over medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with French fries or sautéed potatoes. Note on searing: With any recipe that calls for searing meat and then using the pan to make a sauce, be careful to avoid blackening the pan; your sauce will taste burnt. Avoid by adjusting the heat to, say, medium high, so it will still sear the meat but not scorch the pan juices. But stoves and pans vary, so pay attention.

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Home Fries

Adapted from”Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics”
Serves 2

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut each half into 3 long spears. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the maple syrup, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve hot.

More Beef Chronicles:

In Which we Buy A Cow

An Introduction

Rib Steak With Red-Wine Butter

Rosemary-Garlic Marinated T-Bone

Cumin-Scented Kebabs

Sesame-Beef Lettuce Wraps

Beef Tacos with Salsa Cruda

Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Purée

The Beef Chronicles: Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Purée

If you’ve been reading for a while, by now you know that my boys are picky eaters. Yep, they rank up there right alongside the most turned-up of noses. Getting them to eat their greens can be a challenge and so when a vegetable dish makes it past the ever-dubious first glance and that cautious initial bite, it is well worth a mention here. Hence this veggie-laden Shepherd’s Pie.

The traditional – and beloved by all children – topping of mashed potato I replaced with a fluffy cauliflower puree and no one suspected a thing. Imagine!

I wouldn’t label myself as a sneaky cook. I don’t go to great lengths to disguise vegetables, but if it just so happens that I bring healthy ingredients together and give the illusion of something entirely different, I’m going to sit back with a smile on my face and watch the children devour seconds.

On another note, we’re really enjoying our beef and the Beef Chronicles. If you’re new to UtHC, here’s the background to the Chronicles in a nutshell…

This past summer we visited a local organic farm and bought a cow – calf-, well, a yearling Black Angus. Inspired by a dozen or so beautiful cuts of beef in my freezer, I started the Beef Chronicles as a tribute to the young cow and as an exercise to try new recipes and blog about main dishes more often. Here is the complete introduction to the Chronicles and a more elaborate explanation of the project.

Recipes that I have made so far are linked at the bottom of the post.

Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Puree

2 lbs ground beef, or a mixture of ground beef and veal
1 large onion, chopped

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, de-germed and chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper

1 tomato, chopped

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 large Cauliflower

whole nutmeg

2 tablespoons cream

3 cups sweet corn, fresh if possible

paprika, to garnish

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened, about three minutes. Add beef or veal and gently sear the meat all over, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon. Add chopped garlic, cumin, oregano, tomato, vinegar and combine well. Cook for ten minutes on medium, stirring often, until evenly browned. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil while you cut the cauliflower into large florets. Season water with salt and blanch cauliflower until quite soft. Drain. Puree cauliflower in a blender until smooth, adding a little cream to assist in the process. Season with salt and pepper and a fine grating of nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 375F.

To assemble:
In a casserole dish, spread beef mixture evenly over the bottom. Scatter corn kernels over the meat. Using a flexible spatula, spread cauliflower puree over the top of everything. Smooth to cover. Dust with paprika and bake 30- 40 minutes until heated through.

Dot with butter and serve. To your kids.

More Beef Chronicles:

In Which we Buy A Cow

An Introduction

Rib Steak With Red-Wine Butter

Rosemary-Garlic Marinated T-Bone

Cumin-Scented Kebabs

Sesame-Beef Lettuce Wraps

Beef Tacos with Salsa Cruda

Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

Steak au Poivre & Sweet Potato Fries

The Beef Chronicles: Classic Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

As much as my dad encouraged my sister and I with our ethnic cooking experiments while we were growing up, I think he always secretly held a special place in his heart for all things British. Born in England to middle-class city folk, he grew up munching biscuits for tea and pudding for dessert. Although he gave us a cookbook entitled “Cooking Around the World“, I imagine he much preferred classic feasts such as Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding for the way they reminded him of home, feasts similar to one I prepared recently…

Rosemary & Dijon Roast Beef with Red Wine Jus, Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Baby Carrots & Brussels Sprouts, Yorkshire Pudding

If it wasn’t for us buying half a cow from a local farmer, I probably wouldn’t have roasted a chunk of beef all fall, nay, all winter; there just isn’t much point in preparing roast beef for two people (and until the boys learn to properly appreciate good meat, they don’t count). But when the butcher called me and asked what sizes I wanted my roasts, I started salivating, remembering the dinners of my youth; remembering Yorkshire Pudding

What wonderful, crispy, eggy bites they are! Almost reminiscent enough of choux pastries to warrant filling with cream and dipping in chocolate. But instead they are popped piping hot out of the pan onto the dinner plate, cozied up between the beef and the mashed potatoes and doused in gravy.
Oh. My.Word.

Noah couldn’t keep his hands off of them, stuffing one after another in his mouth, and asking for thirds with his mouth full. My dad used to tell us that if we were ever invited to dine with the Queen and we used bad table manners, she would order our heads to be chopped off.

She certainly wouldn’t have been happy with Noah.

I may have been pleased that he was actually enjoying my cooking–if I wasn’t feeling so guilty that I had never served my (newly) four-year-old Yorkshire Pudding. Have I taught him any appreciation for British cooking? I have to wonder.

At any rate, it was a ship-shape meal, one that I will be making variations on all winter long. Hey, I’ve got that freezer full of beef, remember?

Yorkshire Pudding

In theory, the method is simple, but in the past I have not always be blessed with YP that rise beautifully and crisp up perfectly. After some Twitter q & a, I concluded the following:

  • Ingredients must be at room temperature when they are mixed.
  • The batter should be chilled after mixing for at least an hour before baking.
  • Batter should be poured into a hot pan that has been well lubricated with hot grease.
  • Since they will start to deflate as they cool, Yorkshire Pudding is best served warm from the oven.
  • Cook should have some British ancestors (kidding!)

Here is the recipe from Joy of Cooking; it is the same one we always used when I was growing up. You may want to double it; they disappear pretty fast.

Makes 1 dozen.

Sift into a bowl:
7/8 cups of flour 1/2 tsp of salt
make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, into which pour
1/2 cup milk
Stir in the milk. Beat until fluffy
2 eggs
Beat them into the batter. Add:
1/2 cup water

Beat the batter well until large bubbles start to rise to the surface. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Remove batter from fridge and beat well again. Generously butter 12 muffin tins and place in the oven until butter is sizzling. Remove pan from oven and pour batter into each cup. It should be about 5/8 inch high.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
Reduce heat to 250F and bake 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown. You may need to raise the pan to the top shelf of the oven to get a nice browning on the tops.

Serve immediately.

Rosemary & Dijon Roast Beef with Red Wine Jus

This is really just a very long name for what is one of the simplest main dishes around. In case you don’t believe me, here’s what I did:

1 3-4lb roast*, I used a Sirloin Point Roast
several springs of fresh rosemary

2 Tablespoons dijon, I used grainy
fresh black pepper

sea salt

An hour prior to cooking, remove beef from fridge and pat dry with paper towel. Allow to sit at room temperature.This helps shorten the cooking time.

Preheat oven to 425F, I like to start my roast at a high temperature to sear it. Line a casserole or roasting pan with a wire rack (like a cookie cooling rack) and place the beef on it. Brush or rub mustard generously all over the meat and tuck rosemary sprigs into the sides by pushing them under the strings. Season with salt & pepper and place in oven.

After 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350F. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 125F. Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. This allows the juices to settle and the meat will be more tender. It will continue cooking as it rests and will reach the ideal internal temperature of 135-14oF (medium-rare).

Carve into thin slices and serve with Red Wine Jus.

Serves 4 with a few leftovers.

*Remember, cooking times will vary depending on the size, cut and quality of your beef.

Red Wine Jus

Now, pan gravy is obviously the best way to go, IF your roast actually produces any drippings; however, mine never do, especially not these lean, locally raised Angus yearlings and so here’s what I do instead…

Oh, and since this is already an epic post, I’ll add a word about the wine, because it was fabulous. I opted for a bottle of the California Collection from Beringer, a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Super affordable, it rounded out the jus nicely and the remainder was superb with the meal.
There, your free wine tip of the day.

1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups cold water

1 teaspoon dijon

1 package beef ‘au jus’ gravy mix ( I used
1/4 cup chilled butter, cubed

The packaged gravy usually calls for 2 cups water, but we are replacing some of it with wine.

In a medium sauce pan, whisk together the wine, water, packaged gravy mix and dijon. If you did get some drippings from your roast, add those too.
Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, until it thickens slightly. at this point you can take it off the heat until you are ready to carve your roast beef.

A minute or to before you are ready to serve, bring jus back to a low boil. Whisking constantly, add the butter, a few cubes at a time, until all the butter has been added. Continue stirring until jus takes on a glossy sheen. Season with pepper and pour into gravy jug.
Serve at once. Makes 2 cups