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: Rib Steak with Beurre Rouge & Corn with Feta-Mint Butter

Now what are these Beef Chronicles all about? Get an introduction here.

Our first meal of beef was predestined.

One package in the 133lb haul had not been vacuumed-packed properly and was henceforth the only obvious choice for that night’s dinner.

“Hmm, I guess we’ll have to eat this first.” I remarked to Danny, thankful it wasn’t a package of liver that was slipping around in it’s plastic shrink-wrap.

Apparently fate wanted us to start with steak. Rib Steak, to be exact. That was fine by me as I was in need of a quick meal as a result of dealing with the post-vacation-stress-disorder still manifesting itself in our home.

The day after we picked up our beef from the farm, I had made a grocery list of items I thought I better have on hand for cooking all this meat, items like red wine, sherry vinegar, and shallots. Sure enough, the recipe for Faux Filet au Beurre Rouge from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, called for French shallots and red wine. Apparently my intuition paid off.
It sounds very fancy, but was really the quickest of suppers: Preheat grill, season steaks, grill to desired doneness, transfer to a plate and top with a generous slice of red-wine butter. Voila. Tony’s dish calls for a New York strip, but I used the pre-selected-for-me rib steak; pretty much any cut of steak would work for this recipe.

I served it with corn on the cob that had been tossed with a feta-mint butter, a recipe I’ve also included because it is rapturous.

Dinner with two different flavored butters? Julia Child would have been proud.

The red-wine butter is easy to make, yet tastes surprisingly sophisticated when melted and mixed with the steaks juices. It becomes a sauce in it’s own way and elevates a rather boring steak to something, well, something worth writing about!

As for the beef itself? Sublime. Very lean. Flavorful. I can’t wait to try more. We’re off on another camping trip this weekend and I’m bringing–guess?–more steaks.

Beurre Rouge or Red-Wine Butter
adapted from Les Halles Cookbook

This recipe makes a lot–enough to top a dozen or so steaks–but it can keep for a while if it is well-wrapped in the freezer. It’s nice to have something like this garnish a good steak, because, as Tony Bourdain puts it, you never know when your deadbeat friends are going to drop by demanding a meal.

1/2 cup red wine

1 shallot, finely chopped

8 oz butter, softened

1 handful of flat parsley
, finely chopped
salt and pepper

In a small pot combine the wine and shallot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated, taking care not to let the shallots burn. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and let cool.
In the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment, combine butter, shallot-wine mixture, the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Scrap out of the bowl with a rubber spatula and place in the center of a large piece of plastic wrap. Gently form into a 1-inch diameter log, shaping and squeezing, like rolling a nori roll. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap tightly and refrigerated until the butter is firm enough to slice.
Serve over grilled steaks.

Corn on the Cob with Mint-Feta Butter
Adapted from Gourmet
August 2009

4 ears of corn, shucked and cut in half
2 tbsp butter, softened

2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled or grated

3 tbsp minced fresh mint

1/4 tsp (generous) kosher salt

In a large bowl, combine the butter, feta, minced fresh mint, and salt. Mix well.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the corn pieces. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the corn kernels are just tender.

Using tongs, remove the corn from the water, drain slightly, and place it into the bowl with the feta-butter mixture. Toss the corn in the butter mixture until all of the pieces are well-coated.
Serve immediately. Serves 4.

WFD? Peach & Ginger Glazed Salmon with Baby Beets

Last night’s dinner effort started off as a sort of purge; brown rice, boiled beets and grilled salmon. Something healthy to follow those recent meals of gummy worms and other junky road food, as well as forgettable airport fare.

The boys will eat salmon if it is coated in something that is sticky and sweet, but I couldn’t bring myself to make a boring old teriyaki. I spotted a nearly empty jar of peach and ginger jam in the fridge, and that became the base of my marinade/glaze. I heightened the ginger kick by adding a fresh knob of ginger, and gave the dish an Asian slant with a splash of soy and rice vinegar.

At dinner, Noah inhaled his entire fillet, licked his fork and announced,

“I LOVE fish!”.

I about fell off my chair. If you only knew how picky this child is.

The baby beets were picked that morning from our garden; simply boiled and peeled, they almost look like big black olives in this photo! I don’t trim their ends when boiling, but leave the stem and root on so I don’t loose any colour or flavour when cooking. I start them in cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer gently, until I can slide a knife tip into their centers with ease. I peel them while they are still hot, using my fingers to rub off the skins.
I forgot how truly great home grown beets are. Ah, the sweetness!

Peach & Ginger Glazed Grilled Salmon

I think the next time I make this dish, I’ll include a side of grilled peaches. Mmm, true summer fare!
serves 4

2 heaping tablespoons peach & ginger jam or preserves
1 knob of ginger, about an inch square
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
pinch of white pepper

4 portions of salmon fillets

In a small food processor, blitz up the jam, garlic and ginger until well chopped. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar and pepper and mix well. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the marinade to glaze the salmon while cooking and pour the rest over the fish. Turn gently to coat and marinade for an hour or up to four hours.

Preheat a grill and grill salmon for a few minutes on each side until almost cooked through (salmon should be served slightly rare). Brush with reserves peach glaze and remove from heat. Serve hot.

WFD? Lemon & Oregano Roast Chicken with New Potatoes and Asparagus

Spring has been acting a bit like a spoiled brat this year. I can handle the odd outburst or bout of crankiness, but this flat out misbehaving has got to stop. Instead of writing about perfect picnic fare, complete with idyllic photographs of us sprawled on a blanket, dining alfresco by a lake, as I had hoped, I’m posting on that classic winter meal: roast chicken.
It’s June, but the weather has hardly warmed up, and don’t get me started on all the rain and other tantrums thrown by spring. For Pete’s sake, there’s a creek running through my favorite picnic spot from all the rain runoff.

Yeah, so while the rest of you are probably sipping your G&T’s and slurping your gazpacho poolside, I’m roasting a chicken and throwing another log on the fire.

This recipe does hint of spring, though, with it’s roasted asparagus spears, new potatoes, and fresh oregano from the garden. Coating a chicken in lemon and herbs and roasting it is certainly nothing new, but this is basic fare that I find hard to tire of. I use oregano because I have copious amounts of it, but thyme or sage would be just as lovely. Use about half the amount that the recipe calls for if you do switch up the fresh herbs, though.

The potatoes and asparagus are roasted on the side, but do mound them up around the chicken afterward for a beautiful rustic presentation.

Lemon & Oregano Rubbed Roast Chicken
Serves four with leftovers

1 whole organic chicken, patted dry (about 6 lbs)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
two lemons, zested and juiced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

In a small food processor, combine oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic. Pulse a few times until it looks like pesto. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Using your hands, rub lemon-oregano marinade all over chicken. Lift the skin over the breast and be sure to get plenty of marinade on the breast meat. Refrigerate for 2-8 hours. Remove from fridge about a half an hour before cooking.
Preheat oven to 375F. Place chicken in roasting pan breast side up ( I like to use a clay baker for roasting fowl) and place in oven. Roast about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before slicing. At this time, roast your vegetable garnish.

Roasted New Potatoes and Asparagus with Lemon

Enough small new potatoes for four people
a lemon
generous bundle of asparagus
olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
sea salt

In a large pot, rinse potatoes and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 2-3 minutes until slightly softened, but still raw in the center. Drain and cool.
Snap the ends off of the asparagus and peel the bottom two thirds of the stalk. Slice at a diagonal into two inch lengths.
Crank oven to 450F.
Slice lemon in half lengthwise and each half into six wedges. Toss potatoes, asparagus, garlic cloves and lemon with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and spread out onto a baking sheet. Roast about 12 minutes until nicely colored and potatoes have cooked through. Shake the pan every few minutes during the cooking process to ensure even colouring.
Remove from oven, season with additional salt if necessary, and serve with roast chicken.

WFD? Pizza Quattro Gusti (four flavors)

After months and months of putting up with my current refrigerator randomly freezing items out of spite, we’ve broken down and purchased a brand new one. For some of you this may not be such a big deal, but for us, it’s our first official appliance purchase. Ever. Until now we’ve made do with family cast-offs and the generosity of former landlords and friends.

We try not to be big consumers; if something is broken or needs replacing, we don’t run out and buy the item brand new. There’s always someone around who wants to upgrade or is moving into a furnished place and generally, if we come and get the washer/stove/whatever, it’s ours for the taking. So far this has worked in our favor…until this renegade fridge came along.

Too long I have endured solid yogurt, rock-hard berries, and frostbit greens. Too long have I spent extra money for fresh seafood–only to have it frozen in my refrigerator before I get a chance to cook it. I was due for a brand new appliance and that’s what I got.

It arrives tomorrow.

Who knew that shopping for a fridge would open my eyes to all the possibilities that I never considered as options? Suddenly I needed a built in Britta drinking water system–how do I get by without one? And it sure would be handy to know the exact temperature of my fridge displayed digitally for me at all times. How about a beeper that goes off when the door is left ajar? I do that ALL the time, it drives Danny nuts.
Oh well, for now I’ll just have to content my self with a fridge that ‘just’ keeps things cold–not frozen. Although if anyone hears of a second-hand version of this model looking for a good home, I’ve got dibs on it. I would love the glass door. That is the coolest.

So, I’ve been cleaning out my old fridge in preparation for the switch. I don’t want a pile of items just sitting around on counters for extended periods of time while the new fridge is installed and starts cooling. (Apparently you can’t plug it in for THREE HOURS after it arrives?? Help!)
As usual I have dozens of small leftover items that need finishing off to fully empty those drawers: half a stick of Chorizo, a teeny block of feta, a tired bundle of asparagus, a rind of Parmesan; those items and many more were the inspiration behind this pizza.

If you can call it inspiration. More like desperation.

I made a batch of Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough, rolled it out onto a cookie sheet, divided it into four quadrants and proceeded to disguise my fridge odds and ends as pizza.

Guess what? It rocked! Everybody ate it–even the baby, who particularly loved the soft cross of crust that divided the pizza. Clockwise from top left the flavors are:

  • Chorizo, Olive & Mozzarella
  • Spinach, Egg, Fresh Garlic & Feta
  • Bacon, Plum & Cheddar
  • Asparagus, Cippolini Onion & Parmesan

I’m passing on the pizza dough recipe, because I like it a teeny bit better than my other one. It was softer and the bottom colored beautifully. I like a dark, crispy pizza underside. If you haven’t gathered from this post, pretty much anything goes for toppings.

Pizza Dough

Adapted from Jamie at Home

this recipe will make 2 11×15 rectangle “Pizza Quattro Gusti”. You can make one for dinner and freeze the other ball of dough for another night, or make tons and enjoy the leftovers.

7 cups white bread flour
1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 Tablespoons dry yeast

1 tablespoon raw sugar

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Sift the flour and salt onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth springy dough.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas. (or two huge rectangles)
When you are ready to fire the pizzas, crank the oven up to 500F. Dust your work surface with a little flour, punched-down dough and divide in two. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick.
Grease a cookie sheet generously with olive oil and spread out your pizza dough on it, using your finger tips to push it into the corners.
Trip a 1/8 inch strip off of one long and one short side of the rectangle and lay these in the shape of a cross in the middle of your pizza.
Top with your four flavors of choice and place pizza in preheated oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the dough is golden brown.