Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fall + Football = Chili

The combination of damp and chill air with overexcited announcers proclaiming every run, interception, or pass completion the equal of the second coming means one thing to me. It is time to make a serious batch of chili.

In one way, I am almost fearful to write this post. Everyone has an opinion on chili. You can broach the topic in a crowd and suddenly hear the merits of deer meat versus ground chuck, beans versus no beans, heat versus spice, beer or no beer ... and on and on. So, I will start by confessing that I do not think this recipe will suit many. It is work, it violates several cherished beliefs held by most people, and the finished product will never sell in a restaurant - it just doesn't look right. The only thing positive to say about this recipe is that it tastes the way all chili should taste - but rarely does.


4 pounds boneless chuck roast, sinew and fat chunks removed, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 onions, diced
2 jalapenos, pith and seeds removed, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
one 15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
16 ounces pinto beans, soaked overnight
16 ounces beef stock
16 ounces lager beer
one strip thick sliced bacon, diced
2 rounded Tablespoons cumin powder
1 rounded Tablespoon chili powder
1 rounded Tablespoon ground Ancho chili powder
1 rounded teaspoon oregano
1 rounded teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons corn meal
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil as needed


Fry the bacon to brown and crisp in 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. Remove the bacon to the dutch oven.
Place the soaked beans on top of the bacon in the dutch oven.

Add the tomatoes with juice to the dutch oven. Add the cocoa powder and the oregano. Salt and pepper the bean mix.
Working in small batches, using as little cooking oil as possible, brown the cubed beef. Make sure the first side is dark brown. As each batch finishes, put the meat in the pot. Add a tiny amount of oil and brown the next small batch of meat. Repeat until all the meat has been browned and placed in the pot.
Add a bit more oil to the skillet and saute the onions and jalapeno until translucent. Add the spices and garlic to the onion and continue to cook until the spice has become very fragrant. Scrape the onion mix into the pot and place the skillet back on the heat. When it reheats, use the beer to deglaze the skillet and pour the beer and brown bits residue into the pot.
Add the stock until it barely covers the mixture.

Cover the dutch oven and place in a 325 degree oven for 2 to 3 hours. Half way through the cook time, taste and adjust the salt and spices.
The chili is done when the meat chunks are tender and easily fall apart.
Alternatively, a large slow cooker set for low for 8 hours does an excellent job.
If you desire a darker chili, use kitchen bouquet to make it so. If the corn meal has not thickened the chili sufficiently, mix a rounded teaspoon of corn starch with 3 Tablespoons of water and add the slurry to the chili. Continue to cook until the chili thickens.

I have always preferred my chili over spaghetti or macaroni and topped with shredded cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fall Means It's Time for Apples!

Here in Northwest Arkansas' Ozarks, people grow a variety of apple I never encountered anywhere else. The variety name is Arkansas Black. Evidently, the strain was originated in the mid 1800's in Benton County, Arkansas. The color is much darker that what we normally see in the grocery, almost a dark burgundy. They are very crisp and crunchy which makes them great for eating raw and very tasty in pies and tarts.
Picture from the Internet - Thanks Fruitguys!

As I am stuck at home today becoming not contagious, but feeling better, I decided to turn several of these guys into an apple tart to surprise the wife when she comes home.

I will not take credit for the recipe. This is almost a word for word transcription from the Free Form Fruit Tart you can find in Cooks Illustrated. If you read the material below you will notice a few changes, but not many.


7.5 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
1 and 1/4 sticks unsalted butter cut in 3/4 inch cubes and chilled
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 to 6 Tablespoons of ice water
Four or five Arkansas Black apples
juice of a lemon
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch grated nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the rack lower middle.

Add the salt to the flour in a medium bowl and mix well. Place the chilled butter cubes in the flour and coat them. Using the thumb, pointer and tallman of each hand, squish the butter cubes flat. Toss to make sure all butter is flour covered and squish the flat pieces into two. Toss and repeat until the butter pieces are mostly, but not completely, the size of flattened peas. Work quickly to avoid melting the butter with the heat of your hands.

Notice the butter chunks! Time to add the ice water.
Add one Tablespoon of ice water and use a fork to mix it into the dough. Try not to mix the butter into the flour. Repeat until the water is used or the dough wants to come together, whichever occurs first. Turn the dough out onto the counter and use a bench scrapper to form a rectangular mound.

Using the heel of your hand, start at the far end on the mound and smear the damp flour and butter away from yourself on the counter. Working toward yourself, repeat until the entire mound is flattened. Use the bench scrap to re-mound the dough and repeat once. Bring the dough together without working it and form it into a disk. Wrap the disk tightly in cling film and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour. (If you double wrap the dough, you can refrigerate longer, but the dough must sit at room temperature until workable.)

Notice that you can still see butter splotches.
When the dough has chilled, flour a sheet of parchment and place the disk in the center. Flour the disk top. Rolling away from yourself, roll the dough from the center out and turn the sheet a quarter turn. Repeat until the dough is about 3/16ths of an inch thick. Resist the urge to neaten the edges or cut and place pieces. The less you work the dough the flakier it will be. This is a Free Form, art not architecture. Slide the parchment with dough onto a sheet pan.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes. While the dough chills, peel, core, and slice the apples in quarter inch slices. Toss the slices in lemon juice to stop any oxidation. Sprinkle the cinnamon, nutmeg, and 2 Tablespoons of the sugar over the slices. Toss well.

Remove the sheet pan from the refrigerator and mound the slices in the middle of the dough. Pleat the dough to partially cover the fruit, working your way around the dough. Use a pastry brush and water to brush the outside of the tart and sprinkle the remaining sugar on the dough exterior.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes until the tart is golden brown.

Sometimes they leak.
Like pies, the tart needs to cool and collect itself before you slice and serve.

By the way, in the summer I use peaches and blueberries for the fruit. That may be even better.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Home and Bored

I am stuck at home today on a work day. I felt so bad this morning I called for a substitute. As soon as the opening was taken by someone, I went back to bed and slept four hours. Now I am awake and do not know what to do with myself. All the things I normally do involve school or fishing or shopping for interesting food. Not today.

I will share what I fixed last night to pass the time.

Stir Fried Chicken and Mushrooms with Pea Tendrils and Sesame Noodles

Simple Sesame Noodles

Whisk together 1 Tablespoon of fish sauce, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of sesame oil, and 1 rounded Tablespoon of smooth peanut butter. Drain cooked noodles and work the sauce into the noodles.

Pea Tendrils

Add two Tablespoons oil to a hot skillet and immediately add two minced large cloves of garlic and a solid pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. As soon as the additions are fragrant, add a large double handful of rinsed pea tendrils that still have some water clinging to them. Use tongs to turn the tendrils as they wilt. Serve as soon as fully wilted.

Chicken and Mushroom Stir Fry

Remove the tendons from four large chicken tenders by pinning the end of the tendon to the cutting board with a kitchen towel and scraping the meat from the tendon. Cut the tenders in chunks the size of a quarter.

Quarter five or six Baby portabella mushroom caps so that you have almost as many pieces of mushroom as you have pieces of chicken.

Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes in a sauce:

1 rounded Tablespoon of corn starch
2 Tablespoons yuzu or lime juice
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons mirrin
1/4 cup soy sauce
a hefty splash of fish sauce

Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a hot, non-stick skillet and add the mushrooms. When they begin to brown, add the drained chicken chunks (save the marinade!). Fry the chicken and mushrooms while stirring until the chicken has browned on all sides. Add the marinade and continue to cook until the marinade has thickened and the chicken is done.

If anyone asks you if the dishes are authentic, tell them yes. These are authentic good foods from the Ozarks.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Productive Weekend in the Fall

Saturday morning, the wife and I drove into Fayetteville, the big city around here. Over 79,000 people live there with traffic lights, six lane expressways, a real university, and a Sams Club.

We visited the farmers market in the town square, her favorite quilt shop, and then raided the Sams Club for essentials. Last night after we drove home, I roasted a small beast and some fingerling potatoes I found at the market.

Today we worked on lessons for the students and a few other tasks. One of those was bread. Some years ago Nancy found an Almost No Knead Bread recipe in Cooks Illustrated. Today she made a loaf.

In the mean time, I set up the production line and we canned 9 pints of dilly beans. These will become Christmas gifts.

Finally, we took some walleye out of the freezer and turned that into a chowder:

Walleye Chowder


6 flat tail halves from walleye fillets; cut into two pieces each (large chunks break up less)
1 cup thawed frozen shrimp, shelled and halved (optional)
1 onion diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced about 1/3 inch cubes (optional)
1 cup frozen corn (optional)
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled sliced in 1/3 inch slices, slices then quartered
1 leek, halved long ways then sliced in ¼ rings
4 stems of thyme wrapped in a bay leave and tied as a bundle
2 slices good bacon, sliced in 1 inch pieces
2 Tbs. butter
1 bottle clam juice
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup dry white wine
Splash of sriracha
Salt and pepper!


Prepare the potatoes first and place in a bowl with just enough water to cover. Let the potatoes sit as you prepare other ingredients and begin the cooking.

In the bottom of a dutch oven, or other heavy, non reactive pan, melt the butter then cook the bacon slowly over low heat. When the bacon is crisp, remove it and reserve for later.

Increase the heat to medium and add the onions, leeks, turnips, and herb bundle to the oil. Sauté, while occasionally stirring, until the onions are translucent. Salt and pepper heavily at this stage. Add the white wine and use it to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the clam juice. Stir once then add the potatoes from their bowl. Do not discard the water. Add just enough of the starchy potato water to cover the potatoes.

Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the cream. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer slowly without boiling until the potatoes are barely done. Add the hot sauce and check the seasoning. Continue to simmer until the liquid begins to thicken.

When the liquid has thickened slightly, add the fish chunks. Continue to cook with minimal gentle stirring until the fish is cooked through.

Turn off the heat. Remove the herb bundle. Dish the vegetables to bowls. Place the fish on top of the vegetables and add the broth.

Mince the crisp bacon and some parsley to sprinkle on top and serve.

Enjoy your day in the Ozarks!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

End of the Season

Friday night was quite chilly here in the Ozarks. And Saturday morning I put away my summer robe and dug out the winter fleece one. My students at school are all talking about what they will be for Halloween, and my Facebook feed seems to be wall to wall pumpkin spice. I guess real Fall has arrived.
Real Fall means my wife and I must begin to winterize the potted herb garden on the back porch. The first step is always the basil. Basil loves the heat and turns brown in the chill. Here in the Ozarks, that means we do not even plant it until late May and by this time of year we need to harvest and process what remains.
We have found the best way to enjoy that fresh basil taste all winter is to make pesto and freeze portions in an ice cube tray. After the pesto is well frozen, we pop the cubes out and store them in a zip lock baggie for future use.
This post will not be a pesto lesson. Thousands of those exist already, complete with YouTube videos.
Instead I want to share a simple, easy dish we found that uses pesto. First, the ingredients:

Classic pesto, cubed slab bacon, frozen peas, and orzo. 

Yes, really, that is it, except of course salt and pepper.


1.5 cups dry orzo pasta 
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cubed slab bacon (substitute 3 slices thick cut bacon if necessary)
1 cup pesto
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
olive oil for frying


Fry the bacon in olive oil in a large non stick skillet. When the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp, pour off most of the fat. 

While the bacon fries, cook the orzo in salty boiling water but only until very al dente. When you test it, it should have a firm center and stick to your teeth. Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the water.

Fill the skillet with bacon and 1/2 inch of tap water and bring it to the boil. Add the orzo and finish cooking the pasta while stirring. As needed add the reserved pasta water. 

When the pasta is done, add the frozen peas and continue stirring until the peas have warmed. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pesto. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve with Parmesan and a nice red wine.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Early Fall in the Ozarks, Redux

Went out fishing today. More fishing than catching really. However I did take some pictures from the boat to show the progress the Fall has made here in the Ozarks.

From now to Thanksgiving, nothing but lovely around here.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Early Fall in the Ozarks

Tomorrow I plan to go out in the boat for some fishing on Table Rock Lake. I will take the camera when I go to take picturesque shots of the hills beginning to change colors. In the mean time, the football gods are busy thrilling and deflating our fan instincts. Texas and Washington both upset winners, while Baylor and LSU are dismantling their opponents.

By the way, some of the ways I know it is Fall  are the change of the front door flag to a pumpkin and the runner on the long table has become a a cornucopia. Have to love the wife's embroidery.

For tonight I have chosen to use the chicken I found at the store on Thursday. I do not know why, but the market had reputable brand fryers frozen and on sale for $.79/pound. At that price I stocked up. Earlier this afternoon I removed the wishbone, backbone, wing tips, and keel bone from the chicken and cut it in half. In a bit it will go in the oven at 375 degrees on a tray with mushroom, onion, potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. Lets break it down:
Trim one pound of Brussels sprouts, removing any brown leaves. Clean and cut in half 8 to 10 small gold potatoes. Slice a half onion. Add the equivalent of four carrots, cleaned and chunked. Quarter three very large mushrooms or stem eight ounces of button mushrooms. Bag it all and salt and pepper generously and add 3 to 4 Tablespoons of good olive oil. Let that sit for an hour.
Remove the wishbone, backbone, keel bone and wing tips from the chicken. Clean up any excess fat and salt and pepper generously.
Arrange the chicken halves skin side up on a jelly roll pan, salt and pepper, and spray with olive oil. Arrange the mushroom pieces around the chicken to absorb the chicken drippings. Spread the remainder of the vegetables in a single layer on the rest of the tray.
Roast at 375 degrees until chicken skin is crisp and the vegetables are beginning to brown. Note - I stir the vegetables after 20 minutes and the chicken usually hits 140 degrees somewhere around 45 minutes.
If I remember I will add a post of the finished product later.
The finished dish looked like this.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fall in the Ozarks - Which Weekend Is This?

(Photo courtesy of

Here in Eureka Springs, Arkansas every weekend in the Fall becomes an Event weekend. Last weekend was Bikers, Barbecue, and Blues. This weekend is Corvette weekend. Personally I prefer the Bikers. I hear the townspeople do as well - the bikers buy more and tip better. I am sure next weekend is something else. The point is that we in the Ozarks have found a way to make a living even though we can't grow much around here, there is nothing to mine, the trees are scrub oak and cedar, and the revenuers have made shine illegal.

Honestly, I enjoy the fact the hotels and motels fill up, the local restaurants becoming stand in line, and we need police to direct traffic at the junction of Highways 23 and 62. The tourists feed the families of my students and keep the odd and quirky stores going. "No Clothes" sells only accessories. "Two Dumb Dames" peddles sweets and fudge. "Judge Roy Bean's" takes those old-timey pictures that look like daguerreotypes.

This morning I went into town early, had breakfast and went to school to grade papers. Before noon I scurried back out of town. Just because I appreciate the tourists doesn't mean I want to be trapped in the traffic.

This evening I am preparing a Fall type meal.

Braised Smoked Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, Apple, Onion and Potatoes.


4 links smoked bratwurst, sliced in 1/3 inch rings
4 slices bacon, or equivalent, cubed or diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 onion, sliced in rings
10 baby golden potatoes, halved
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 cup sauerkraut, unrinsed
1 cup (approximate) chicken broth
1-2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 Tbs. vegetable oil


Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Heat the oil in a dutch oven and add the bacon, onion, and sausage. Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients begin to brown. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Add the kraut and broth (enough to half cover all ingredients) and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the dutch oven. Add the sugar, potatoes, and apples and mix well. Add more broth if needed. Continue to cook on the stove top until the broth begins to gently boil. 

Cover the dutch oven and move to the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake 70 to 90 minutes until the potatoes, apples, and sausage are very done. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and sugar. Turn off the oven and let the pot sit in the oven for another 20 minutes. Serve in bowls with rye bread and a good beer.